Most conservative Indian parents still do not expect their children to ever indulge in premarital sex. The “children” in question may be in their mid-twenties, pursuing higher education and not yet married for want of economic independence, called apne pairon pe khada hona in Hindi. As Will Durant questions in “Fallen Leaves“, “What is youth to do in the increasing years between the coming of desire and the conquest of some place in the economic world that will warrant marriage?”
Indeed, there are countless families in India where the word “sex” is never even mentioned. And this is not about some middle class morality alone. It easily transcends classes and castes, as society always consists of liberal and conservative pockets. If we can vote when we are 18 years old, why are our parents not ready to accept our sexual needs and choice of a partner even in our 20s? Forget sexual needs, being seen with a girl or a boy is considered an anathema by many families. If you are caught, saying that the girl or the boy in question is a friend sows the seeds of doubt for all times to come.
For Sigmund Freud, libido was the primary psychic energy, the driving force behind human behaviour. Why does society put a leash around our instinct for sex, defeating and disappointing human actions, imagination, creative powers, ability to form social relations and much more? As Michel Foucault notes in “The Order of Discourse“, the grid of prohibition on speech is tightest in the case of sexuality and politics. It means that not only is human sexuality frustrated – and more so in societies that prohibit any discussion of sex – it hinders our everyday life and capacity for thought and action.
After all, who are we in the first instance and how do we come to be? Humans are only “civilised” animals, though many questions can be raised on that assertion too. A sexual union leads to conception, gestation and the eventual birth of a human baby. And yet, most of us are hit by “moral” scruples of society or the fear of the wrath of our parents as we think of indulging in sex. But these scruples magically vanish after marriage, a ritualistic sanction by society – “Children, have fun for a few days and then promptly return to work.”
Strangely, our parents, who take an overzealous part in deciding who we should have sex with all our lives, do not ever utter the word sex or talk about it with us, never having the guts to be acquainted with our sexual inclinations, passions and choices. Do our parents not have sex? Come on, you are reading this because your parents had sex. But we do not dare to talk about it and end up imposing the moral diktats of society, not because they are just but, precisely because of their unjustifiable qualities. The prohibition on sex is primarily an instrument of control. If all of us develop the consciousness to start a freewheeling orgy, it will endanger all forms of authority and power. Sex must be curbed for the powers that be!
The basis of moral codes and taboos are always arbitrary and vary from one society to another while changing within the same society as well. The containment of sex within marriage is an old building that is developing cracks. Do not fancy that it will collapse; it will linger for a long time, perhaps forever, along with other approaches to life. For the time being, it will stifle those who are under it but recognise its sad reality. Youth cannot always remain patient!