We are a nation of 1.324 billion and rising. And we remain incorrigibly squeamish about sex. Or rather sex that happens outside the confines of the ordained marital bed and preferably in missionary position.
So it is with the latest sex CD scandal. Even that phrase 'sex CD' sounds so antiquated in a time of Ragini MMS.
Hardik Patel, the enfant terrible of Gujarat politics is the latest to be embroiled in a 'sex scandal'. A video allegedly featuring him with a woman has gone viral on social media. "Dirty politics has started now," Patel tweeted. He said the BJP has "prepared a doctored sex CD to defame (him)". The BJP has denied it has anything to do with the video. Union minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said Patel should have filed a complaint instead of complaining about the BJP. Meanwhile social media is tittering about the 'real face of pervert Hardik Patel'.
Whether or not the video is morphed, what’s the perversion here? That Hardik had sex? In a hotel? With a woman to whom he is not married?
This is not a case like Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore, being accused of picking up and molesting teenaged girls — something patently illegal. Ashwin Patel, a former cohort of Hardik's and now estranged from his movement, has alleged Hardik exploited several women. But there’s no proof that the particular woman in the video is being exploited.
Or is premarital or extramarital sex de facto exploitation according to our moral police? We have hospitals running out of oxygen in Gorakhpur. We have cow vigilantes running amuck and the Rajasthan government saying it cannot prevent every situation everywhere. We have United Airlines cancelling flights to New Delhi because the pollution is off the charts. We have the Gurugram Police being accused of framing the nearest poor bus conductor they could find after a young student was killed.
And we think that Hardik’s sex life is a scandal?
This is not new. Our squeamishness goes way back. In 1978, Jagjivan Ram famously saw his prime ministerial ambitions implode when Surya, a magazine edited by Maneka Gandhi, published revealing pictures of his son Suresh in what we coyly call 'compromising positions' with a woman.
The problem is threefold. One is the pious hypocrisy of political leaders who want to pretend that their personal lives are as starched as their khaadi caps. This is some strange lovechild of Gandhian notions of abstinence and Victorian prudishness. Thus we almost see a moral equivalence between Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi being caught having sex with a lawyer in his book-lined study and BJP leader Bangaru Laxman being caught in a sting operation accepting wads of money from Tehelka reporters pretending to be arms dealers. Singhvi’s exertions might not be aesthetic but it is not even the same as politicians being caught watching porn while in the Assembly. However Singhvi, still resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice. In Bengal, ministers caught in a Narada sting apparently accepting bribes all remain in office. The party has said the money came from donations, not bribes. It suggests being caught with your pants down can be politically more dangerous than being caught red-handed taking bribes. That should be the real scandal.
Second is our fuzzy notion of consent. We just do not get the idea that sex between consenting adults is nobody’s business but their own. On one hand, we romanticise stalking in our films but on the other, we are aghast that two consenting adults might have sex in a hotel room. Even an extramarital affair is really not the business of anyone other than the parties involved: The pati, patni and woh. When Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji Lakhamsi Savala was accused of sexually abusing a domestic help using the lure of a job, all hell broke loose. When a CD surfaced, Savala resigned. But the headlines like “MP minister Raghavji quits as servant accuses him of sodomy” entirely missed the point. The scandal was not whether there was sodomy. The real question was whether it was consensual or not.
Third is our scandalised focus on the sexual act itself. During the #AAPKaSexScandal Arvind Kejriwal sacked cabinet minister Sandeep Kumar caught in bed with a woman who was not his wife. But it was unclear whether Kerjiwal was sacking him because of a rape charge that came later or because of adultery. All he tweeted initially was, "Rec’d 'objectionable' CD of minister Sandeep Kr. AAP stands for propriety in public life. That can’t be compromised." Kejriwal had already sacked two other ministers. Jitender Tomar had been accused of fraud. Asim Ahmed Khan had been accused of taking a bribe. These are not the same as Kumar having sex outside marriage if that’s the lapse in propriety that upset Kejriwal so.
Hardik has said,"I am a man, I am not impotent." He is right about that. His sex life might upset his family but he’s not a Jain monk sworn to celibacy.
There’s no hypocrisy there, no evidence of dissonance between his public standards and private life. Even the antiquated and ridiculous Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code seems not to have been violated.
That we would rather debate the morality of his sex life instead of the morality of a quota demand for his Patidar community exposes our own prurience. As Gujarati politician Jignesh Mevani rightly said, "Right to sex is a fundamental right. No one has the right to breach your privacy."
Hardik has said, "I am not bothered, but Gujarat’s women are being insulted" by what he calls 'dirty politics'. The sex is not dirty per se but our voyeurism certainly is. Next time, can we ask if that sex was a crime, a conflict of interest or an abuse of power before we rush to call it a scandal?
Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:03:37 IST