FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sex in India

by DAVID MACARAY

Although I lived and worked in India for two years (Peace Corps) and spent much of that time paying attention to important things, I never became an “expert” on anything.  While India was a magnificent country, populated by a wonderfully vibrant and generous people, as a foreigner, I had no illusions as to my role.  I would always be on the outside looking in.

Which is why, when I get asked today about India’s recent and well-publicized outbreak of brutal rapes, I have little to say.  Are these rapes anomalies?  Very possibly.  Are they a sign of the times?  Could be.  Are they symptomatic of something deeper and more disturbing?  I honestly don’t know.

But there was one topic on which the Indians did consider me an expert.  That topic was sex. Good, old-fashioned American-style sex.  Indeed, when it came to the sexual customs and practices of the USA, I was everybody’s go-to guy.  This was many years ago, mind you, before the Internet, before cable, and before the proliferation of pornography.

As soon as a group of men and I were comfortable speaking freely (occasionally aided by alcohol), they would very casually divert the conversation to a discussion of sex, usually initiating it by asking me if I were married, and then proceeding incrementally from there.  This was true of college professors, engineers, bureaucrats, students and farmers.  Everyone was interested in sex.

Well, not quite everyone.  I still recall a conversation I had with a college student at a local tea stall in Punjab.  A timid young man approached my table and politely asked if were an American.  When I answered affirmatively he asked if he could pose a question.  Believing I knew exactly where he was headed, I smiled knowingly and assured him he could ask me anything he liked.

He then said, “Your country has the Electoral College.  What is that?”  I was caught completely off-guard and horrified.  But instead of confessing that I had no idea how the nuts and bolts of the Electoral College worked, I panicked and began talking gibberish..  Big mistake.  My subsequent explanation was so flimsy and preposterous, I crept away in embarrassment.

The two phenomena that most surprised my Indian hosts.:  (1) Premarital sex in the U.S. was so common, no one even thought about it, and (2) American men generally don’t require their wives to be virgins.  That second one was the real mind-blower.  In fact, it was so alien to these Indians, I had the feeling they were unable to fully process it.

The thing to remember about rural and small-town India is that virginity is a given. There is no such thing as courtship.  There is no dating.  Virtually all the marriages are arranged by the respective parents.  While that custom has changed a bit over the years (especially in the big cities), it’s still the norm.  The majority of Indians still live in villages, which means the majority of their marriages are still arranged.

An arranged marriage is a difficult concept for Westerners to understand, much less embrace.  Here’s an analogy.  A man’s wife is expecting a baby.  If the man were to go around telling people he hoped the kid turned out to be good-looking, because he couldn’t love a homely child, we would all think he was an immature jerk (or worse).  The Indians take a similar view in regard to marriage.

They believe that because people are inherently “lovable,” if you place two strangers together as husband and wife, they will eventually fall in love, especially when the woman becomes the mother of the man’s child.  While some observers have called this view “primitive and sexist,” others have labeled it “enlightened and sophisticated.”  In any event, to us Westerners steeped in personal liberty, it’s patently absurd.

It’s said that rape is not a sexual act so much as a violent one—an act of physical domination and degradation.  This explanation makes sense because, in truth, it’s hard to imagine a man raping a woman purely out of lust or frustration or sexual repression.  Horny men don’t rape women; sociopaths rape women.  After all, that’s why God invented masturbation.

One difference between U.S. and Indian rapes is that Indian rapes are infinitely more shaming and determinative.  While the trauma and humiliation of a rape may be the same for women of all cultures, the social implications for an Indian woman are poison.  A woman in rural India who’s been raped is spoken of as having been “ruined.”  No one is going to marry her.  She’ll become a charity case, destined to live with relatives who resent her.

On the rare occasion a rural rape is reported to the authorities, it’s not unusual for the police to suggest the victim and her rapist get married.  They urge them to become man and wife to spare the woman the shame.  Even acknowledging that East is East and West is West, and making allowances for cultural differences, could anything be sadder?

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor” 2nd edition), was a former union rep.  dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail