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Sex through the ages

The Mangalore pub incident led to a hue and cry across the nation, but the political establishment took its time. Days after the incident, it responded warily with crackdowns on perpetrators. What does that say of our age and times? Are we sexually permissive, or are we repressed?

“We are sexually permissive, but only towards a certain section of society. There is unbridled sexual power for men but women are still sexual objects,” says Rita Banerjee, the author of Sex and Power, Defining History, Shaping Societies, published by Penguin.

Banerjee, who is a freelance writer and photographer, is also the founding member of the online campaign for the girl child: The 50 Million Missing.

In Sex and Power, the author tries to explore sexual permissiveness in the Indian society through the ages and its relation with societal power structure. It was while researching for an article for The London Magazine that Banerjee observed what she thought were certain trends in the sexual practices in India over the ages.

“I was asked to write about the culture and philosophy of an age that created the artworks of Khajuraho and Kama Sutra.”

While poring over relevant texts she found that the Indian society has alternated between sexual permissiveness and repression.

“Take the Vedic Age for example. The first millennium was extremely erotic. This was followed by the Buddhist period that saw extreme sexual repression followed again by the Golden Age, where women enjoyed the maximum sexual freedom, where sex for women was practised for pleasure and not for propagation. Then came the Muslims and the colonial period, where again there was maximum sexual repression. So there seems to be a pattern of sexual liberation followed by repression almost as if the idea is to negate the pre-existing culture.”

Unlimited sexual power for men, she believes, has led to several ills of modern India: the population explosion, AIDS and female genocide to name a few.

The modern period, Banerjee predicts, is going to be an equation between men and women “which is going to set the agenda of the moral argument” during this period.

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