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Virginity and the Indian psyche

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Aug 27, 2015, 7:43 am IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 1:36 am IST
Virginity continues to be a desired quality in a woman when it comes to marriage
Vivan Bhatena
 Vivan Bhatena

If the arguments of many an Indian were to be taken seriously, one would be led to believe that the Indian culture is rooted and safeguarded in a woman’s vagina. Virginity still seems to be one of desired qualities of a woman when it comes to marriage. While not being so much of a pre-requisite for a man, many in-laws and would-be husbands expect the girl to be a virgin.

“India’s obsession with ‘purity’ could be the reason for this mentality. Virginity is interlinked with purity in our Indian psyche and Sita having to prove her ‘purity’ is an example of how deep rooted the mind set is in our culture. Men also tend to view sex as a way of claiming ownership over a woman,” says Deepthi J., a beautician from Kerala.

 

As far as parenting goes, once a girl attains puberty, virginity feels like the elephant in the room. Something every parent wants to acknowledge and protect but doesn’t want to address and strangely it only extends to the girl child. Mythology and popular culture have played their part in inculcating a gender-biased response to sex.

Sexologist Narayana Reddy explains, “We live in a male dominated society and women were (are) viewed as possessions (also the origin of the mangalsutra where the men tie the taali around a woman’s neck proclaiming her to be his possession).

So men look at a woman who has lost her virginity as a ‘second hand product’. In our mythology, virginity was not limited to women and it was not just about the body but also about the mind, over time it has narrowed down to sex. Marriage should be based on trust, not the past.”

Women’s expression of their sexuality is an issue balancing on a thin line. While promiscuity is extolled among men and worn on their sleeve with much pride, women are slut-shamed for the same, highlighting the double standard.

“Virginity is not really a thing. A woman can lose her hymen from non-sexual activities too. The thing that bothers men is what virginity represents — men find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that a woman has been intimate with someone else. It begins at home when a parent tells their daughter to ‘protect her virginity’ giving the impression pre-marital sex is a bad thing,” says Arati B., a homemaker from Bengaluru.

Whether a woman wants to be a virgin and wait until marriage or whether she wants to express her sexuality should be her prerogative, but men and women alike should refrain from giving virginity the importance it doesn’t deserve. Actor Vivan Bhatena says, “It shouldn’t matter where one has come from; but where they are now. If you go into a relationship hung up on someone’s past then you will get nothing from the relationship. Obsessing over virginity is a barbaric concept.”

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