POLITICS

Dear Indian Politicians, Sex Is Not A National Dirty Secret

Birds do it, bees do it, even netas do it and we need to get over it.

19/11/2017 3:56 PM IST | Updated 19/11/2017 4:06 PM IST
Twitter/Amit Malviya

Dr. Mahinder Watsa, please save us.

The nation needs you. Acche Moody if not din might be upon us. But alas, when it comes to the birds and bees, we seem to be going backwards.

Frankly speaking, we need someone like you desperately, a no-nonsense sex columnist, one who still shoots from the hip at the age of 93, to give our netas some straightforward sex talk. And remind them that sex is natural, it's nothing to be ashamed about.

We know India always has had a sex problem, the old Kamasutra meets Victorian prudishness meets Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with sexual control. Our bursting population shows that we are having sex, and lots of it, but we remain stubbornly squeamish about it.

But when the head of IT cell of the ruling party starts behaving like a snickering adolescent as well, we cannot just shrug it off saying we are like that only. This is not the old schoolboys' WhatsApp group with its randy Playboy jokes.

Amit Malviya's latest contribution to the Twitter wars was a collage of Jawaharlal Nehru with a variety of women. Malviya tweeted: "It seems Hardik Patel has more of Nehru's DNA, contrary to what @shaktisinhgohil claimed." Gohil, a Congress politician had said Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel could not be bought out, because he had the DNA of fellow Gujarati leader Sardar Patel. Somehow Malviya made the rhetorical leap from that to try and paint Hardik Patel and Nehru as both carrying some womanizing gene.

This is not the old schoolboys' WhatsApp group with its randy Playboy jokes.

As it turns out, several of the women Nehru was embracing in that thoughtfully put-together collage were his family members. That, in the world according to Malviya, hugging your sister or niece is Exhibit 1, 2 and 3 in Portrait of the PM as a Man of Lustful DNA is deeply troubling. That he cannot tell the difference between lust and affection is concerning. That he cannot see a photograph of a man putting a tika on the wife of an American president without thinking Dirty Picture is even more worrying.

But it speaks to a larger hang-up. Even if the pictures were of women unrelated to Nehru, so what? Even if Nehru had romantic relations with women, so what? His wife Kamala died in 1936. Nehru survived her by almost 30 years. Why should any of us, least of all Amit Malviya, be bothered about his sex life as long as it did not interfere with his political life?

Why do we have to treat sex like a national dirty secret? Why do we spend so government time and money trying to figure out ways to deny access to porn sites in the name of cleaning up child porn? In the process the Swachh Internet-wallahs provided the good Indian citizen with a handy list of 857 porn sites, a sort of Beginner's Guide to Internet Porn. The International Film Festival balks at films with names like Nude and Sexy Durga. "We had Khajuraho and Kamasutra. Now we can't talk about sex, and the word sexy is abusive," says Sexy Durga filmmaker S K Sasidharan. Our censor board comes up with a list of forbidden words like "masturbating" and haramzada or even "ass". The latest idea is the Har Har Mahadev app, which plays devotional music or chants Allahu Akbar everyone someone tries to access an adult video. The makers obviously did not consider the fact that conversely every time someone hears a bhajan they might now think sex.

In short, why are we so afraid of sex even as we are obsessed about it?

AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on November 18, 2017 shows Hardik Patel (C), leader of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), addressing a gathering with his supporters during 'Adhikar Sammelan' at Mansa, some 50 km from Ahmedabad.

The Malviya episode was triggered, of course, by the infamous so-called "sex video" of Hardik Patel in a hotel room with a woman. They seem to be two consensual adults who have checked into a hotel room together. Instead of debating the ethical morality of reservations for Patels as Hardik Patel has demanded, we are debating the morality of his sex life. That's the real scandal here.

Even worse, political columnist Shefali Vaidya has snidely quipped "Hardik Patel's CD, if it is true, should actually be an inspiration to all those young people out there that someone so odious, ugly n talentless has a sex life!" It might be a joke but it's a low blow to go after someone's looks, to insinuate that someone is not good looking enough to have a sex life. It's not that our politicians who are married and producing children presumably not through immaculate conception are exactly Adonises. Or is this plain jealousy that even Hardik Patel is getting some action?

The list of sex scandals and sex CDs in Indian politics is long and checkered and cuts across party lines. Before Hardik Patel there was Rajesh Munat (BJP), Sandeep Kumar (Aam Aadmi Party), Narain Dutt Tiwari (Congress), Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress), Raghavji Lakhamsi Savala (BJP), Thomas Varghese (CPM), Gopal Kanda (Independent), Mahipal Maderna (Congress), Sanjay Joshi (BJP/RSS), Amarmani Tripathi (Samajwadi Party and others), Ram Mohan Garg (BSP), Gopinath Munde (BJP). Some of these cases were actual scandals. People died. People were blackmailed. Property was transferred. But some were just affairs and liaisons that became public. Many of them have also been met by protestations of conspiracy and strenuous claims that the CDs are fake. In that sense Hardik Patel was rather refreshing when he said "I am a man, I am not impotent."

In short, why are we so afraid of sex even as we are obsessed about it?

But there's one thing our netas just don't seem to get. Sex, per se, is not scandal. As opined in an Indian Express editorial, "The personal lives of public figures, as long as there is no harassment, impropriety, or quid pro quo involved, do not concern the Indian public beyond their value as salacious gossip." Birds do it, bees do it, even netas do it and we need to get over it. That we have sex on our minds a lot is apparent given that our most Googled celebrity is Sunny Leone and Indians are fifth in terms of most number of daily visitors to Pornhub. Incidentally traffic to Pornhub goes up during Republic Day and Independence Day. Perhaps if we worried less about sex and more about consent, we'd be better off as a nation.

And for those like Amit Malviya, a few simple ground rules. Any picture of a man and a woman together, whether hugging, laughing, or even lighting a cigarette does not spell out S-E-X. Sex and scandal are not synonyms in any thesaurus anywhere. Just remember it's not a scandal just because it's sex. And next time you want to make snide tweets about someone's sex life, real or alleged, check in with the good Dr. Watsa first. It will save you some embarrassment.

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