I have taken a rather long break from writing. But as valentine’s day approached and the furore over the Hindu Mahasabha’s charitable marriage drive gained momentum, I went back to an article of mine titled “Good Sex for 2015”, where a commentator asked what my problem with the institution of marriage was, presumably in response to a line in my work that said some people even take the extreme step of getting married to have sex. Although it was a line I had written in jest, today I want to explore that controversy a little bit.
To me the institution of marriage is not just about the idealistic narrative built around it by religion and history, but also the way it has been practiced in reality. As a practicing Advocate with a keen interest in the human condition as well as being a person with a huge social circle, my exposure to marriage is both up close, personal as well as objective. From this place, I have seen the decadence that has crept into the institution of marriage. At the same time, I have also become acutely aware of the skewed understanding of love that is so pervasive, that the emotion itself is losing its value and substance.
Let me begin by quoting the words of a husband to his wife on their wedding night, “I will give you one week’s time. Get to know me all you want and don’t bring your arrogance to the marital bed thereafter”. Yep, that’s marital rape, a widespread occurrence in Indian marriages. This behaviour is not the subject matter of just individual personality dysfunction. Rather, it is the unwritten rule of a culture which legitimises sexual expression of any nature whatsoever only within the institution of marriage. Rather than legitimising sexual expression on the premise of consent, we legitimised sexual expression based on membership of the institution of marriage, which we can all admit requires no effort. No wonder then that we consider refusal to intercourse on the part of the wife wholly unacceptable.
Men therefore grow up viewing women as little more than tools for sexual pleasure because they are told that you can have sex once you marry the girl. In other words, ordinary human instincts are required to be kept in outright containment until one gets married leading to a whole range of dark anomalies of the human psyche, ranging from anger to impatience and inability to perceive the opposite gender beyond the role of an tool for sexual gratification.
In the result, men no longer know how to approach women or negotiate consent in a healthy manner. Women on the other hand are forced to suppress their own outgoing personalities and free expression, based on a fear driven perception of the male gender. If one wonders why gender relations in India is so chaotic, it simply stems out of a war we have declared on human psychology with marriage being one of our many weapons.
The problem is compounded by the sheer conflicting stimulus available to us. Even as the Hindu Mahasabha threatens to marry romancing couples off on Valentines Day, businesses, newspapers, radio stations and visual media are rigorously advocating its celebration. While we condemn nudity and inflict poor body image in the name of culture, we fail to realise that India ranks among the highest in terms of number of people accessing pornography. While the atmosphere at schools and educational institutions is fanatically in favour of gender segregation, backed by a parent pool completely ignorant of developmental psychology, films and television sitcoms glorify love and present an unrealistic picture of it.
In this madness, we shouldn’t be surprised at all that a teenage girl studying in National Public School, Bangalore committed suicide after being suspended for befriending a boy in her class. In my opinion, the school as well as the parents of the girl should be ashamed of themselves for sacrificing their child’s life in the name of complying with some phenomenally flawed and unfair morals.
What has led to this decadence in the institution of marriage and such a poor evolution of love? Somewhere India decided to make marriage and love independent from privacy. Somehow marriage has just become about sexual pleasure, children, dowry and grand wedding celebrations. In the assembly line manufacturing layout called life, one graduates school, graduates college, gets married, has kids and remains unhappily unfulfilled ever after. The deeper meaning to marriage, i.e., the experience of trust and to live that trust completely got diluted and those who spoke about this deeper meaning became branded as over thinkers.
Viktor Frankel, the famed Austrian Psychiatrist opines that love fosters best in the realm of shame (shame is used in the sense of privacy). When the couple can keep their relationship away from the prying eyes of society, they focus entirely on each other, get to understand each other’s strengths and weakness and become mutually aware. With our culture of gossip mongering, inability to respect human autonomy and poor culture of respect for privacy, we have reduced marriage and love to a public spectacle.
So to the gentleman who asked me what my problem with the institution of marriage is, I have this to say: I have no problem with the institution of marriage. But I have a problem with you for considering well researched lessons on human psychology as a western conspiracy and I have a problem with the people of this ground for endorsing and subscribing to a culture of intrusion of privacy and disallowing natural human growth. Marriage is the central weapon in this oppression and you sir, along with everyone else have ruined love and marriage for the rest of us. Sleep on that thought!