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Indian youth get their knowledge of sex mostly from friends, porno films and “self-reading”

April 24, 2007

Plenty of discussion has been generated on whether sex education is necessary in schools or not, and it appears as if the majority of state governments are against it. Well, this Kamasutra sex survey which was undertaken as recently as 2005 says that the majority of youth today acquire their knowledge about sex “primarily through ‘Self reading’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Blue films’ rather than through parents, qualified sex educators and professional help.”

And worse, as many as 26 per cent of the respondents admitted that they rarely or never use condoms. Their preferred use of contraception was “pills” or “partner’s sterilization.” In many cases then the onus of preventing pregnancy lies with the female.

These are the kind of statistics that our “moral police” (who are none other than hard line political parties) should look at. They have a constituency after all. They should know that the majority (75%) of the respondents felt that “formal sex education should be given in school,” and about half of them felt that sex education should also be provided by “a parent of the same sex.”

This survey was essentially an urban one, and the majority of the respondents belong to Delhi, Mumbai & Bangalore. These are people who are ostensibly more educated and I guess not the kind of group that political parties are interested in.

All these respondents were young, mostly in the age group of ‘18 – 30’. Approximately half were unmarried and were from nuclear families. About a quarter of the respondents earned between ‘Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh’ per annum.

Some interesting statistics on attitudes towards pre-marital sex:

1. About a third of the respondents in the age group of ‘above 31 years’ had had pre – marital sex with their spouse.
2. 27 per cent of marrieds had had pre-marital sex with more than 5 individuals.
3. 77 percent of all respondents agreed that “Pre-marital sex causes Guilt/emotional disturbance, if one does not ultimately have the same life partner”.
4. 66 per cent of respondents agreed that ‘These days pre-marital sex is acceptable ”
5. 29 per cent of respondents did not think that “films and TV encourages pre-marital sex.”

About Marriage, it was ironic that while most respondents believed in “trust and sexual integrity” as being essential in a marraige, a good 35 per cent of the marrieds admitted that were currently involved with someone else!

Clearly, we are not as prudish a society as we would like to imagine. Everything happens, but it only happens behind closed doors. That is perhaps why the moral police makes such a big deal about everything. It would be interesting to delve into their personal lives to see how “pure” a life they lead.

(I took this photo one evening while driving along Marine Drive)

Related Reading: AIDS spreading in India
Sex Education can counter the ill-effects of porn
How education can help prevent AIDS
We hate talking about sex

30 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2007 11:03 pm

    for anyone with access to global information these statistics are appalling..
    i feel it is high time to start sex education in India..
    but sex and open talk about it has always been considered as Dirty..
    and that is why we have second largest both in population as well as AIDS patients..
    the Bill Gates’ donation will go to waste if we remain feeling shy talking about these issues..
    so keep motivating..

  2. August 11, 2007 2:45 pm

    wow, I am surprised at the lack of responses to this post.

  3. August 11, 2007 4:38 pm

    off-topic, but Aikaterine, in april I did not have so many regular readers. Even now out of the 900-1200 readers i get a day, the highest percentage are based in India and I have found that this group comments the least. Many Indians who comment here live abroad. not surprising if you consider that blogging itself is a new phenomena in India and many people have no idea what a blog is. Many people also do not know how to comment. btw, even from my own social circle…this blog thing is fairly unfamiliar. its the IT people who are aware.
    if i send them my blog address, they look at it once and then not again! they tell me okay, we’ve seen it…they do not get this update thing or this commenting thing!
    actually i had come to the conclusion that i would manage without too many comments (I used to the number of comments on other blogs and wonder!) as long as I have readers. So even now I get few comments as compared to my readers…

    btw, this post got a very high number of hits.

  4. August 11, 2007 7:20 pm

    Well, for comments, you just need to point me and Aikaterine together to a post!

  5. August 11, 2007 8:13 pm

    That explains a lot. This is really a major issue for any culture.

  6. August 11, 2007 10:17 pm

    Another interesting point, though the posts on sex get good hits, they get less comments if you compare hits to comments. actually sex is a taboo subject in india and people feel shy.

  7. August 12, 2007 10:14 am

    Sex is a taboo subject here as well, which sounds odd. It is all over the media, but it is still taboo in many ways. I wrote a few articles on the philosophy of sex and sexuality while at University that ended up being hotly debated by our philosophy department. Unfortunately, I lost these when my last computer died.

    A few of the philosophy students worked with two professors to start a weekly roundtable on sex and sexuality. People were amazed that we were discussing it from an academic standpoint. We had people come in and ask pornographic questions, and young men who laughed when we used certain terms.

    As a result of the roundtables, one of the professors decided to teach a philosophy of pornography class, which only lasted one semester. Christian fundamentalists successfully petitioned the school to stop the class the next semester.

    Surprisingly the Greek side of my family (as well as the medical professionals on the American side) is opposite of the American side. And I find that the culture of the Greek Islands is significantly open about sex. It has been interesting to be raised in both cultures.

    I think that for women to even begin to enjoy equality cultures need to demystify sex. Which is different than saying that it should not be sacred. As we have discussed elsewhere, I think nothing is more sacred. But our cultures sully and destroy it when we mystify it.

    I always think of the male and female deities in Hinduism when I imagine the culture of India. It is easy for me, being uneducated about the realities of modern Indian culture, to view it as open. I have to remind myself of what you told me about the changes in India after colonization every time I read a post like this.

  8. August 12, 2007 10:59 am

    very interesting what you said about ancient greek culture. as i did english lit, we studied homer and some other plays. i feel there is a similarity in ancient greek culture and ancient indian culture. but its good to hear that your society has not regressed like ours has. we are in medieval times where attiudes towards sex are concerned over here. we have internalised the puritan attitudes of our colonial masters to such an extent that we actually believe they were right in thinking of sex as dirty. we have rejected what our own culture has taught us, that sex is beautiful and sacred and should be a subject that is discussed openly. and the west has moved on…but again it was very interesting to hear your comment about even people in western cultures thinking of sex in terms of pornography. come to think of it, pornography did originate in the west. Pornography i feel triviliases sex.
    so perhaps the west (US and UK I guess) now accepts sex as something not taboo (in a way) they fail to understand what it really means…I don’t know. I am trying to figure it out. As I do not live in the west, and do not know a sufficient number of westerners I cannot make an evaluation.

  9. August 12, 2007 11:46 am

    I think you are on to something. Oh, I should say that my experience with the mainland Greek culture is limited (and island culture is different). So, mainland Greeks might be, generally speaking, more in line with the western ideas.

    But back to you being on to something. We are very much in the same boat as you have described. Just replace ‘puritan attitudes of our colonial masters’ with ‘puritan attitudes of our founders’ and you could just as easily be describing America. Christianity views sex as a sin that can only be redeemed by the sacred institution of marriage. Our cultures are surprisingly in the same boat.

    The main difference is the American willingness to ‘talk’. We are always talking, talking, talking. But we don’t really talk about sex the right way. Americans have a bad habit of talking about the sensational. We talk about pornography. Using the terms sacred and sex in the same sentence without also using christ or god disturbs people here. Consequently, sex is either sacred within a marriage or pornographic. Very bipolar, there is little room for a middle ground in the language western discourse commonly utilizes to debate sexuality here.

    Both India and America’s mutual puritan ancestors left the horrible legacy of ‘sex as sin’. And I cannot help but think that India might have a better opportunity of overcoming it – largely because of the closeness of Indian families. When mothers and fathers start to teach their daughters and sons that sex is sacred and beautiful, that it is one of the few ‘perfect’ experiences in life, then things will change. I have the impression that the family structure of the Indian culture is more conducive to this type of education.

  10. August 12, 2007 12:40 pm

    Meanwhile, here in Canada (otherwise known as “not America or the UK”), we’ve got gay marriage; polygamy; it’s legal in Ontario for a woman to walk topless anywhere she wants; most school boards start teaching kids in kindergarten about homosexuality, AIDS and condoms; there are sex clubs in Montreal that are just that; people in Ontario strip clubs are allowed to touch and fondle if said stripper says it’s okay, and stippers actually strip; the legal age for sex here is 14; we’ve got access to all the same dirty material as any other country, and yet… for the most part we’re that Protestent family in Monty Python’s “The Meaning Of Life”. Sex is something you do, not talk about.

    Every country… everyone in every country in every time has had access to pornography. Either some dude was picturing his neighbour’s wife nekid, or some dudette was thinking about the pool servent, or Caveman A drew Cavewoman B on a wall and pointed it out to his buddies. Pornography originated in The West only in the sense that this is where the printing press and cameras and film and the Internet came from. We’re like the China of Porn. We took what everyone else was thinking and wishing for and mass produced it and sent it around the world.

    Sex is taboo in India, America, the Middle East and even in Canada thanks to religious programming more than anything else. When India was a colony the British promoted parts of your cultures over others as a way to keep the people from seeing a better way. Whatever India’s pre-colony thinking towards sex and porn was before the Brits pulled up, they were changed forever by the time Indians kicked them out. I think India is still at a point in its recovery from those times where it’s still figuring out what’s real and what’s not from it’s own cultural past.

    Americans, meanwhile, had one of the most sexually tolerent cultures on the planet… twice. But then the 1920’s ended and later on the Hippies grew up and turned to Christ and Billy Graham. It has been really interesting to watch America reinvent itself over the past twenty-five years into a parody of 1950’s televsion programming.

    Canada has the largest Annual Gay Pride Parade on the planet, Nude Dudes & Dykes walk down Toronto’s busiest street and 1.5 million people line the streets to watch them… yet the city council of Toronto banned a pop-band from performing in the city a few years ago because it’s called “The Barenaked Ladies”. And in what’s considered our most sex-friendly city, Montreal, both the stereotypical overly-dramtic homosexual and having a dude put on a dress is still considered the height of hilarity. Meanwhile, back in Ontario, gay pornography was illegal until recently and it’s still illegal to import certain gay-adult pornographic books and magazines right across Canada even though the Internet continues to exist.

    Sex is as confusing here as it is everywhere else.

  11. kiran permalink
    March 26, 2008 10:30 am

    hii…there shud not be sex or love before marriage..

    as we r indians.. and our land is of culture ,

    traditions and customs…due to western effect and due

    to films our youth is spoiling..we shud do arranged

    marriages as it is our custom…if somebody loves or do

    sex before marriage he or she shud marry that

    person..thats all….as per indian tradition person shud

    be virgin upto marriage…

    • Dhruti permalink
      January 23, 2010 2:25 am

      I know where you are coming from about the topic of sex before marriage. But why is LOVE forbidden before marriage? It’s a beautiful thing!

  12. singh permalink
    May 2, 2008 7:58 pm

    hey i agree with kiran below

    sex before marriage is difinately not acceptable

    let the others do it

    why do indians need to dirty themselves like that

    any pure indian would never approve of that

    besides our culture has been good to us in marriage

    lets not forget that

    • Dhruti permalink
      January 23, 2010 2:24 am

      Why is sex different in marriage than if you are not married but in love? I’m curious.

  13. nehru mantri permalink
    May 10, 2008 5:06 am

    Well, Does Kiran’s message hold good for men or is it just for women?

  14. indian permalink
    May 22, 2008 11:36 pm

    I am 19 years old now.. I didnt knew anything about sex til I was 18 (12th standard) when some friend of mine gave me a disguised porn DVD ! I was aware that a man sleeps with a woman naked and then something happens,, source: movies. But I wasnt aware what this “something” was !

    No one would tel u about sex in India and there are chances that one dies virgin !

    Its also the responsibility or say duty of us (indian youth) to be somewhat more open to sex education.

    I had gone through with some testisicular surgery when I was in 10th standard (age 17) and I was the one to start talks about sex with my dad with him talking in sigh voices and red cheeks !!

    No one is asking u for public display of anything vulgar but dating(without sex etc.) should not be suppressed ! encouraged instead !

    Now my parents are open towards me.. Certainly I dont share any topic on sex with them but we talk about my marriage, that I would prefer love marriage etc. which is all very fine with them but al this was initiated by me…..

  15. January 20, 2009 11:19 pm

    Government will never allow sexual freedom to Indians, and it will keep using religion, tradition and culture (kee DUHAAI) always against any freedom individuals will demand for.

    • Shahbaz Ahmed permalink
      March 2, 2010 12:47 pm

      You right Miss gargi Dixit Govt is always interfere into this type of matter. Because unka pass in sub ka liya time hai.

  16. January 20, 2009 11:29 pm

    Also, government never looses a point to get complete hold on citizens and every now and then it tries to get totalitarian.

    I say its a good idea for an Individual guy and girl to demand HIV test from each other rather than a horoscope match, but how can government force it on citizens?

    And if Indian citizen gone mad (they already are mad) and believed that yes they themselves can not take care of their health, and they need some GODLIKE GOVERNMENT to punish them if they drink alcohol, or smoke, or watch a bluefilm or whatever, (otherwise indians are so weak that they cannot control their own life by their own selves), and allowed some such bastardized rule like “compulsory HIV test for marriage registration, then what will be the next step of totalitarian government of india? Looking up in your bedroom everynight if you and your husband follows “natural and allowed” sexual pleasure procedures or do you get “unnatural and hence Illegal”???

    ohh yes Sodomy is still illegal in India.

    Useless indian penal code can never have any sense in it. I say supreme court judges and Whole Parliament needs Sex Education first.

    Sodomy and anal sex cannot be illegal How can they try to restrict a couple from doing anything they want to do for voluntary pleasure???

    They can illegalize breathing without permission too, or may take tax on breathing.

    • anonymous permalink
      November 10, 2013 4:11 pm

      i think as responsible citizen its good think to test HIV AIDS before getting married and expect partner to do same.Even same with when having sexual partner.So we wont end up like Africa and America.Which have higher rates of STD and AIDS transmitted population.

  17. June 10, 2009 6:27 pm

    u said it ‘Everything happens, but it only happens behind closed doors.’

    we have ‘so called culture!!!’

  18. June 30, 2009 1:41 am

    It is sickening how much we are lagging behind in sex education. It is sad.


  19. Dhruti permalink
    January 23, 2010 2:22 am

    My parents are Indian, but I live in England. Honestly, I see nothing wrong in love or sex before marriage if you are protected, consenting and above the legal age. You can’t stop two (or more) agreeing adults having sex or falling in love. It’s the course of nature and it should be run how we PERSONALLY want. And while I see how beautiful culture is in India, I feel that sex is important and should be openly discussed. Why be embarrassed? That’s just my opinion.

  20. victor permalink
    February 14, 2010 10:59 am

    Being following this site. I am an Indian living away from India. We have a cross-section of friends with both pros and cons for sex education, premarital sex and marriages-love before and arranged. Having read the blogs, I can only say that those of us who have read up on human sexuality, human reproduction system and all such matters, will be more informed than the others who think this is ‘pornography’. Most Indian parents themselves don’t understand how a female reproduction system functions, so how can they teach their children? So they let them loose after they are married to experiment and find the what is best suits them. This then caries on from one generation to another. Anything that comes in-between, books, videos, movies, premarital relations is taboo because what they(parents) know is being revealed in ‘hard copy’ which they feel youngsters will know that their parents did these things during their time. It becomes embarrassing.
    Some politicians are the worst kind of people you can ever have on earth. You have the ‘good , bad and the ugly’ , so take their word with a pinch of salt.
    As I said, to be informed is half the battle won. We have millions of Indians with a string of degrees, but ask them about human reproduction system, 90% will fail. These are the “parents of tomorrow” who are against sex education, who turn out to be like our friend”kiran” living like a”frog in a well” world.
    I would suggest that sex education be taught at a time when it is most relevant i.e. at the age of puberty in schools and premarital course for couples intending to tie the knot-make it a requirement.

  21. July 24, 2010 8:16 pm

    Having read the various blogs and being a teenager I strongly believe that dearth of sex education is major cause behind theincreasing number of HIV patients. Until and unless we learn the biological functions and features of our body and consider such issues to be taboo, pornographic and vulgar, we will not be able to take good health care.

  22. Shaikh Mushtaque Ahmed permalink
    May 23, 2011 8:12 am

    sex education must need anyone and musst neccssary.

  23. October 17, 2011 11:24 am

    On your blog for the first time. Came from IHM’s blog. Congratulations for winning the awards. I have bookmarked your blog and will be reading it now onward. I am sure you must have touched a chord in many with your brilliant take on subjects which need so much attention. Keep sharing.

  24. SmallTownFeminist permalink
    October 17, 2011 9:16 pm

    I think it is very important for parents to give sex education to children. They should clearly tell sex with consent is different from the one without consent. One is choice, other is abuse. Parents should talk about parts of the body in biologically correct terms (like using words: penis, vagina, breasts)so that children don’t feel shy discussing problems related to it. Plus, if kids are being molestated, they should have the courage to confront the molester or report the matter to parents/authorities.


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