India's bizarre sex surveys
It's that time of the year when Indian magazines publish sex surveys mapping the carnal capabilities of a billion people. It has become an annual ritual of sorts: the magazines presume that since India is changing rapidly, the sexual habits of its people must be following suit.
I love the way the surveys are packaged. One, this year, calls itself the Beta Male Special. Others have been called The Naked Truth, Sex and the Single Woman and the more prosaic What Men Want.
I also love the questions and the answer options. "What was your first time like?" asked a survey last year. "Mind blowing, terrible or don't remember?" We were relieved to learn that, for the overwhelming majority, it was "mind blowing". Who says Indians are prudish about sex?
The certitudes on sexual behaviour in these surveys would put Gay Talese to shame. One showed a "more sexually carnivorous urban Indian willing to break taboos and batter boundaries". But, it moaned: "The appetite is clearly greater than the menu". Phew.
A recent one says that in 2009, Indian males have suddenly become more gender sensitive and turned into Beta Males, whatever that means. "Not the dominating, growling, impatient bedroom partner but a clever young man, quickly aroused and usually satiated. He now understands that sex, like anger, politics or the handling of a TV remote control needs some strategy, some fair play," says the survey. Sounds like Neanderthal man has finally grown up into a sexual savant of sorts.
I still don't know how the Indian male is "strategising" through the minefield of amour and sex because the magazine never told me. I look forward to clues in next year's survey, unless Indian man slips back into Neanderthal mode again.
But what I love most is the heart of the survey: the cold statistics.
Some 47% of respondents in the Punjabi city of Ludhiana, famous for its hosiery and cycle-making, say they have committed adultery. In Nagpur 25% of men apparently prefer one-night stands. In historic Lucknow, 32% of men are sexually attracted to Westernised women "with an independent attitude". Some 37% of men belonging to Le Corbusier's noveau riche Chandigarh and 26% from crummy Patna say they masturbate because it helps to relieve stress.
My favourite: one survey rated Hyderabad the kinkiest Indian city - 45% of respondents approved of kinky ways to woo their spouses and partners. The last I heard about the city, a battle-weary politician demanding a separate state had ended a hunger strike, and there was a political crisis going on. Anything kinky about that?
Of course, sex surveys have a mystery about them, so there is no explanation for these bizarre 'findings'. Don't ask frivolous questions about why Nagpur men prefer one-night stands, while Mumbai men love long-term relationships. And before I leave, did you know that 72% of women in Mumbai and 83% of women in Chennai say they are more likely to kiss a shaved man? Don't ask me why. But if you live in either city, you might want to get rid of that moustache and stubble. Fast.