He who knows how to make himself beloved by women, as well as to increase their honour and create confidence in them, becomes an object of their love. But he who neglects a girl, thinking she is too bashful, is despised by her as a beast ignorant of the working of the female mind.
--Chapter II, The Kamasutra by Vatsyayana
These words, uttered by the sage of sex the intellectual of amour is more like it more than a millennium ago, seems to have fallen on deaf ears as far as the Indian male is concerned. In hushed whispers at girlie gatherings, in the confines of clinics and in agony aunt columns, the Indian woman is at last complaining that her countryman makes a lousy lover. No longer bashful, she is talking about how inadequate her man is in the 64 acts that Vatsyayana had prescribed.
The old ascetic, who's own 'knowing' of women was rather non-tactile and clinical, listed 24 virtues which would make men well-versed in the "science of love". They should, he advised, do things women enjoy, know their (own) weak points and be liberal. "When a boy begins to woo the girl he loves," advises Vatsyayana, "he should spend his time with her and amuse her through various games and diversions fitted for their age and acquaintanceship, such as picking and collecting flowers, weaving garlands, cooking, playing dice and cards." He should shower her with gifts. "In short," says the creator of our own ars erotica, "he should try in every way to make her look upon him as one who would do for her everything that she wanted to be done."
But look at the Indian man. He is single-mindedly interested in the yang privileges. This makes him insecure and jealous about women he loves or seeks to love. He is a gawky suitor. He believes that there can never be a purely platonic relationship between a man and a woman. He thinks love is sex, and sex only. "The Indian man has not been taught to respond emotionally," says Delhi-based writer and painter Manju Kak. "They are not conditioned for love." Agrees Anu Sharma, a 45-year-old Delhi-based single woman and journalist: "I don't think they are at all aware of how to make a woman happy—like hugging you or being tender, talking late into the night or going out for a walk after making love."
Not just in the agonised responses of his frustrated female counterpart, the cold data that maps the profile of the Indian sexual male is also pretty dismal: he starts late (losing his virginity at 20 years, 8 months, compared to 16.4 years clocked by the male in the US, according to a recent global survey by condom company Durex) and spends most of his hormonal years preening in primate fashion, crotch-scratching and inarticulately ogling. His sexual hobbies include bottom-pinching and whistling at anything remotely female; his craft does not extend beyond breast-mauling and flattening his mate in a raging-bull fashion. Sure, he likes women, but his greatest love is mummy dearest. When the spotlight is on the mantra of health, vigour and vitality, he can wink-wink, nudge-nudge and be counted upon to provide a robust mix of the three. He is smug about his performance. Words like chauvinism, selfishness and insensitivity don't ring a bell. And if a study is to be believed, every three out of 10 Indian males "learn" about sex from Hindi movies. It's his own pizzle's satisfaction he is concerned about even while having a partner in bed, an organ-fascination which outlasts his neo-natal years. Agrees Shashank D.Samak, founder chairman of the Pune-based Kama Research Institute of Scientific Sexuality: "Nearly 90 per cent of men who visit my clinic are concerned only with their organs. The number who seek guidance to maximise a woman's sexual pleasure is negligible."
The Indian male's psyche, more and more women are realising, is hopelessly primitive. Marriage only worsens matters. Says Vidya Kalyanam, a 37-year-old Chennai-based homemaker, of her husband of 14 years: "Sometimes, I feel he can't make out whether I am a female form or just a pillow."
The reason is simple. For the Indian man, sex is just the act of coitus. He is, in the words of a harried housewife, a "sexual loner". In his youth, he is in a hurry to conquer and married adulthood grants him maximum opportunity and constant availability. Ergo, he doesn't care to go through the preliminaries or the afterplay. Says Delhi-based businesswoman Cheryl Talwar: "The Indian male thinks wine and dinner is foreplay." He could turn out to be disgustingly unhygienic too. "I knew of a man who wouldn't even wash his hands after dinner before lunging at his wife," adds Talwar. Sexologist Paras Shah, who works with the Sannidhya Institute and Research Centre, Ahmedabad, found in the course of his practice that "there has not been a single man who has shown interest in afterplay which is very important to women".
This is the national male profile, give or take a few good men, according to Mumbai sexologist Saroj Gumaste, whose paper 'When Women Say No' made news at a sexology conference in Calcutta two months ago. Gumaste insists this is not a rural phenomenon. The new Indian male is still the old cave man in a sharp suit, his skills woefully drooping before the expectant new Indian woman. Prita Bhatlekar, a 29-year-old interior designer in Mumbai discovered the same to her disappointment. "We've never had sex in the four years of our marriage. Initially his attempts failed and the anxiety made it worse. He refuses to seek counselling thinking it a sign of weakness."
For those who say sex is in the mind, Gumaste also spotted a technical flaw: "The average holding capacity of men all over the world is about 30 minutes. For Indian men it's seven minutes." No wonder, Gumaste concludes, half of India's ever-married women never experience orgasms. The upshot is failing health. Since the neurotransmitters that lead up to an orgasm remain unutilised in the woman, thanks to her hasty man, such deprivation causes pain in the back and hips. Before she realises it, the woman begins to avoid sex as she associates it with pain, says Gumaste. Don't baulk at the number of housewives who turn to religious devoutness to sublimate natural desires. "In fact, many of them claim that they reach a kind of orgasm during frenzied puja chantings and devotional song sessions," she says. Similarly, those who claim that Indians are having enough sex in absence of many entertainment opportunities—look at the population of one billion people and rising—hardly stop to ponder that the quality of the union is touching the nadir.
Many sexologists claim that the Indian male doesn't have the faintest idea that he's got it all wrong. "The Indian man has not been taught to be a good lover," says Narayana Reddy, founder of the Dega Institute of Sexual Medicine, Chennai.
Family and upbringing, it seems, have conditioned the Indian man to be on 'top' and make his 'need' more important than his mate's."No one has to tell him how powerful he is, he gets that knowledge with his mother's milk," says Jerry Pinto, author of Surviving Men, where men talk about their relationships. Mollycoddling and utterly spoiling him in comfort, mummy never taught him to treat his lovers with love and care. Not surprisingly, in spite of their bluster and apparent cool, nearly half of Indian men still turn to moms when it comes to choosing a bride, according to an online survey of 2,000 men conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine recently. Witch-turned-author Ipsita Roy Chakraverti concurs on the oedipal streak saying, "This also affects their performance in bed, influenced by lack of initiative and what-will-mama-say-guilt." Take the case of Anu Sharma. One of her lovers told her after making love that he had "lost his character". So she started "wearing saris and bindis and keeping Karva Chauth (fasting for husband's well-being) so that he could feel comfortable about making love."
Making it easier for Indian men to ignore their women—67 per cent of the respondents in the Cosmopolitan survey admitted they were selfish in bed—all this while has been the social conditioning of their women. "The Indian woman has never been in a position to be demanding," says Pinto. "Hence men have used women as masturbatory devices. Their pleasure comes first, hers is incidental." Take the case of Imelda Tellis of Pune, a 28-year-old homemaker with a child, who has turned totally fatalistic. "My husband is a busy man and when he returns home, he wants his sex. As there's no love in the whole thing, I don't achieve orgasm and he really doesn't care," she says morosely.
To be sure, the biggest handicap facing the Indian man is his pathetic sex education. The Durex survey found that a measly 5 per cent of our men are taught sex education in school. If he fails, which only means erectile problems and never his incapacity to please his woman, he knocks on the quack's or the sexologist's door for a quick fix so that he can get on with his business. "Most men refuse to come with their wives for a joint consultation and most often plead with me to prescribe them energy tablets or Viagra and other sources of instant gratification," says Reddy. Instant gratification is easier today: four brands of desi Viagra are available now with neighbourhood chemists.
No wonder the ignorance of Indian men can sometimes turn out to be shocking. Two years ago, Deepak Charitable Trust, a non-governmental body in Gujarat, conducted a survey in and around Vadodara district among workers, majority of them diamond cutters. A sizeable number revealed a prevalent fear of masturbation and blamed the 'affliction' on general weakness, possible impotence or the drying up of semen and even vertigo. The men revealed that visit-ing brothels was a lesser evil than masturbation. (An international conference of sexologists recently revealed that Indian men spend a staggering Rs 40,000 crore every year on sex workers, 30 per cent of whom are under-age.) Delhi-based psychologist and columnist Sujatha Sharma reveals that the queries she gets betray amazing ignorance—including an amazing "I-don't-know-whether-I-am-inserting-my-member-in-her-vagina" to dissatisfaction with the size, length and shape of the organ. In Mumbai, a fortysomething man who turned up at sexologist Prakash Kothari's clinic complained that he had not consummated a 22-year-old marriage "because he used to try making love with his legs outside the woman".Kothari recounts another man complaining that he couldn't climax. "He had been 'waiting for climax' after entering a woman and lying still atop her." Then there is vacuous penis-anxiety in most. Vikram Sharma, urologist at Delhi-based Aashlok Hospital's Alpha One Andrology Centre, says of this nagging concern: "I am yet to see a man who is completely happy with his size."
Growing up on a diet of third-rate porn in grainy movies, magazines, and now a glossier version on the Internet, which glorify sexual athleticism rather than emotional bonding and promote exaggerated bravura over conquests, sizes and frequencies, it's not unexpected to find our young men sexually maladjusted. The most common result is premature ejaculation. Says urologist Sharma: "It is a typical but complex scenario beginning with furtive and quick masturbation in the bathroom which lasts for two or three minutes. Over the years, the system gets used to these quick ejaculations and this later translates into premature ejaculations." It's one of the biggest bedroom blooper in India, agrees Shah, who runs a website on impotence. "Most women tell me that their husbands are in a hurry and climax even before the woman is ready."
Racing ahead in life and work often adds to the dysfunctional male lover. "The Indian upwardly mobile male turns workaholic in his interest to make money. Corporate executives especially are conditioned to win. So even a single failure in the bedroom ends in their avoiding sex altogether," says Reddy. Occasional impotence due to stress or other factors is perceived as a death sentence by the Indian male. "Most men are paranoid about impotence even if it happens once in a while due to various factors like stress, anxiety or alcohol," says Sharma, some of whose patients have just about veered from suicide attempts over this.
While the number of Ms Beautifuls increase by the year, the Indian man is largely physically unfit. This slows his drive and dampens the ardour of his mate. Says Gumaste: "Sexual performance depends on fitness and physical strength." In a study conducted on 82 couples, Gumaste found only 25 per cent of men managed to perform coitus in the first four days of trying.
All this makes Jack a dull boy in bed indeed. But his ego is always erect, his organ notwithstanding. "My ex-boyfriend wanted to hear that he was King Kong in bed," recalls Mahima Tandon, a Delhi-based export house executive. But new gender challenges threaten the Indian male today: Tandon just junked her boyfriend because she was not prepared to pander him without returns. The age when virginity was gift-wrapped in a Benarasi sari and gold jewellery and presented to the man on his wedding night is now witnessing its twilight years. As long as the woman didn't speak out, the Indian male went about his lovemaking with disarming aggression portrayed by the larger-than-life angry young man on the screen. Now times are slowly changing. Sandhya Moolchandani, writer of The Indian Man, which explores such changes, says: "I don't envy Indian men at this point of time. Their traditional role in society is being questioned. Children are not as reverential as they used to be and the role of the sole bread-winner is no longer theirs alone. Indian men, who were hitherto secure in their cocoons, are plagued by insecurity. Their women have the real option to leave them," she says. Moolchandani, who carried out in-depth interviews with hundreds of couples for her book, feels that the present shift in traditional roles has churned up a new couple as opposed to a new man or new woman."It's a you-and-me-against-the-world kind of bond that's come about now," she says. Rakhi Anand, clinical psychologist at Delhi's Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, says: "Very often couples come to doctors complaining of aches and pains that have no organic origin. After a few sessions, we realise that it is their bottled-up emotions that is affecting their sexual functioning."
Not all men agree to acting like self-styled boors in bed. Navdeep Khosla, marketing manager at a travel agency and father of two, snaps: "They (Indian women) are brought up to believe that sex is a duty and all they have to do is spread their legs and lie like a log. I want a woman to want me as much as I do." Sudeep Bhat, a 25-year-old software professional who recently got engaged, only sees the old matron in his new girl. "I have to remind her that she is her own person because she gets so identified with me losing track of her interests."
There are still others who find the bedroom talk is all a creation of media hypsters and obsession about sex as a selling pitch for their publications. Sudhakar Krisnamurti, a Hyderabad-based andrologist and columnist, says that these complaints are overplayed by the media. "It's not that Indian men have suddenly become lousy lovers. Today, more than ever before, there is tremendous awareness about sex, among the young in the world and it's across genders." But the Indian male is possibly the most confused of all: 78 per cent of the Cosmopolitan poll respondents said trust is the most important element of a relationship, but almost 80 per cent of them admitted they cheat on their women!
Only time will tell whether the expose of the Indian man is the result of a hyped-up media, or is a manifestation of the beginnings of a long overdue bedroom revolution. But the grafitto has been around the walls. It's time the jaded Indian Jack read and acted upon it.
(Some names have been changed)
With Manu Joseph, Sheela Reddy, Shagorika Heryani in Delhi, Vaishna Roy in Chennai and M.S. Shanker in Hyderabad