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

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail