15 April 2006

Hooked and relieved

Women should be sexually attractive – and active.

That’s the kind of message we get in the media. Newspapers, magazines, TV, hoardings, posters, the Internet, video games… you name it and you’ll find images of scantily-clad women everywhere. Cleavage, midriffs, thighs, behinds. All in a day’s exposure. ‘Sexual attractiveness’ messages are all around us. And you know something, nobody’s complaining! Looks like, we’re all hooked to it.

Sex is no longer a taboo subject – at least not with teenagers in urban India. They are talking about it openly, gathering information from the media and from each other, doing away with the age-old necessity of parental guidance. On talking to a group of teenagers in Mumbai, I learnt that they got most of their ideas on sex from media portrayals and the novels they read, apart from discussing the matter amongst themselves. They felt the media was talking about sex and dating all the time – as if encouraging them. Although some girls also mentioned (reluctantly, I felt) that they sought advice from their mothers and older sisters, according to them, this was considered an old-fashioned thing.

The boys didn’t seem to worry too much about being (or not being) physically attractive to the opposite sex; but the girls did, quite a lot. What was common in their talks – the girls, that is – was the fact that looking physically and sexually attractive meant looking and staying thin, wearing attractive clothes (the words ‘western’ and ‘tight-fitting’ came up a couple of times), showing off your body. They didn’t see this as sinful or indecent or being promiscuous. That’s how things were today, they said.

The teenagers didn’t feel that there was anything wrong in the way sex was displayed or promoted in the media. Or that, there was too much of it. In fact, they looked out for such media coverage. Media stories, TV serials and novels talked openly about pre-marital sex or sex between unmarried couples, and that was ‘cool’ with them. However, they all agreed – and here, both boys and girls joined in – that, finding actual sexual experience was a lot tougher than what or how it was portrayed in the media. I guess many parents will be relieved to hear this.

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