India - From the Kama Sutra and Tantra to Sex-Negative Patriarchy

The Way it is: India, the home of the Kama Sutra, has gone from a sexually open and liberated society in its early history to one that is very sexually conservative in the modern age. There are several reasons for this ironic change.

To a certain degree, the shift was influenced by colonialism and imperial powers bringing with them their conservative ideals. As independent countries, many places like India incorporated Victorian Christian sexual morals as part of their own cultures.

It is very ironic to note that as the West has become more sexually liberated, places like India have turned more conservative.

Another historical reason explaining India's sexual prudishness is the conservative influence of the Islamic empire. Many sensually liberating philosophies and temples were destroyed by conquering Muslims throughout India.

The 1,000-year-old erotic temples of Khajuraho are one of the last surviving reminders of India's sensual past.

The Effects of Western & Islamic Colonialism on India

India, China, Japan, Tahiti, Hawaii, and other countries were once relatively open-minded about sex in their past, and yet in today’s world are quite conservative and sexually repressed.

What changed? How is it that a country can be so open in its early history—a time when, supposedly, customs and practices were more backward and primitive—then move into sexual prudery in this so-called modern era? The reason for this change can only be described as highly ironic.

To a great degree, it was colonialism. In Japan's case, the American post-war occupation had much to do with it turning sexually conservative. This is highly ironic because conservative values imposed by Western colonial powers is now being increasingly rejected by people in the West today. This trend became very apparent in the period after World War II. Western countries turned towards social libertarianism that gave many rights and freedoms to feminists, homosexuals, and other supporters and participants in the sexual revolution.

However, during this period newly independent countries like India and Tahiti incorporated Victorian and Christian sexual morals into their cultures. Christian views on sexuality affected laws so much that natives thought of these imposed sexual values as part of their own culture. As George Orwell noted, if you say a lie enough times, people eventually believe it as truth.

It was almost as if many of these countries 'forgot' that they once enjoyed greater sexual freedom as part of their old culture. As the West became more progressive and liberal, these countries turned more conservative as if as a spiteful reaction. 

Thus we have situations like the New World Catholic colonies of Latin America being ultra-conservative while the old Catholic colonial masters Portugal, Spain, and France are increasingly liberal.

Of course, the West is not totally to blame for the conservatism of the rest of the world. In the case of India and parts of Africa and Asia, the Muslim influence of the Moghul Empire made a great impact on how women and men enjoyed each other. In India especially, much of the sensually liberal philosophies teachings, and temples were simply destroyed by the invading Muslims.

The erotic temples of Khajuraho in Central India are one of the last surviving monuments to India's sensual past; 1,000-year-old stone temples depict nearly every sexual act that is humanly (and inhumanly) possible. The only reason these particular temples have survived is due to their location in the remote deserts of Madhya Pradesh. The Muslim invaders, whose holy goal it was to destroy all temples of 'idol worship' simply missed these temples because they never found them!

However, they destroyed hundreds of other erotic temples in what is now India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and additionally converted survivors of the destruction into Islam.

India Before Colonization

Before the Afghans, the Arabs, or Colonization – there was the birth of two widely accepted religions in India, Buddhism, and Jainism. Buddhism says that all sexual desires bring suffering and hence be avoided as much as possible. Not to forget we are talking about the 5th century here. Jainism also advocated sex strictly within marriage and solely for procreation and should be limited to the ovulation periods.

These beliefs were simultaneous with the time of the Kama Sutra (or Aphorisms on Love). While the first I.e. religious and ascetic beliefs attracted the masses, eroticism was more pertinent to the richer upper classes who celebrated their sexuality without inhibitions or censors.

Arranged marriages are still the more prevalent way of getting married. This institution of arranged marriages greatly favors the 'virgin' bride. This has only helped make 'sex' a taboo for young women, as well as deprived men of any meaningful sexual relationship. This conditioning of society leads to a very big social problem – where a woman who engages in sexual activity is shamed. This is not simply a moral issue; an unmarried woman who invites a man to her house is considered a good reason for the landlord to evict her. This is a reality, not in small cities or villages but in metropolitan cities as well. The social pressure groups try their level best to prevent a woman from having any kind of sexual freedom.

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