Santosh Desai, who writes the column City City Bang Bang for the Times of India, is one of the very few of what I would call the Thinking Man’s Journalist. When most other news articles across various media are filled with details and opinions, his are the rare exceptions, filled with an honest and unbiased analysis of the issue at hand. In TOI, he wrote about the whole furore over Dr Harsh Vardhan’s comment on sex education in our country. He said that as opposed to the vehement self-righteousness with which sex education is being defended by the so-called liberals, the idea that talking openly about sex with children is healthy and will lead to positive development in their personalities may not be something that everyone must necessarily embrace. He very rightly pointed out that since sex is so intricately tied with a society’s culture, a homogeneous solution that essentially follows the Western model may not be easy to implement in India’s cultural context.
From the rising graph of sex-related crimes in our country, it is clear that something needs to be addressed at a more fundamental level, over and above making the legal justice system responsive and making law enforcement more stringent. Making sex education part of school curriculum is one of the ideas that has been discussed, and one that has a lot of supporters. But as Santosh Desai points out, a solution that has been developed based on the meaning of sex and sexuality in the West may be hard to implement in India, and may even end up distorting the message. What we may need to do as a society is to dive further into the root cause of sex-related crimes and perhaps uncover more fundamental issues, which may help us create better solutions.
At some level in the distant past, humans understood that we could and should only deal with each other on terms that are mutually agreeable, and the best society is one in which everyone benefits through such social interactions. Anyone breaking this code was looked down upon, and to discourage this, deterrents were created in the way of laws and punishments. A crime then is committed when an individual takes what he or she desires not on mutually agreeable terms, but through use of (or threats of use of) force or deception, which end up causing harm to the giver and other stakeholders. Forced sexual intercourse is therefore a crime, a heinous one at that.
An individual commits a crime when there’s something he or she desires very strongly, but believes that there exists no mutually agreeable way for him or her to have what they desire. This leads to the use force or deception. From the rising number of sexual crimes that are being committed against women and children in our country, we can surmise that as a strong desire, sex is increasingly gaining ground with young men in our country. Legitimate availability of sex for these young men is another topic of discussion, but in this article, I wanted to focus on why sex has become this hugely strong attraction. I’ve read opinions blaming Western influence on our media, the sexualized advertising, films, and music, but I believe these are symptoms and not the real cause.
Sex is perhaps the most ecstatic physical experience that a human being can have. The few moments of a sexual orgasm are an indescribably joyous experience. This joyous experience is what drives us to have sex for not just procreation, but also for fun. Sex is the frontier of the pleasure that purely physical experiences can provide, and hence no wonder it is so sought-after. However, the operative word here is physical. Sex is a wonderful physical experience and has an important place in the panorama of human experiences, but it isn’t the only wonderful one available to us humans. Human beings have three other equally important sides to their lives, apart from the physical: the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. No one can deny the beauty of the feeling a son gets when he sees his proud parents watch him collect a big award. The joy of walking down the halls of one’s alma mater years after passing out, re-living those moments of childhood, is equally indescribable. The thrill of having solved a complex problem is for some people a great feeling. Some say that meditation gives them an overflowing feeling of joy. Love, helping others in need, making people laugh, becoming part of a larger mission, and so on are all experiences that have a very strong impact on us. None of these are physical experiences but are very powerful.
Human life is an equal balance between physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. The increasing strength of sex as one of the strongest motive forces in our society points to a rising primacy of the physical experience of life, as compared to the other three. I believe as a society, we have come to regard the physical as the only real and legitimate experience of life. Money, which is nothing other than the ability to enjoy physical experiences, has become the yardstick of success. The only legitimate aim of a business as well as a career has become money. Emotions like love, respect, and friendship have gotten relegated to lower positions, while spiritual experiences like telepathy and prayer have come close to being equated with hallucination. With the physical experience of life becoming the only commonly-accepted “truth” of life, sex has taken centre-stage as the most powerful of experiences of life. It has become the sought-after ecstasy that we humans are all wired to seek, which is reflected in how sexualized our media, newspapers, films, and music have become. And because the other three equally important experiences have become irrelevant and unimportant, having the sexual experience by force or through violence or deception is becoming a commonly-taken route for those who believe it is unavailable to them through legitimate means. And not only sexual crimes, our single-minded obsession with the physical experience is at the root of corruption, pollution, family discord, terrorism, and many other common problems that we see around us.
Therefore as a society, we need to question the primacy that we have accorded to the physical experience of life over the mental, emotional, and spiritual. We need to bring all four needs to an equal footing, and treat them with equal importance. We need to stop the endless pursuit of creation and consumption of better things, and pay attention to the nurturing of our other faculties. We need to stop using money as the yardstick for success, and stop telling our children to work for money. We need to teach our children that success in life is a very individual thing, and different for each individual. It must be found through a deep search of one’s inner core, and it must balance all the four aspects of life. There is no mass yardstick, either of money or fame, of success that we must all race towards.
A change of this fundamental a nature is essentially gradual. It begins with each of us questioning our understanding of life and how it can be best led. Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it”. It is time for us to abandon the thinking that has gotten us here, and rethink the very fundamentals of what we perceive life to be and how to best live it.