Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein (1889 -1951) bequeathed to us an armful of quotations like the one above, which were often opaque, which only he understood, and took a dim view of those who didn’t. It is said that even Bertrand Russell struggled to figure out Wittgenstein, which is saying something. Happily, we are free to make our own interpretation, particularly when the man who wrote it is no longer there to contradict us. Which brings me rather neatly and delicately to the subject I wish to touch upon – Indians and our strange attitude towards sex. A topic on which we would rather remain aloof and silent, ‘Whereof one cannot speak.’ Thank you, Herr Wittgenstein.
As a general rule, Indian women do not discuss sex. Come to that, neither do Indian men. I may be accused of generalizing, but that comes with the territory. However, with a population of 1.3 billion and counting, Indians can hardly be ignorant of the missionary position. If population is to be used as a criterion for sexual awareness, only China can claim bragging rights for the gold medal with India snapping at its heels. So you see, we are right up there with the best. Now I am fully aware that there are these so-called liberated types in urban conglomerations in our country who keep talking and writing about sex in a studiedly open and self-conscious manner. However, one Shobha De does not a summer make. And I am not even going to touch on the subject of multiple religious denominations and their attitudes towards sex, protected sex, family planning et al. The Kama Sutra has been done to death. There’s enough stuff about that doing the rounds in academia. The government even has a ministry devoted to family planning, and doubtless they keep spreading the good word about the birds and the bees to the huddled masses. Trouble is the huddled masses are not taking a blind bit of notice, and continue to huddle, which is part of the problem.
It is in this context that my attention was drawn to a recent report in the newspapers (some of us still read them), about a well-known manufacturer of condoms, Durex India, who aggressively took to social media to awaken women to their sexuality. Hitherto largely considered a self-imposed taboo subject, Durex roped in a number of prominent women to air their uncloseted views openly about sexual pleasure, or the lack of it, amongst women in India. The blame for this unfortunate deprivation was laid squarely at the door of ‘The Indian Male’, his inflated ego (if nothing else), seeking pleasure only for himself. Singer-songwriter Carole King famously crooned about the earth moving under her feet and we’ve all read about a billion stars exploding in our brains, but these myths have largely been confined to the novels of Judith Krantz, Harold Robbins and their ilk. The new-age, ‘aware’ Indian woman, who is not afraid to speak her mind, has dismissed all this as just so much bunkum and hogwash. The whole point the women interviewed seem to be making is that sex cannot be a self-serving one-way street, with nary a thought to the ‘gentler sex.’ It takes two to tango about sums up the female point of view. Quite right, too.
Point eloquently made, one would have thought, but not quite game, set and match to the ladies. The men are now up in arms and Durex India is facing plenty of flak with some danger of their sales curve threatening to go into limp mode. Hashtags are sprouting like a rash with all kinds of appellations among the twitterati. One of the more risible consequences of the twitter war was a call to all right thinking men to switch to another brand, Kohinoor, to punish the errant Durex, little realising that Kohinoor and Durex belong to one and the same parent company! Clever sods. ‘Heads I win, tails you lose.’
Here’s something that bothered me particularly. Durex India, as part of its social media initiative, put out this tweet – ‘Nearly 70% of women in India don’t orgasm during sex.’ I was deeply offended by this tweet, despite its drawing 5.2K likes and 850 retweets. Why am I offended? You may well ask. After all, they were just stating a statistic that came out of research. No, my problem was one of grammatical usage laxity. ‘….don’t orgasm during sex.’? How can you convert the noun ‘orgasm’ into a verb? You can experience or fake an orgasm, but you can’t just orgasm. It might be pedantically correct, just doesn’t sound right. The late Dr. Kinsey would have concurred. I wasn’t going to take this lying down, if you’ll pardon the serendipitous double entendre.
The news report further talks about an actress, Swara Bhaskar, whose provenance is a closed book to me, who was quite forthright in demanding equal rights of pleasure while indulging in a spot of slap and tickle, to employ a quaint British expression. Good on you, Swara. Sorry you got trolled badly by a handful of MCPs. You have displayed courage above and beyond. And I am not being patronizing. Had I been wearing a hat, I would have gladly doffed it to you.
As a former advertising professional, I am now wondering if all this hullabaloo, involving bouquets and brickbats, was not just a cunning plan by the brand boffins at Durex and their ad agencies to create a ‘doctored’ storm in a tea cup, getting their brand name into the print and social media for about 24 hours of fetid fame. Negative publicity need not always be bad publicity is a misguided notion some marketers harbour. Perhaps the Durex and Kohinoor condoms are flying off the shelves. Stranger things have happened. And get this. Some of the angry male tweets were reportedly even tagged to the PMO and the Home Ministry! Allegedly heard in the corridors of power. Amit Shah – ‘Narendra Bhai, should I tackle J&K or D&K?’ Modi – ‘D&K? Woh kya hai?’ Amit Shah – ‘Durex & Kohinoor.’ That little exchange between India’s two most powerful men may or may not have taken place, but it’s a near thing. In the light of recent, momentous and earth-shattering developments in J&K, it would be perfectly safe to assume that D&K would not have featured prominently in the Government’s scheme of things.
In conclusion, experts will tell you that there can be no sex without love, or vice-versa. I am no expert, but Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine had some words of wisdom to impart in this excerpt from their duet, ‘Let’s do it’, from the musical Can Can.
The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it / Not to mention the Finns / Folks in Siam do it /Think of Siamese twins / Electric eels, I might add, do it / Though it shocks them, I know / In shallow shoals, English soles do it / Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it / Let’s do it (Let’s fall in love)