The Moral Panics of Sexuality


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The sexualisation of culture by Bollywood, the media and the fashion industry has followed economic liberalisation. An occasional conservative backlash cannot curtail the insatiable demand for soft-porn and beer bars. In the aspirational India, the ends justify the means.

In a collective mad rush for sex and money, cutting corners is the new normal. In the past, some chased money while the others sought fulfilment through sex or through intellectual endeavour. Now the elites have formed a nexus and all want everything. One judge was found guilty by an informal committee of judges and ultimately forced to resign his post-retirement job. A dentist and his wife were found guilty of murdering their teenage daughter. A film actor was arrested after a singer-actress from the UK charged him with a violent attack.

An elderly state governor, with a life-long illustrious record in politics, has had to leave his prestigious job because of an alleged sexual scandal. The complaints of corruption, rape, sexual harassment and official snooping targeting a woman are keeping the investigative agencies and law courts very busy. As the discourse on scandals gets shriller, the Supreme Court has queered the pitch by restoring the ban on gay sex. In this case, the social consensus is missing.

The conservatives and liberals are fighting a battle on homosexuality. The main ruling party, the Congress, does not favour the reimposition of the ban while the main opposition party, the BJP, is against homosexuality. It is not that the sexual conduct of the Indian male has suddenly acquired a criminal dimension.

The conspiracy of silence has ended as some newly empowered women have started sharing their personal experiences of sexual harassment. Every now and then, a high-profile woman talks about what she has had to face in an office environment. An unprecedented wave of public protests and candle-light vigils followed the gang rape and murder of a year-old physiotherapist in Delhi a year ago. The rape of tribal, low-born or village women had never got that much media attention.

The Moral Panics of Sexuality

The widely prevalent gender-insensitivity and assertion of male power in a patriarchal society then became a major topic of public discourse and media comments. The popular backlash against the rape and murder of an educated middle-class girl led to more stringent laws and guidelines to ensure the safety of women in homes, offices and public places. In one case, the court awarded the harshest possible punishment to the guilty.

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Nothing seems to have served as a deterrent. Several rape cases have been reported since then. Reports have come in of sexual harassment in the universities and law courts. Women teachers said they avoided going to the male-dominated staff rooms. Some women advocates complained that their male colleagues frequently harassed them on a High Court premises, making lewd remarks, touching them and watching inappropriate video clips on their mobile phones.

A university professor, ironically teaching gender justice, was suspended after one of his girl students complained of sexual harassment in his chamber. A few weeks ago, a Delhi University laboratory assistant was driven to self-immolation after her complaint of sexual harassment against the principal went unheeded. Earlier, a woman personal assistant in another college lodged a complaint against the acting principal for asking her for sexual favours.

A year ago, a university girl student died after which it was found that she had been repeatedly raped by an assistant professor. Most universities have not constituted committees to respond to complaints of sexual harassment in the work place. These were recommended as far back as in by the Supreme Court. A retired woman vice-chancellor of a university recalled that when a woman colleague was raped no one came out in her support.

A woman in Mumbai took to social media when the railway police failed to respond to her complaint against some hooligan commuters. Foreign female tourists at times face sexual harassment. A public service TV ad shows a foreign woman tourist being molested and then rescued by another auto-rickshaw driver who is applauded by a Bollywood actor. A European diplomat says sexual harassment discourages foreign women students from joining Indian universities.

Young women from a particular region, studying and working in the national capital form an association in order to feel safe. In the most talked-about case, a crusading editor named Tarun Tejpal faces a charge of rape, as defined in the latest anti-rape laws. What Mr. Tejpal tried to do to his young female employee in the privacy of the hotel lift in Goa during a festival of ideas has been reported, interpreted and commented on by hundreds of journalists.

If private conversations about this episode are included, the number of discussants will go into millions. The extensive media coverage given to the Tejpal case opened the flood gates of complaints. The recent cases of sexual misconduct have two special features. Secondly, not the callow youth with raging hormones but fairly mature men.

If it is not sex than it is money that generates scandals. Here, the official regulatory mechanism is unable to cope with the situation. The delivery of the public services is riddled with bribery. The nexus of the political and business leaders has been exposed in several sectors including telecom, military equipment and infrastructure. The phenomenal increase in land prices has made a clean government impossible. Millions of people have lost their savings in fraudulent investment schemes.

Ministers and bureaucrats have been sent to jail. The activists organise rallies and undertake fasts to press for new legislative measures to control corruption. The TV debates focus on high-level corruption.

Maneuvering Moral Panics: My experience at ASU’s Moral Panics of Sexuality Conference |

With every TV news bulletin, moral outrage shoots up. The self-righteous brigades are proliferating. Noisy moral entrepreneurs target deviants who appear to be threatening the traditional social order. It may be a religious community, ideological opponents, feminists or young women just enjoying themselves in a beer bar.

An inter-caste or a Hindu-Muslim love affair may cause a riot. The anti-corruption rhetoric resonates with the people, including those who readily give bribes and accept undue favours. Participating in the anti-corruption rallies is one way of assuaging the collective guilt. The current bout of social moral panic is acute since it has occurred in a political season. The awful thing about this is that they know this is false—they know there is a lot of research showing that when we talk with young people about sex, particularly parents and caregivers from the earliest ages, young people end up waiting longer to start having sex, and to practicing safer sex whenever they do become sexually active.

The hyperbole is designed to scare parents. There is a lot of hysteria that has always been built up around the idea of anything having to do with sex and sexuality being responsible for moral decay. Our country continues to double down on its investment in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Newer comprehensive sex ed programs also challenge traditional gender norms, striving for greater inclusivity for those along the gender and sexual orientation spectrum, and confronting long-held beliefs about conventional, heterosexual gender roles.

Meanwhile, programs that promote abstinence-only until heterosexual marriage uphold traditional gender norms.

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These infections can lead to long-term health consequences, such as infertility, and can also enable HIV transmission. And some of these numbers are now climbing, despite having been on the decline for years. The research shows that abstinence-only programs do not delay sexual initiation, nor do they reduce rates of either teen pregnancy or STIs. Young abstinence pledge-takers are one-third less likely to use contraception when they become sexually active, have the same rate of STIs as their sexually active peers, and are more likely to have engaged in both oral and anal sex than their non-pledging peers.

In states that offer comprehensive sexuality education, STI rates are actually lower. Jenelle Marie Pierce, for example—a woman from a conservative rural town in Michigan who later went on to found the STD Project and become the spokesperson for Positive Singles — received abstinence-only education.

There was never information around [the types of things] that would help you feel good about your womanhood. As she began exploring her sexuality, Pierce tried to be smart about it, knowing that sex ed left her with a lot of missing information. She drove herself to a Planned Parenthood and got a prescription for birth control. The dirty people.

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The trashy people. Nobody will ever want me. The consequences of our values-based decisions around sexuality become even more stark when compared to the approaches and outcomes in other countries. Research shows that countries with a more open and positive attitude toward sexuality have better sexual health outcomes , and lower adolescent pregnancy rates. This is reportedly because there is less pressure for adolescents in Western Europe to remain abstinent, and more emphasis on teaching young people to protect themselves.

Because of this, government-supported schools in many Western European countries provide—and often require—comprehensive sexuality education, and they offer easy access to reproductive health services. The Dutch, especially, have received attention for their approach to sex ed. Sexuality education is mandated for all primary school students.

And while different schools take different approaches, all programs treat sexual development as a natural process, and assume students have the right to honest and reliable information. Because of this, they happen to have some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health. Bonnie J. She speaks admiringly of a culture in which body differences between boys and girls were normalized, and of how this seems to have translated to a wider culture of respect and tolerance.

Given that our government was founded by people of Christian backgrounds, and roughly 85 percent of Congress identifies as Christian, these religious beliefs cannot help but inform how people make decisions — including about sex and sexuality.

The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality The Moral Panics of Sexuality
The Moral Panics of Sexuality

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