A holistic sexual revolution in India can only occur with men included in conversations about women’s sexualities, opined clinical psychologist Amrita Narayanan and graphic novelist Amruta Patil during a discussion on the status of Indian women's sexualities and sexual freedom.
The talk, titled ‘Women’s Sexuality: Old and New’ took place at the Museum of Goa (MOG), Pilerne, during the MOG Sundays session recently.
The session touched upon topics such as the lack of a sexual revolution in India, the status of modern and old-fashioned sexualities, what sexual freedom means to every individual and how women with different degrees of sexual freedom can coexist peacefully.
“Men count on their wives to police their daughters’ bodies and lives. Research, done in the West, corroborates the fact that women, too, become territorial over their daughters and do not allow fathers sufficient entry,” said Narayanan, a Goa-based clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst.
Patil, a graphic novelist, writer and painter, concurred by stating that some mothers have been known to “beat fathers who got too involved by braiding their daughters’ hair and being a part of their daughters’ lives in other ways.”
Narayanan and Patil stated that men need to play an interlocutory role in the family so that mothers and daughters are not stuck in the same vicious cycle of controlling, and being controlled, which is the norm in a patriarchal society.
“We need to attend to sexuality to achieve inter-generational harmony. Women are rewarded for policing other women under patriarchy," said Narayanan.
"One of the things we learn in studies of gender is that mothers are often not in touch with how things have changed in the world regarding sexuality
and sexual freedom and only know what they were taught by their mothers while growing up,” added Narayanan.
There is a need to bridge the lack of access between male and female bodies by normalising their interaction, they surmised.
“By the ages of two or three, daughters’ bodies become a ‘touch-free zone’ for fathers. Sitting on laps is viewed as taboo. For some of the older generations, even hugging fathers becomes uncomfortable, with full hugs devolving to side hugs as we, daughters, age,” mused Patil.
In a psychoanalytical assessment of patriarchy, Narayanan stated that the aggressive policing of bodies and affections resulted in the excessive separation of men and women in the older generations, which makes finding sexual freedom for them in contemporary times extremely difficult.
“While interviewing several women for my book, Women’s Sexuality and Modern India: In a Rapture of Distress, they feel real sorrow about the losses experienced to the bodily imagination. We have ‘invisibilised’ the condition of interaction, creating an anxiety about even friendly relations between men and women,” she said.
Narayanan raises the need for this grief, surrounding suppressed sexuality and desire, to be expressed to alleviate the mourning felt by both men and women.
“In psychoanalysis and psychology, we have the idea that if you are unable to express your sexual orientation or desires, you become entombed in heaviness which saps your energy for anything pleasurable and joyful," she explained.
"Mourning this heaviness by talking about it is a small form of sexual liberation, one small but necessary step towards achieving a sexual revolution in India,” she stated.