India Today Sex Survey 2019: Chronicling the private life of the nation
India Today Group Editor-in-Chief talks about changes that have influenced the nation's intimate relations, in the November 11 edition of India Today.
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In a 2013 column for an Indian newspaper, Abhijit Banerjee, this year's joint winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, made a point that sparked some controversy.
Banerjee, who won the prize for his experimental approach in alleviating poverty, argued in his column about the inequality of access to sex. India's crowded cities and poorly planned urban spaces, he said, kept low-income affordable housing beyond the reach of the poor. This, he said, was impacting their access to sex and intimacy, the right to a normal conjugal life, as he called it. 'There are few forces more powerful than sexual desire and few forms of inequality more palpable than inequality of access to sex.'
Many of the impediments to healthy sex lives cut across class lines in this country. Indian society is still deeply conservative. There is no culture of dating and discussions about sex are still taboo. But times are changing. The internet and the smartphone have changed the way we approach sex and dating. The online dating app Tinder, for instance, launched in India in 2016, reported 7.5 million daily swipes in India this year and the highest average number of messages exchanged per match in the world.
India Today November 11 cover, Sex and the Indian: Tales of Love and Lust in 2019.
Reassuringly, we are also becoming increasingly tolerant of sexual diversity. The Supreme Court weighed in on two very significant judgments last September. It struck down a colonial-era adultery law and decriminalised homosexuality. These two verdicts were important because they upheld a person's freedom of choice irrespective of sexual orientation.
The India Today sex survey has chronicled the private life of the nation for 16 years and the past year has seen a number of changes that have influenced the nation's intimate life.
This year, we conducted our annual survey in two parts. The first dealt with questions on the ways we make love and the sexual behaviour and attitudes of people towards experimentation. The questions in the second part were regular ones on sexual behaviour, attitudes and preferences among the urban population in key cities of the country. The survey was conducted among respondents from different age groups, both male and female. For the first time, the age of the sample was also lowered to 14 (parental consent was needed to interview those under 18). This is because sexual awareness and sexual attitudes are being shaped at a much younger age these days.
A majority of our respondents said they watched porn regularly or occasionally. The survey reveals that most Indians are still reluctant to own their sexuality and prefer a sanitised version of it, one that doesn't make them uncomfortable.
In their larger sexual attitudes, both male and female respondents remained the same. A majority of the male respondents still wanted their partners to be virgins. The bottom line, when it comes to sex, of course, is whether or not people are satisfied with their sex lives. And this year, 62 per cent of the men and 58 per cent of the women surveyed say they are, as compared to 32 per cent of the women surveyed in 2003 and 56 per cent of the men polled in 2004.
Our special issue on sex, titled 'Sex and the Indian', put together by Senior Deputy Editor Prachi Bhuchar, also considers views from our panel of experts. If cyber crime investigator Ritesh Bhatia dwells on cyber blackmailing and sextortion, Jayshree Bajoria examines why India's first National Register for Sex Offenders may not be such a good idea. Psychologist Varkha Chulani analyses porn addiction and its impact on one's sex life. Pallavi Barnwal explores the phenomenon of the asexual woman and how women are choosing to be in sexless marriages. Gay rights activist Aniruddha Mahale tells us what it means to be a single gay man in post-Section 377 India. Madhavi Menon elaborates on how Indians were historically liberal about sex and have now regressed.
Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. A sexually repressed society is an unhealthy one. A society that cultivates a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships is ultimately a happy society. India is changing and moving in that direction more than we care to admit.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for the cover story, Sex and the Indian tales of love and lust, for November 11, 2019.)