Sex. A glass of water or a three-course meal?

Journalist and author Bishwanath Ghosh tries to call out our double standards about sex.

Bishwanath Ghosh | Posted on 22 Feb 2016
Sex. A Glass Of Water Or A Three-Course Meal? | Bonobology

What's wrong in having thoughts about sex? Having thoughts about sex is better than thinking about sex. And what is wrong in thinking about sex? If people didn't indulge in it, the world would have resembled the Sahara Desert or the Amazon forests. But there is a school of thought, which includes preachers and saints, which believes sex is OK as long as it is limited to procreation. Then there is a school - and most Indians belong there - which equates sex to early morning ablutions: it's a function that has to be performed, but you should be as discreet as possible and also not talk about it. It's like having a glass of water: you feel thirsty, so you go to the kitchen, get a glass, open the tap, fill the glass and drink it. Similarly, when you feel lusty, you wait for the elders/kids to sleep, then switch off the lights, and quickly perform the act while being careful not to make any noise. The man turns around and goes to sleep, while the woman - well, does she matter?

These two schools of thoughts get highly irritated whenever sex is treated as a source of pleasure. They want the act to be as brief as having water: they get scandalised when sex is treated as a full-course meal.

Actually most of the time, it is not even irritation - just plain jealousy. Given a chance, they would wring sex by its spine to extract as much pleasure as possible, but, alas, they have certain obligations and - at times - limitations. Not that they don't try to find a way out. One episode is still vivid in my memory even though it is five years old. I had just come to Chennai, and one of my pastimes then was to look up The Hindu classified columns and hunt for shady massage parlours. It was the hunt and the atmosphere of those places that gave me the thrill, not that I sought anything from them. One such parlour happened to be in Spencer Plaza, which was right opposite my office. I hopped across. I wanted a facial. I walked in and was shown a chair. As the female attendant prepared for the facial, I noticed the occupants of the next two chairs through the mirror: I was stunned. They were two old men - so old that you could've imagined them only in a hospital bed or coughing endlessly in a bed at home. But presently they had taken a short holiday to heaven. I felt sorry for them: at 80, you can seek sexual gratification only on the sly, at least in India.

But why should I feel sorry for those pot-bellied, middle-aged men, who keep their wives and daughters behind bars, curse channels like MTV, and hand out ostracisation threats to young women living in the same apartment who dare to entertain men in their homes? These are men who lech at women on the roads, stare at the curves of their women colleagues and, if out of town on official work, keep whore-hunting on top of their agenda for the evening.

On Minto Road in Delhi, there used to be a cabaret called Blue Star. Now they have shut the cabaret and turned it into a 'family restaurant', but each time I pass the place, I can see the ghosts dancing. The audience would mainly comprise middle-aged men, who would have the full course meal in the cabaret and drink the glass of water at home. They would insist on stuffing 10-rupee or 50-rupee notes into the panties of the dancers.

Talking of cabarets, there used to be one in Nagpur, called Lahori Deluxe. Wonder if it's still there. Once we all - as in journalists covering the BJP - went there, to witness the coronation of Bangaru Laxman as the party president. Can't recall the year exactly: I think it was 1999. We had taken the G T Express from Delhi and got down at Nagpur, where we spent three days. I had not seen Chennai till then and was very curious how the South looked like, so I was very upset that I had to detrain midway without the travelling the whole distance (that's when the desire to come to Chennai was born).

Now there are two varieties of journalists: one, the young and the not-so-experienced, and the other old or not-so-old but experienced. The categorisation, however, has no bearing on the quality of journalism or writing. Anyway, the BJP programmes got over in the evenings, and journalists like me — the young and the not-so-experienced — would wonder how to spend the nights. One night we went to Lahori Deluxe, bought tickets for the front row, and walked across to a bar to create the thirst for lust. Back in the cabaret theatre, we took out seats. Minutes later we saw a huge group trooping in — the old and the not-so-old, who otherwise assumed a serious and business-like look. Sex seemed to be the leveller.

The point is, everybody has sex on their minds —  and most often it is priority no. 1. Only that the no. 1 position is either masked or marked dormant for the sake of other considerations —  the primary among them being, "What will people say?" The masking could also be the result of the years of conditioning: "Sex is a bad thing", "Sex is a bad thing", "Sex is a bad thing". Come on, even the Supreme Court has said that if you deny sex to your woman, it could become a ground for divorce.

The bottom line: sex is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. Don't gulp it down like a glass of water, but savour it like a three-course meal. I know my thoughts make me a "bad person", but I am never constrained by the thought: "What will people say?" Because people say something, and do something else. They do something when people are watching, and something else when no one known is around. I invite such people to come out in the open and let go: life is too short to be lived in denial or to do things on the sly.


Bishwanath Ghosh

Bishwanath Ghosh is the author of Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop but Never Get Off; Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began; and most recently, of Longing, Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta.

Comments : 1

Siddhartha Mishra: Sex is always the first priority , whether young or old .


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