Debating India

V for Virgin?

Thursday 9 June 2005, by DHINGRA*Deepali, DOVAL*Nikita, KUMAR *Sunaina

Katie Holmes, 26, has reportedly vowed to remain chaste until she marries and is saving herself for Mr Right (read Tom Cruise). According to a report in a prominent tabloid, Katie confesses she went to "cheerleading practice, got straight A grades in college and made a pledge she would remain a virgin until marriage." Not so long ago, it was Britney Spears who said something similar. Even as Hollywood revives the concept of the ’Virgin Bride’, Delhi Times debates the V-factor: how important is virginity in contemporary relationships...

Expert speak

Samir Parikh, psychiatrist: Traditionally, we’ve always been a patriarchal society. Men’s infidelity was not frowned upon, whereas women’s virginity had a moralistic aspect. With education, equality has set in and global media awareness has reduced the contrast between gender roles. With youth being exposed to relationships, acceptability of your partner having a past has increased.

Sanjeeta Kundu, counsellor, Max Healthcare: Virginity is a non-issue for the young generation. As adolescents these days are a lot more sexually exploratory, they hardly care a fig for virginity. But amongst the older age-group, it’s still an issue.

West meets east?

Believe it or not but while Indians shed their inhibitions, virginity is the latest craze in the West. Silver Ring Thing is a programme that preaches sexual abstinence amongst teens till they get married. "The program was designed to attract the attention of the typical 21st century teenager and offer them protection from the destructive effects of America’s sex-obsessed culture," says the website of the movement. The followers wear a silver ring as a mark of their pledge of abstinence. Health is also being touted as a major reason behind the sudden movement. According to True Love Waits, an international campaign promoting abstinence among youths, 2.5 million young people in America have pledged to remain virgins until they marry. When I first came to Mumbai from Bhopal, I used to harbour notions of virginity and how important it is in a marriage. But not anymore. "If I am not a virgin, how can I expect my woman to be one? Does this not reek of double standards?" asks Shawar Ali, actor. He feels virginity is an outdated concept, in metros at least, specially since "women are far more comfortable with their sexuality today. They often approach me in night clubs and openly ask for a one-night stand."

Most of the metro males have similar stories to tell about an emerging women’s sexuality that lays little stress on virginity. According to Aryan Vaid, actor, "When I was a youngster, even kissing a girl meant that you two were set for life. Today, youngsters talk about multiple dating and kissing. Virginity is not an issue anymore, definitely not for a majority of the big city populace. It is not unusual for women to proposition men. They tend to lose their inhibitions and are vocal about their sexual desires."

With sexual mores growing more liberal, GenNext seems to have a new set of standards, feels Upen Patel, model. "Virginity isn’t such a big deal anymore. Specially amongst the young generation, nobody really cares about issues like these. This is a time when international films are making their way here. Nobody minds things like kissing and sex on screen. We are getting more and more liberal. So why should virginity be an issue anymore?" he asks.

For most of the women we interviewed, virginity was a non-issue. Counters Rakhi Sawant, item girl, "Why should virginity be an issue? Does anyone ever pose the same question to the man? There are times when everybody wants to be close to the person they love and is there any sense in denying yourself that pleasure? To me, love-making can also serve as a stress-buster especially after a hard day’s work. I feel it is harmful to keep your feelings bottled up inside you. Just let it out. Also, one lives just once, so it is better to live life to its fullest today."

The changing status of women seems to be a prime factor behind the decreasing importance of virginity as a pre-requisite to marriage. Says Payal Rohtagi, actress, "The lifestyle of women has undergone a drastic change now. They are independent financially and this has also strengthened them emotionally. Sexual desires are just needs at the end of the day and if the fulfilment of them gives a person pleasure and happiness, why should women deny it to themselves? Sex is a part of life, it gives you happiness; the question of right or wrong does not arise at all."

For model Anjhula Singh, promiscuity more than virginity is the issue today. "In our parent’s generation, everything was black and white. Now people are more open-minded. The issue today is not virginity but the number of partners one has had; whether it borders on promiscuity or not," she adds.

Of course, there are circles where it still matters. And these would primarily be centred in mofussil India. As actress Udita Goswami confesses: "I was born and brought up in Dehradun where I was taught that virginity is a big deal but when I shifted to Mumbai, my entire perspective changed. It is so cool here! I guess ultimately the choice is yours. If you feel you want to lose your virginity, it is totally your choice and nobody should sit in judgement of that."

Koel Poorie, actress, would like to blame this gap in perception on society’s double standards. "In India, the problem is that a lot of bullshit happens in the name of a holier-than-thou attitude. But it really shouldn’t be such an issue either ways."

See online : The Times of India

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