Saturday, September 08, 2007

Society, Culture and Being Human

Shashank made a comment on this post. I wrote a reply to the first part of his comment here.

We move now to his second point.

It is general tendency in the subcontinent people to deviate from your own culture. I again dont know whether its right or wrong but personally i have always felt that a person should have some respect for his traditions and culture. Now , today as my culture, my traditions, the philosophy my society pursues, tells me that sex is a taboo. Then I guess i am being clinical and not conservative if i carry the same notions. Afterall, no one is prohibiting you from having sex. All the society demands is : with the right person and at the right time. Even science supports the fact that early sex may be harmful to the body. And as our society stands today, you can easily marry a girl of your own choice. Yes, they do ask for some restraint from your side and you may ask why, as what you are doing has nothing to do with others. But then i believe thats why we humans stand different from animals. Coz sometimes we go beyond reason. Sometimes we do things only because the society says so. The society may b wrong but oit may be right too. And we will do no harm to ourselves if we compromise a bit.

He asks us to have some “respect” for out traditions and culture. What does he mean by this “respect”? I think what he means is that we should not try to change anything but accept it as it is. For example, premarital-sex is a taboo in Indian society. Do not change that! Why should you? After all, you can always marry and have sex.
A few pointers here. First of all. Sex without marriage and sex after marriage aren’t really the same thing. Marriage has certain social implications. There are legal issues involved. While there is no such thing about pre-marital sex. (Or do we have laws against pre-marital sex? I don’t know.)

Second, how do you think you could have got to the stage of “you can easily marry a girl of your own choice” if people hadn’t decided to change the existing marry-in-the-same-cast system? There are problems with not trying to change the system. The system that is already in place may not be perfect. Or the desirables of the society will change and it will no longer be possible for the established system to fulfill those desires.

And the very culture that you swear to respect wasn’t formed by respecting it. And we sitting in India have no better example than ourselves? Do you think that the sari is an Indian dress? The Greeks introduced it in India. And the British brought the blouse, the bra and the petticoat. Our women used to go barebreasted before that. My own grand-grand mother never wore a blouse in her lifetime. And today dressing that way would be a scandal. One has to realize that the culture and traditions that we are talking about have changed and are changing every instant of history. And the way they change is by questioning the existing norms not following them blindly and “respecting” them.

In the end he has an interesting definition of human. A human is that who does what the society says. There are no problems with that, I guess. It is a matter of ideology. If you are perfectly happy with a non-changing, non-evolving society that forces you to sublimate your desires and give up your freedoms for no real reason at all then fine. Live that way. However, some of us have a different ideology wherein we demand a greater freedom than what we already had and we do it in a peaceful manner.

And finally he says that society may be wrong and it may be right too. The thing to understand here is that there is nothing like absolute right and absolute wrong. Right and wrong are defined by the society. It may define it in any which way it likes and it is these definitions of right and wrong that we are arguing about. There are too many things that I want to say about this comment but I'll just stop here.

Lastly, where did you read that sex in early age is harmful? Can you cite some references as to that?


  1. A point well said. "Right and wrong are decided by the society". Very true...

  2. hmm..... :)
    Vinod tune meri maarne ki koshish me koi kasar nahi chhodi..... ha ha ha

    Anyways, here is my defence : :)

    1. Modernisation:

    Yes, to me modernisation is a process which brings about changes (preferably for the betterment of mankind.....though it depends what you consider a betterment and what not)

    According to wikipedia :
    Modernization is a concept in the sphere of social sciences that refers to process in which society goes through industrialization, urbanization and other social changes that completely transforms the lives of individuals.

    Now note the words 'completely transforms', which do indicate the induction of new things......

    Now this 'new' may be something that existed in history but doesn't anymore. I would thus call anything that is not prevailing at a given point of time as 'new' wrt that point of time.

  3. 2. Libertarianism :

    Okay, i agree that libertarianism wasnt a dominant socio-political system in any age, but i guess this theory and people who could be called libertarians were present in all ages.
    Anyways, taking what u said to be true, that is libertarianism is a modern concept, still makes it only a subset of modernisation and thus the two words should not be used as synonyms.

  4. 3. Westernisation :
    I was talking about westernisation because most people consider the two (westernisation and modernisation) to be almost the same thing.

    You said."And I'm amused at how easily I discard my native morality and embrace the Western one."

    You see, you might be able to distinguish between the two words but many ppl i see around are not!
    And they too do exactly what you have written above in the name of modernisation.

  5. @ Shashank - Ah, I see now. Had you been this clear the first time the confusion would not have arisen. I still differ from your views on respecting culture and tradition and the likes.

  6. 4. Respect:

    I guess you got me completely wrong on that vinod! Or may be it was i who dint frame my arguments properly. Anyways, I am giving it anoter try :)

    By respect i do not mean that you should not try to change things. But the change can be brought in a way such that you do not hurt the sentiments of those who may be wrong (wrt you) but who love you, care for you to deserve your blind obedience at a couple of occasions.
    See, the point I am trying to make is: Is it so necessary for you to gain sexual liberty that for this you are ready to hurt the sentiments of those who are close to you?
    If you are a libertarian and really want to bring about a change,you can do it in so many other fields. Is sex so important for you that you cant compromise your liberty for anyone?
    Remember here I am talking only about sex.
    In other matters, circumstances may be different. So lets not consider them right now. As for sex, its just your own pleasure that is at stake. I agree that you deserve the freedom. But cant u sacrifise it? But is it necessary that you avail your freedom at any cost?

    Thus by respect i kind of mean sacrifise for your elders, loved ones and the society which is ever changing indeed but which may lose its stability if the change is too drastic.

    You dont see anyhting wrong with sex. Fine. Dont stop your children from indulging in it whatever age they may be. Give them all the freedom they want. Let them enjoy your philosophies.

    the choice is yours. You wont be doing any wrong (i know the word is you can take it wrt anyone) in going for freedom. But personally i would prefer sacrifice. especially coz this sacrifice is not asking much except a little restraint......thats it!

  7. 5. Change:

    You yourself said vinod, that the society is ever changing.
    Indeed it is. And if it is changing already, then what i feel is the best policy would be to match its pace.
    I believe that at present India has still not reached the stage where it can take the kind of change we are talking about. The stage is set though with people like me and you differing so drastically with our parents but i guess we should not rush with things.

    Thus by 'respect' i meant matching the pace of change , not stagnation.

  8. 6. Right and wrong :

    Well I know right and wrong are relative terms. I would perhaps be the first one to agree. But here I am using these words wrt the general notions that we have. Thus whenever you read right or wrong, read it 'right or wrong according to the general notions', unless specified otherwise.... :)

  9. 7. hazards of early sex:

    Dont tell me vinod you dint know that early sex could often be harmful ( may be not so much because of gyenic reasons as due to psychological reasons but hazardous all the same). All these years why has been the limit on min age for marriage for?

    these are excerpts from wikipedia that you may kindly have a look at :

    1. Sexual activity in general is associated with a number of risks, including sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), emotional distress, and pregnancy through failure or non-use of birth control. This is particularly true for for adolescents as they are not emotionally mature[2] or financially self sufficient.

    2.Pregnant teenagers face many of the same obstetrics issues as women in their 20s and 30s. However, there are additional medical concerns for younger mothers, particularly those under 15 and those living in developing countries; for example, obstetric fistula is a particular issue for very young mothers in poorer regions.
    PS: Dont tell me you can ensure safe sex. There is nothing such as 100% safe sex, you know that.

    3.though kinda funny, here is another citation :

    Thus the health hazards of early sex includes sexual trauma, increase in incidence of cervical cancer, sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy. A variety of injuries are possible and do happen when sex organs are not ready for sex in terms of full maturation. Some of these injuries have a long lasting effect. Cervical cancer has been thought to be related to sex at an early age and with multiple partners.

  10. phew!
    now typing so much in one day has taken the juice out of me.....
    now still if you find enough juice to bite into...keep biting....

    Happy biting to you....

    And ya, wishing you a safe and pleasant sex.......whenever you get an opportunity for one! he he he

    Ye jyada sex sex chalta raha to is blog ke naam me thoda change karna padega. Like making it Wander in Lust. :) haha ha

  11. Well, well, well.

    A few random strings which i'm gonna throw in the midst of all of this :D

    A. In re modernisation/libertarianism/westernisation, etc.
    modernisation is a western concept, so is libertarianism. From a purely historiographical point of view, all these terms are offsprings of western philosophy. Indian, or rather Oriental philosophy hasn't really been very active over the past few centuries. If you want to look at philosophy or schools of thought which are Indian or Oriental, the latest you can get is all the poetry and writings at the height of the mughal age. It is still open to debate whether Gandhism can be considered to be a seperate line of thought, independent from western influences.

  12. B. with respect to change and respect, It is not possible to bring about any change of a meaningful nature without hurting the sentiments of a section of people. (Note: here i do not mean changes from a merely material aspect, I mean changes in modes of thought and action).
    The generation/section of society which is dominant determines what is normal and how someone should behave will never imagine it is wrong. norms and taboos exist in society because the dominant section believes that they are the "right" way to do things. So if you want to change anything you have to hurt some ppl.

    And if I am a "libertarian" and do want to bring about a change in society then WHY NOT in sexual politics. Having good sex with a consenting partner can be extremely beneficial and healthy. For every risk of sex which you advertise, there are an equal no. of benefits is done properly.

    Moreover, the hazards of underage sex which you proclaim, were ignored by large section of our population in the name of tradition. yes, i mean child marriages. Also, by keeping sex as a taboo subject, children are encouraged not to talk abt it, which leads to most of the hazards in the first place (STDs, injury, pregnancy, etc.)

    So my point being, that sex is not treated as taboo and done properly (i.e with awareness of the body, health risks and their prevention, etc) is very beneficial.

    lastly, what do you mean by the statement that india is not ready for such a change at the moment? Change never happens simultaneously over a demographic. It always starts out in pockets and then spreads out. Moreover, we are privileged to be in a section of society that enjoys a degree of freedom which is not available to vast sections of the population.

    So why shouldn't we be the one's bringing about a change?

  13. @Aditya
    There is no harm in bringing about the change may be. But i dont see any imminent need to bring about the change other than a simple reason -'lust'.
    See, people like u and vinod might have reasons for your views, but believe me, no matter what people say, the basic reason why most people would support premarital sex is lust. Now u would ask what is wrong with lust? Actually i would have to give up at that point. Coz I really cannot explain what is wrong with lust. Just that my conscience tells me that i should avoid it. :)

    And if lust isn't the reason then just tell me one thing :
    Whats the problem with waitin a little,officially marrying a girl and then have as much sex as you want? That would keep everyone happy. Marry early if u like. Go talk to your parents. If you insist, I think they will get u married. :D

  14. @ Shashank
    Even if we leave lust out of this. Wanting to have sex with another person is a normal human tendency.

    Why should I marry to have sex? What if I want to have sex with multiple partners before I commit myself to one person? What if the person I marry is not sexually compatible with me? won't that be compounding the problem?

    Moreover, marriage comes with its own implications and responsibilities (legal, financial, etc). Why should I subject myself to all of those just because I want to have sex?

    Change is not brought about just because there is an imminent need for change. I want to live my life in a certain way, which may or may not confirm with what society considers to be "right". as long as I do not infringe upon anyone else, I have every right to do so.

    You mentioned earlier that humans are different from animals. That difference is not manifested by doing what society tells us to do. Humanity is manifested by being able to think for oneself and evaluate what one believes is the right course of action. there is a reason we have been granted with intelligence.

    Moreover, going one step further, I say that sex should be promoted. A healthy sex life contributes to a person's over-all well being.

    The option you give of marrying early is counter productive to society. It is principally because we dont encourage premarital sex that ppl marry early and become parents at a young age. This leads to a much faster growth in population. Elsewhere, in a span of 70 yrs, you might have 2 generations being born, if you marry early, you'll have 3.

    Also, most problems which are blamed upon sex or lust, stem from lack of it and mis information abt it. Not proper fulfilment of a normal human desire

  15. @ Shashank:
    what abt everything else I said? :D

  16. okay, quite some bhasad here.
    I almost share the same views as aditya and vinod do. with minor disagreements and corrections. I'll put that up on my blog as soon as i find time.

    the problem with having an 'open' view here is that i face questions from those with 'not so open views' that are of the tune 'what if the person who does it is your sister' or ' what if your wife had multiple partners before she married you?'
    Now, following my opinion, i'd say, that there is only a certain limit till you can impose and influence opinions, after that, it's an open decision for everyone.
    And, i guess i should be okay with my wife having multiple partners before she marries me, only when she's perfectly sure that she has moved on. But it somehow does'nt seem convincing. Is it the taboo setting in, or is hating infedility ( if i may call it that) another human tendency; as natural as wanting to have sex??

  17. @ aditya
    "as long as I do not infringe upon anyone else"
    kindly elaborate upon this.....
    What do u consider as infringement upon others?

  18. @ aneesh
    I believe thats human tendency.
    In fact this tendency us shared not only by humans but certain animals too. Animals too are often shown to be possessive about their mating partners. :)
    And i guess its the same tendency that is stronger than the desire to have sex in ppl like me and which makes us go against premarital sex.

    Ya you can say that people like me are afraid. We fear that one day sex will be so free that finding a person who 'was,is and will remain' yours would become difficult.
    See, i dunno if my example sounds vague but think about this:
    y do we say that hitting someone is wrong? Coz the other person not only gets hurt physically but in a way psychologically too. The same way i believe how much ever liberal you show urself to be and irrespective of your upbringing (whether western or indian), you will feel at least a tinge of pain in heart when you come to know that your partner has mated with someone before. Perhaps thats y our society became the way it is, turning sex into a taboo and protecting it from becoming an 'open source'.:D Perhaps thats y 'society' doesnt allow free sex and calls it 'bad'.

    Now some ppl wanna change it. Y? I believe because they believe a change is the only way of development. So whether or not i or anyone else likes it, the society is gonna change and there will indeed be free sex everywhere. But what i feel is that due to the way man is made, he will again try restricting it...and thus the cycle will go on.Now thats just a personal view. Dont take it much seriously :)