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The Color of Harlotry: Sex in Kolkata

The Color of Harlotry: Sex in Kolkata
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Mandy Van Deven provides a small glimpse into how government control in India turns Western women into whores and Indian women into prudes.

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Comments

WOW! That's really interesting; it almost mirrors what happened here in America with black women. Through xenophobia, or xenophilia, we begin to assign all of our dirtiest fantasies to the foreigner. Since there's some kind of barrier between vulgarity and matrimony; women that are "other" become subject to our most carnal thought...or at least that's what I think...

01/02/2010
Divya  

Ok full sympathy for the harassment, but you really should check your facts before writing something like this. I'm a woman who has lived in India all her life and I''m telling you that what you're portraying is quite ridiculous. You're painting an archaic picture of India. Harassment happens everywhere. Men are pigs. Yes, it sucks. But don't use your experiences to make so many assumptions. Yes Savita Bhabhi got banned, yes porn is easily available, et al, but the society you're portraying is far from the truth.

01/07/2010
soumyaram  

@ divya, Ok so whats different from what shes portrayed? you've pointed out everything thats true in the article and vaguely mentioned "but it's different" without going into the specifics of whats different.
Are you trying to imply that we "the educated, modern thinking yadda yadda" girls are different? Well we can't even tell our parents that we're dating forget about letting them know about the drinking, the sex and the rest of the etceteras. The day we can do that, will just be one very small and very basic step.

01/08/2010
gabrielito  

Thanks for bringing me up to date with Savita Bhabi -- I've been sort of out of the loop for a while. While I really like and agree with your portrayal of life in urban India, and I think I am definitely for the liberalization of sexual politics in India, there's something in your argument that I disagree with.

It's exemplified by this quote, but there are others : "I can’t help but find myself in the cheering section of the brave Indian women (and men) who defy the priggish standards put in place by a system of rule that was not of their own making".

Absolutely, no question, that I too, find myself in this cheering section. The question is whether or not it's relevant to your argument that this Victorian priggish morality has British origins or Vedic origins? Would you say that the morality was 'of their own making' if it had originated in the Vedas and not during British rule? Here is where I would say, it makes no difference whether or not it's in the Vedas. We should be for sexual freedom and against patriarchy regardless of whether such morality is or is not in accordance with local tradition.

In other words, if it turned out that Vedic India was incredibly anti-sex, anti-feminist, and patriarchal, I would be against it and against political movements in India that claim legitimacy by virtue of an oppressive morality of the past. Just as it doesn't make sense to advocate for patriarchy because it's traditional in Europe, and just as we don't couch Feminist arguments 'in the West' as legitimate because they can be found in tradition, we should free ourselves to make political arguments that break with the past and break with tradition.

05/12/2010
pantalaimon1022  

I recognize your name from various internet brouhahas - you've published/posted all over the place, mostly about people of color and trans people, mostly stirring up resentment and drama. It seems like you can't do it very responsibly or accountably as an "ally", but you keep ploughing on.

I don't even know where to begin...from the use of the word "harlot" to the idea that no one wears sleeveless salwars and the like in Kolkata. Also, "Men here are not even allowed to speak to an Indian woman to whom they are not married or a close relative". Wtf? That's news to me. Can you explain to me how I've gone around in sleeveless salwars and had great conversations with male activists? So you're flat out lying in this piece to capitalize on stereotypes.

You also seem to imply that only you get harassed, like the same shit doesn't happen to Indian women. This also egregiously erases of some of my more traumatizing experiences on the street in Kolkata.

12/14/2010

This piece is only meant to reflect on my personal experience as a white American woman who lived in Kolkata for two years, and the conversations I had with other white women as well as desi women. As India is a big country with many different social norms based on geography, class, caste, etc, I have no doubt that my experience and the experiences of the women I befriended are not universal, and I wouldn't be so arrogant as to claim that they are. To address Pantalaimon: yes, Indian women (particularly poor and lower caste women) face much more harassment and abuse from Indian men than western women. That is undeniable. That said, I believe there is something beneficial in everyone sharing their stories and for those stories to be examined and valued and validated for what they are -- not dismissed for what they are not (e.g., universally applicable).

03/08/2011

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