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CHASTITY, CHOSEN

The accessibility of the topic of sex is perhaps the primary denominator of that vast issue known as the Generational Divide. With the present generation agreed on as being more ‘open’ and at ease about the topic of sex as compared to the preceding generation, it follows automatically that the former is also more comfortable with pre-marital sexual intimacy. And this, it is believed, underscores the generation gap that urban adolescents and young adults are experiencing in their relationship with their elders. It is, however, nothing but common logic that commands this hypothesis: the youth, solely by virtue of being in that age bracket, is more liberal about pre-marital sex. In the general eagerness to construct this ageist polarity, it is quite conveniently overlooked that there happens to be a sizeable chunk of young people that is closer to earlier generations in its belief about pre-marital sex as taboo.

One section of these young people willingly subscribes to the rather unwieldy expectation imposed on it: that virginity complements the archetype of the untainted child who makes his or her parents proud. That a young adult or a teenager can hardly be called a ‘child’ does not stop such expectations. Exploration of sexuality is thoroughly discouraged; this conditioning is over before enlightenment about sex begins. Once these pre-teens reach adolescence, they take up the baton themselves, championing the cause. Beyond this section, the rest of the chunk positions itself along the spectrum based on the gradation of its acceptance of various stages of non-platonic contact. Many believe in abstinence from intercourse before marriage, or, perhaps, before college. The discourse is compounded by love, commitment and loyalty. The ‘new’ generation may be an overexposed lot fallen too soon from Neverland-grace; yet, many of them cringe at the idea of emotionless sex. Many more distance themselves from sex that is not exclusive. But discretion is good as long as it does not spill over into moral policing. Nothing is as disturbing as a teenager judging a fellow teen as loose or lacking in integrity because their respective stands about sex do not match.

It is also interesting, and possibly unsettling, to note that many adolescents and young adults find talking about sex awkward. To talk about it, let alone ‘admit’ to it, except in the most informal conversation, is equal to exposing themselves to hostile labelling, for who knows how many among the audience are not on the same page? Even the boundary between these young people and their progressive fellows is never discussed.

As conditioned sex-shy mid-teens step into what is perceived as a more ‘responsible’ age, maturing into young adults, one wonders what makes them continue with their aversion towards pre-marital sex. Is it an acquired sagacity? Or is it the ‘grown up’ tendency to root for what is safe? Whatever be the answer, this group shines a light on one fact: what is seen as an effort to suffocate the first expression of sexuality is also, at the other end of the spectrum, a fairly successful capitalization on the fear of the unexplored.