Sane Sex Order

The history of human evolution—also of all civilisations—is in some ways a story of the tension between sexual indulgence and sexual self-control. When indulgence crosses reasonable limits, and gets exacerbated by violent misogynic instincts, it results in heinous crimes of the kind that occurred in Delhi last month, putting the entire nation to shame and triggering an unprecedented nationwide debate on sexual crimes against women, with insistent demands for a stricter anti-rape law.

The most reliable antidote to any type of sexual crime, major or minor, is of course sexual self-control on the part of male members of society. However, there is a problem with men. Barring rarest of rare exceptions, they do not learn and practise self-control on their own. Hence, societies have evolved various cultural and moral codes for them to respect women's dignity and to restrain male sexuality in healthy ways. Societies have also evolved a complementary set of cultural and moral codes to regulate female sexuality. The problem here is that, most societies being male-dominated, the dos and don'ts regarding female sexuality are often coloured by male prejudices and power-play.

The codes of sexual control are never static in nature, nor have they always been found satisfactory by all members of a given society, female or male. When external controls cross reasonable limits, or are sought to be imposed in irrational and oppressive ways, they inevitably invite protests. India is currently witnessing a heated debate on this issue, too. Educated women, in particular, are rightly questioning entrenched societal notions that women's increased, independent and assertive presence in public spaces, rather than men's misogynistic conduct, is to blame for sexual crimes against women.

This perennial tension between sex as a source of heavenly joy and also as a road to hellish darkness, if criminally pursued, has been recognised by all religions. In the Hindu philosophy, kama (satisfaction of sensual needs) is regarded as one of the four ennobling purusharthas or desirable goals of human life, along with dharma, artha and moksha. Simultaneously, it is also considered the first among shadripus (six enemies) that human beings should overcome through self-restraint—kama (when satisfaction of sensual needs becomes lust); krodha (anger); lobha (greed); mada (pride); moha (attachment) and matsara (covetousness).

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