Sex, Then And Now

When I was in my teens, the shrill sound of the telephone ringing would have my heart racing – maybe, just maybe (please, please, please) it would be my crush of the moment…

Back then, the entire family depended on the one and only landline to conduct their affairs – the romantic as well as the routine. And if the landline was busted (which was more often than not), so was my almost non-existent love life (sexual thoughts were not to be entertained, teenage hormones or not). To say that a lot has changed since would perhaps be an understatement.

Landline ringing would have my heart racing
Landline ringing would have my heart racing

Ours was a country that celebrated sex. As far back as the 2nd century BCE, the paintings at Ajanta caves depicted beautiful women in the nude. The Ellora caves also showcased erotic art between the 5th and 10th century. Between the 9th and the 12th centuries, the sculptures at Khajuraho temple rejoiced in sex – from threesomes, orgies to bestiality. Clearly, sex was not taboo. Sex was to be enjoyed, not hidden behind closed doors.

Related reading: Ancient Indian Heritage: Connecting with our sensual past

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But all of this was about to change. The Mughals arrived around the 14th century. Women now had to be covered up and kept from prying eyes.

Things took a turn for the worse with the British rulers who decided to impose their sense of morality on us. And so we came to shun sex. And look upon nudity as perverse.

While the rest of the world was discovering sexual liberation with the hippies in the ‘70s, young men and women in India were still being married to the family and not each other, definitely not for love. The purpose of sex was procreation, not pleasure.

Then came the ‘90s and the economy opened up. And MTV was unleashed. The exuberance of youth, the writhing hot, young bodies, the sexy clothes, the easy vibe… boys and girls across the country were mesmerised. A generation that was already dating and disco-hopping took easily to the open attitude towards sex.

Along with MTV and international TV shows, came the Internet. Suddenly, it was easier for the young ‘uns to have a private love life and sex life. Furtive sex was being had in cyber cafes where pornography was accessible for just a few rupees.

Dating and disco hopping kids were open to sex
Dating and disco hopping kids were open to sex

Things heated up further with the launch of cell phones. Steamy texts, steamier phone calls, way more sex.

Hooking up had never been easier. And unlike me, young teenagers were not only entertaining sexual thoughts but also engaging in it freely.

A case in point: 2 am. Diksha’s cell phone purrs softly. Blurry-eyed, she reaches for it. Her heart skips a beat.

Aakash: Hey. How are you?

Diksha smiles.

Aakash is not her boyfriend. He’s what’s euphemistically called a ‘friend with benefits’. The benefits being unencumbered, uninhibited, unattached sex. Hot, sweaty, glorious sex. Sex for the joy of sex.

Diksha is a 30-something single woman. And she isn’t alone in enjoying sex for the sake of sex. Several of her single friends and a few of her married friends do, too. Sex has made a comeback and, with technology on their side, singles, the married and the ‘it’s complicated-s’ are all happy to head to the bedroom.

Related reading: Learning about sex from Indian temple architecture

“The number of infidelity cases I get today as compared to five years ago has gone up by more than 50%,” says one marriage therapist and psychiatrist on an online news portal.

Couples are more ambitious these days – they want the jet-setting lifestyle they see all around them, on their favourite TV shows, in their friends’ Facebook/Instagram posts. In the hurly-burly of getting there, extramarital affairs sometimes serve as a coping mechanism, without the baggage of marriage and its expectations.

And sex is no longer the prerogative of the grown-ups alone. More and more teenagers are engaging in it.

The 4G generation not only has free access to laptops and iPads but also cell phones with excellent connectivity. Cybersex, phone sex, plain old vanilla sex, the selfie generation is uninhibitedly experimenting. Cafes across the country are crawling with barely-legal kids unabashedly hitting on each other. Zombied out on coffee and cell phones, sometimes even cigarettes, they plan parties and after-parties while swiping their phones for hook-ups. Those less privileged strolls hand-in-hand through the ubiquitous shopping malls, turning to deserted parks or monuments for some private time.

Couples are more ambitious
Couples are more ambitious
Related reading: I tried Kamasutra positions with my boyfriend and this is what happened

And millennials across offices are as eager. They work hard, sure. But they play harder. Having grown up on reality shows that are as much about dating as they are about splitting, they couple-up with co-workers, the couplings often lasting no longer than the project they are working on. Long enough to do the dirty, though.

Sex is almost as important to a relationship now as love. No one is in a rush to get married and premarital sex is almost taken for granted. Young people go through multiple relationships before finally committing to someone and even then, it’s not always for keeps. Another hook-up is only a tap of the app away.

We’d like to hear from you about your views on sex and society and your personal experience. Take our survey anonymously to tell us what you think.


Readers Comments On “Sex, Then And Now”

  1. Yes. Lot of change happened interms of technology, availability of opportunities, change in value system and finally loss of spirituality. Sex was too much low in older days and it is blown out of proportions in today era. The intimacy between husband and wife in a marriage changed from sacredness to a mere a business in some cases. All extramarital cheating apps social net working sites, counsellers , hotels and transport etc thrive on intimacy business . The more one breaks the bond between the husband and wife, the more business they get. It is like making penny’s at the dead bodies funerals and sex is blown out of proportion so that these can thrive.
    Does a prostitute has at any time emotional attachment with her/his client? Never. It is done with the motive of getting money. Thats all. Now so called dignified names Friends with Benefits , open marriages, one night stands, affairs … etc are nothing but non-consented (consented in some cases with their married partners) selective prostitution (where motive is lust fulfilling by individuals instead of money) to call it by older name and with availability of people with change in value system and technology made it available easy. Many of these thrive under the carpet from their married partners because of business trips, secrecy made available by cheating apps etc. All these thrive on the saying ” Ghar Ki chor ko not even God can catch” . Few people wants to be Ghar Ki chor as long these are not unearthed by their spouse & they feel no guilty like animals.
    Animals eat,fend mate and sleep like humans. But animals have no ethics , morals dharma and karma , no guilt & no spirituality, Now it is of more personal choice whether one wants to live like animal or human

  2. Nice one!

    People have actually changed in India, their way of thinking and everything has changed little, not much though.

    There seem to be more avenues for women to talk about sex. Many love being called sexy, others understand that wearing revealing cholis doesn’t make them sex objects.


    1. Absolutely, Neha. Sexy, to me, is a state of mind. Intelligence can be sexy, squeaky clean hair can be sexy, doing the right thing can be sexy. So can wearing your favourite perfume. The clothes you wear – revealing or not – can also make you feel sexy but that does not turn you into a “sex object”, as you rightly pointed out. That sort of mindset is changing – at least amongst literate, well-read, open-minded, free-thinking Indians.

      Thank you for reading this article – I’m glad you liked it.

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