"If we are accepting pre-marital sex, we are making youths cannibals"
"It should stopped, no debate required"
"Yesh vaishyavati hai... videsh se layi gayi gandagi hai. "
These are just a few of the comments SMSed by viewers which scrolled on the NDTV India ticker during a heated debate on Pre Marital Sex.
A topic that is suddenly all the more topical with Khushboo's views being attacked. And poor Sania Mirza getting dragged into the controversy.
Approximately 40% of NDTV India's viewers appeared violently opposed to the very idea of pre-marital sex, while 60% opined it was an individual choice. Pooja Bhatt, summing up "pro" view, said: "Main apne vichaar aap par nahin thop rahi hoon - toh aap apne vivhaar mujh par kyun thopna chahte hain."
Let me be free to hold my views - you are free to hold yours. And herein lies the crux of the issue.
It's not about sex, really. And it's not a cut and dried Indian sanskriti vs Western culture kind of debate either. We are a society in transition. People - and young people in particular - are redefining their personal value systems and the Old Order is feeling threatened.
A decade ago, the 'hip' young Indian was like a Michael Jackson, desperately trying to be White. But we've evolved since then and realised aping the West is uncool.
Someone once coined the term 'coconut' to describe young people of 'Asian' descent in the UK. Meaning they were Brown from the Outside but White from the Inside.
A similar generation of 'coconuts' now exists in India. These are young people who will embrace Indian food, Indian clothes, Indian music. The external and interesting paraphernalia of our culture are gladly accepted.
However the "white on the inside" bit is about being increasingly individualistic. About deciding what is wrong or right for oneself. So in the case of pre-marital sex what most 'coconuts' believe is not that it is inherently right or wrong, but that it is for each person to decide.
On the other hand you have the White from the Outside but Brown from the Inside brigade. Let's call them 'cappucinos'. On the surface they have adopted certain 'Western' things - they will happily wear jeans, not dhotis and wolf down pizzas and burgers.
But beneath the layer of white foamy froth, they are deeply "brown".
In such a value system, the writ of Society or 'samaaj' prevails over an individual choices and desires. And it's not just about pre-marital sex. It's also about who you should marry (ideally someone from your own caste), when you should marry (preferably around 25, definitely by 30!), having children ("arre, shaadi ko do saal ho gaye - koi issue nahin hai?) and so on and so forth.
Whose life is it anyways
The whole debate about pre-marital sex, for example, does not take into account the idea that some people may not want to marry. Or maybe they do but only if they meet the 'right' person and not because they are past their 'sell by' date.
Must such a person promise to remain celibate all their life? "Underage" sex and pre-marital sex are thus not one and the same thing.
And clearly, many of the young people who - in theory - support pre-marital sex aren't necessarily doing it 'without thinking'. At least, they're waiting for the right time, place and person.
According to the Durex Sex Survey 2005 Indians lost their virginity at an average age of 19.8 years as compared to 17.3 years (the average age when people had sex for the first time worldwide).
Another pertinent question in the Indian context may be how many people choose to remain virgins until they marry. These could include both the 'coconuts' and the 'cappucinos'. But the two may make their choices for different reasons.
Coconuts may not have sex before marriage but reserve the right to do, should they meet someone special. The other brigade will, on principle, not have anything to do with 'sex before marriage'.
All three major news weeklies (India Today, Outlook and The Week) have annual sex surveys. So do the likes of Durex.
A few points to note - the Durex survey was apparently done through the durex.com website which means it was not a random sample representative of the general population
Then there's the the touching belief that people will answer questions about their sex life correctly. I have my doubts, although the stats regarding India are conservative enough to sound 'real', unlike the surveys by Indian magazines!
Globally, people have had an average number of nine sexual partners. The Turks have had more partners than any other country (14.5), Indians have had the fewest sexual partners (3)
But I also wonder what 'losing one's virginity' means to Indians. Would it necessarily mean going all the way?
I ask this because the term 'proposal' has its own strange connotation. A college student saying "He proposed me" is not about getting married. It's agreeing to be someone's steady gf/ bf and go to the movies!
Similarly, there would be plenty of young people who will kiss and cuddle but don't 'go all the way'. In fact the Brown on the Inside brigade will often do everthing "but that" and justify to themselves that "I didn't actually do it".
Getting back to the original issues raised by Khushboo. It's not about advocating what's right or wrong but just acknowledging that people do have sex before marriage - even in India. So if you have made that decision, be safe about it. Better safe, than sorry!
P.S. Please, no Khushboo style protests to this post! On my part, I won't be making any Sania style retractions.