Dec 162012
 

BBC News has an article on the first above-ground BDSM group in India, the Kinky Kollective.

The participants are members of the The Kinky Collective, a small group of heterosexual and transgender people, trying to connect to other Indians active and open about their BDSM preferences on various online communities and social networking websites.

The group’s two functions are education for people interested in kink, and spreading awareness to outside groups and agencies.

Almost a year into their work, the group, which has grown now to 15 members, has presented papers and held discussions with students of mental health, women and gay activists and participated in human rights and law conferences.

I was a little disturbed when I read what one member did as an educational performance.

I had first met Sara [a transgender activist and a member of the group] at a transgender performance night organised at a popular arts centre in Delhi a few months back. Sara and her partner had enacted a very intimate BDSM sequence from Fifty Shades of Grey – a trilogy about a steamy romance between a businessman and a student which contains scenes of sadomasochism – to an audience of about 100 people.

Simulating rough sex and the use of a belt and whip surprised and shocked many in the audience.

Many described the performance as brave while others questioned it.

Sara had to speak to many people individually but claims that such interactions were, in fact, the opportunities they needed to educate people.

If this was the belt scene at the end of the first book, you could hardly come up with a worse example of BDSM to show to people. You may recall that scene had Ana telling Christian to hit her with a belt as hard as he wanted, and it ended with Ana in tears and leaving him. That scene has the submissive giving up any means of control and safety in some ill-conceived hope that this will make the dominant stop, and the dominant giving full release to his sadism without any self-restraint.

This is an example of the hegemonizing power of a mass culture artifact like Fifty Shades. To communicate with people about something, you have to speak in terms they are familiar with. When I did a talk at a school for counsellors a few weeks ago, I made reference to FSOG too, though I emphasized that it is, at best, misinformative.

India’s well-known sexologist, Dr Narayana Reddy, …  says in the last 20 years, at least 1% of his patients came with complaints about their partner’s demand for a BDSM lifestyle.

They were between 30 and 50 years old and were middle class, Mr Reddy says.

They spoke about acts ranging from being burnt by cigarette butts and severely bitten by their partners. They were also pricked with needles, tied up in chains and put on a dog’s leash and “humiliated” in front of others.

“If this kind of bondage, domination and sadomasochism is the only means by which a person gets aroused, then I would term it as sexually problematic behaviour,” says Dr Reddy.

“Initially, someone might try it for its novelty, but with time that can run off and it can leave deep scars, both physically and emotionally.”

To me, this sounds like people who cannot articulate a difference between BDSM and abuse. This may have something to do with BDSM not having cultural currency in India yet.

Another possibility is that this is a similar phenomenon to what has happened in Western countries. Mental health professionals will see people who are not satisfied with their sexual lives, or are having problems with their partners. If there are people who are quietly enjoying being kinky, they have no need to see a professional.

Following up on this story brought up a few more links on the subject of Indian sexuality. Most of these are written on rather low level typical of mainstream magazine discussions of sex, so take this with several large grains of salt.

According to the Times of India, the most common male sexual fantasy is about female English teachers.

It is the most commonly found pinup poster in a man’s room. Women dressed as teachers holding a stick and ready to spank a petulant boy is the favourite dream act for a man. Be it the adolescent Rishi Kapoor in Mera Naam Joker or the Summer of ’69, men have always fantasised about their gorgeous high school English teachers. “In your teens, if a man gets to meet a hot and experienced woman it’s a major testosterone boost. Moreover English teachers are the ones who are best dressed, and most of the times in saucy Western outfits,” says art designer, 25-year-old Kamlesh.

“It’s in their adolescence that a man experiences attraction towards an elder woman. In between the age group of 12-16 years they face a psychological connection towards their teachers. It’s like the first taste of the secrets tucked away in the adult world,” opines Dr. Samir Parekh, a psychologist. Dr. Singh adds, “This kind of behaviour is very colonial in nature. People in India always think that a person who can speak English properly is superior to them. So if this quality is present in a woman she will obviously become desirable to her beau.”

The colonial influence here is interesting, as this is apparently the fantasy of colonized men. The other fantasy archetypes listed are a bit predictable: nurse, playmate (implicitly white, non-Indian women), boss’ wife, virgin, dominatrix, celebrities (Hollywood or Bollywood), blonde bimboes, dancers and air hostesses. Another Times of India column talks about schoolgirl fantasy.

If these kind of ideas are already floating around in Indian society, it is vitally important that a group like the Kinky Kollective exists to educate people about SSC/RACK.

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