Sunday, May 31, 2015

Let’s stop talking about sex, honey

Bittu (Tamil slang for porn) movies in Tamil Nadu may have finally found a worthy competitior: TV programmes doling out sex advice.

Prior to the advent of internet, titillation in TN would have meant ‘record’ dance bars – where women in skimpy dresses gyrate to item numbers in front of raucous crowds– or theatres screening dubbed movies of the soft-porn virtuoso Shakeela. Today, it might mean turning on the tube late at night to watch a sexologist hearing out woebegone callers and advising them on everything related to sex – from intercourse to periods and masturbation.

What could have been a healthy trend gets reduced to a caricature, and even worse, a misinformation campaign. And that – for a state that has made remarkable progress in curbing the incidence of AIDS (remember, it was once bracketed with the likes of South Africa) and showed the rest of India how welfare schemes for transgenders could be implemented – is a blot of gargantuan proportions.

The “professional” opinion becomes shorthand for sleaze, if it's made to appeal to the baser instincts. More the merrier if it includes half-truths, sensational and misogynistic elements. This is what a majority of the Tamil TV channels (news and general entertainment) have been doing of late. Why, even their traditional broadcast timings (post-11 pm) is snidely referred to as the “midnight-masala” slot.

At one plane the shows resemble mere plugs for libido enhancers. This can be gauged from the discussions that centers on two primary issues: “performance enhancement” and sperm count improvement. It’s as if every caller faces either of the problems, and the experts, if they can be called that, ask them to consume the product. Template question elicits template answer.

You’d think they would stop at that, but no. Such “experts” also double up as marriage counselors, delivering horrifyingly judgmental opinions. Whenever marital issues are broached, the word “adjust” gets bandied about.

And this is when the show hosts reveal the sexism ingrained in them. In such cases, the answer is “it is the woman who has to adjust”. On this count, Captain TV, run by the DMDK (led by Vijayakanth) ranks as worst. Their show has a sexologist, who, with the air of a Supreme Court judge, listens to queries read out innocently by a woman, before delivering bursts of baloney.

A couple has not been intimate for a while; the woman suspects her partner of fidelity; the woman has not climaxed for a while. The solution: adjustment. “The man always has the need to graze wherever he wants to, it is the woman who must ensure he has no such need,” the expert once suggested. “Consummate, and all problems will be resolved.”

You can choose to either laugh or get shocked out of your wits.

If the queries are from a woman, that is if ever, then the questions assume a voyeuristic nature. It starts with the seemingly-innocuous  query, "Are you married?" followed by the fusillade.

"How frequently do you do it?" "Do you masturbate frequently?" "Does he use contraceptives?" "When do you experience pain? Immediately after sex?"  In some cases, a probe into the family history begins. "Has your mother experienced similar discomfort/ problems?" A prescription is given after this judgmental exercise.

The shows on these channels, without exception, follow the trend to the-T. Have they been conceptualized to give the sexologist, and some sex-starved viewers, a kick? Your guess is as good as mine.

If the advice served qualifies as rank horrendous, opacity describes the nature of the products being advertised. Nobody knows whether they were manufactured with due approval and tested by a pharmaceutical authority. And all claim to boost performance beyond one's imagination — whatever that is supposed to mean.

Even tragic is the fact that no authority – be it medical- or broadcast-regulatory – seems to have woken up to the phenomenon. They have every reason to act fast: the spread of wrong information is worse than the lack of it. 

People may squirm discussing sex in public, but listening to sexologists’ advice on midnight TV is no solution. In comparison, that quack whom you see on the road-side peddling aphrodisiacs might pass off for the dean of AIIMS. 

Dear Tamil TV channels, please give me the analogy of the birds and the bees any day.