Sex. Something I used to giggle about as a little girl, not really knowing if I could talk about it. A taboo, something you´re taught not to talk about in public. Well, where I live you certainly can. There are more and more open debates, awareness and interest are rising. However, there are other parts of the world where people are not even educated about sex. Not at all. Never even seen nor used a condom in their life. I was wondering what happens in these parts of the world, when you are forced to repress your sexual desires, when society turns it into something forbidden and dirty. Something that´s just not talked about. I found some answers to my questions in the north of India.
Now, mind you, you can never generalise India and I am also not trying to do so. It is such a diverse country and therefore, also the education level and knowledge about sexuality varies from region to region. In some parts I´ve experienced a rather open discussion about sex and relationships, in other parts you could see peoples misery not being able to express themselves sexually as they would have liked to. The latter one I want to focus on now.
The north of India. Bihar. Bihar is the poorest state of all India. I´ve been told it is a state rich in resources, but ordinary people never see a penny. The government seems to be absent, nothing of the profit is used in peoples favour. Rich people getting richer, poor people poorer. In this state It was in this state where I could talk to locals about how sexuality is dealt with. I made some experiences that might be shocking – but seeing it with the understanding I have now they almost feel natural to me – as they are a result of poor education and knowledge as well as repression of sexual desire.
In this region it happened particularly often that a young man would just casually drive next to me with his motorbike while I was walking around in the city offering to show me around. What seemed nice at first is something I learned to be very careful of. Not everyone had a “nice” agenda. Luckily me and a friend of mine got to know a few nice guys from the region we then hung out with. Once we got to know them, they explained us a lot about how sexuality is dealt with in their town – and we could even witness it with our own eyes.
They told us that Indian men never really have the chance to closely interact with an Indian woman before marriage. Especially in Bihar, which is a poor and also very traditional state, I never even saw a woman walking on the street alone. She was either accompanied by her husband or walking in a group of women. And very rarely I would see one on her own. Our friends told us that this is the case, because they are simply not allowed to. If a man and a woman have a relationship before marriage and they are seen by either of the families in public, they will both have a big problem as this is considered to disgrace the whole family. So, men cannot really have sex with an Indian woman unless married. They told us looking for prostitutes is an option – as well as hooking up with white women. That´s when I came to realise is that all these guys who wanted to show us around on their motorbike really had a hidden agenda. I mean, I thought about it before, but as I didn´t want to jump to conclusions to quickly, I abstained from judging too quickly.
However, as the guy know that white women are more open with their sexuality, they did approach me in order to eventually get what they wanted. As there´s usually also white women acting in porn, they are even more used to sexualize them. Of course, being approached like this frequently was not pleasant at all, but I could also understand where it was coming from. That is crucial to understand. If you are a young guy and you´re just going nuts, you might not always be thinking rationally. I even have a few personal stories to tell here.
Learning from Indian friends
One time we were hanging out with our Indian friends and as my Italian friend and I were used to, we then later hugged them goodbye. A simple hug. Nothing sexual you would think. Well. If you´ve never been hugged by a woman before that leaves an impression. The same day in the evening when we saw our friends again, they soon started comparing our boobs which they apparently felt through our clothes. We weren´t really bothered about it and thought they were just going to tell a few stupid jokes and that’s it – but it was far from being over. They kept on and on talking about our boobs and eventually we were really annoyed. Let’s change topic, please? There´s certainly more important things to talk about! But apparently not. When saying goodbye again for the day, one of our friends even begged me to give him a hug in my hostel dorm – which I said no to and made him a little sad, I guess. Now mind you – these guys were our friends and generally really nice guys. They never hurt us in any way. They understood that “no” really means “no”. But most of them also have never been close to a woman as well. Now their repressed desires slowly surfaced. The only one of our friends we would consider “normal” was a guy who has had several relationships with western girls and knew how to treat a woman. But if you never had a relationship with any woman the situation can get a bit more difficult.
Most of our friends were about 25 and above and never had a girlfriend. In fact, the concept of a girlfriend didn´t really exist as they cannot have an Indian girlfriend – only if she will be their wife afterwards. In this region, arranged marriages were quite common as well. However, that´s not the case in the entire country. It´s also not the case that everyone objects to it.
These guys however, some of them 25 and a virgin, didn´t know how to deal with their sexual drives. It was quite clear to us as they asked us a lot of questions like: “When did you have your first time?” or “How many times a day do you usually do it?” It was obvious that this was a topic they needed to talk about as they apparently couldn´t talk about it with anyone else. In their group of course they could, but with an adult – or even their parents? Unthinkable.
The toilet incident
That´s how I got into a quite weird situation. It took place at a restaurant with my Italian and indian friend and I needed to use the restroom. My Indian friend showed me the way – there was one room for the ladies and one for the men which you had to pass through to reach the ladies one. So, I took my time in the ladies room, my friend was waiting outside. Once I was done and opened the door to the men´s area I suddenly saw him jerking off in the middle of the room – right in front of me! He didn´t even hide it from me, just whispered “Your boobs are so big” and kept on going. Weirdly enough I wasn´t even that shocked. Disgusted – yes. This was not something I needed to see. But the shock was rather short. I soon got myself back together, told him to never do that in front of me again and left the room. Now, in this case it was a young boy who also had a slight crush on my Italian friend and was probably a bit overwhelmed by so much contact with women. As he was quite young, a teenager, I was able to look past it a bit easier. A few minutes after he already apologized, knowing that he had done something wrong before. And I accepted.
What surprised me that most when thinking about the situation afterwards was my reaction though. I reacted as if I had known what was about to occur. I wasn´t shocked at all – and actually I shouldn´t have been. If you keep on repressing your urges and desires, some situations will escalate sooner rather than later. Now, I am not at all saying this justifies all sorts of behaviour – it certainly doesn´t. Repressed or not one still is master of one’s own actions. I am just saying I understand where these guys are coming from way better now. It is a difficult situation – also not very likely to be changed.
Whereas in some parts of India, the situation was completely different. People even had different boy- and girlfriends before marriage and that was a common thing. But in traditional parts, the family plays such an important role you cannot possibly imagine choosing your partner.
However, young people there are hungry for information – I´ve seen their actions and listened to their questions. Sadly I only had the opportunity to speak with men about their point of view and have not much inside on the women’s perspective on this matter. This perspective is certainly still missing. But in this region, it was almost impossible to talk to an Indian woman or make female friends.
Overall, I was shocked what effect repression and tabooing sexuality can have on young people. It is a topic that everyone is interested in, that everyone will most likely have to deal with sooner or later in life. Suppressing sexual urges will just lead to young people not knowing how to deal with sudden sexual drive. It is something that needs to be understood, as talking about sex is also not completely taboo-free in the west. But it should be. Not talking about it does more harm than good. It leads to massive problems if children are not properly educated. That´s what I wanted to picture here. Of course, there is not quick solution for a whole country with this kind of problem – which is not only India but many others. However, it is also crucial to know, to be informed. With information you can then act – better, and more reflected than before.