India is known for its high burden of HIV/AIDS cases, and more recently, Indian men in India received a lot of media attention because of the Delhi gang rape case.
On the other hand, India is popularly known as the ‘Land of Kama Sutra’ and tantric sex. But there is very little scientific information about what Indians think about sex, how well they practice safe sex and where they go for help.
Studying sexuality of people from different cultural backgrounds would add significantly to the understanding of sex in multicultural nations like Australia and New Zealand.
This is true of Indian migrants in Australia as there are about 300,000 of them, constituting 1.37% of the population.
I completed my PhD studying about sexuality and sexual health of Indian men (164,207) in Australia who represent 1.54% of all Australian men.
The study was conducted by engaging 21 Indian men through focus groups followed by an online survey in 2011-2012. Survey data was collected from about 300 adult Indian men living in Australia. Most men preferred to seek help for their sexual health problems from a medical doctor. Ethnicity or gender of the treating medical doctor was not an important issue for a majority of them.
Indians are generally considered to hold conservative views on sex.
In contrast, the study showed that Indian migrant men hold moderate pattern of permissive sexual attitudes.
It is important for readers to bear in mind that there is a difference between attitudes and behaviour. For example, a person might think it is okay to have casual sex but that does not mean he/she will engage in casual sex. Apart from belief in Indian cultural values, whether a person is in a relationship or not and whether he masturbates or not was significant predictors of permissive sexual attitudes.
A view that emerged from the focus group and survey data was that sex is not only an important part of a person’s life but also a unifying phenomenon between partners.
Intensely negative feelings about masturbation have been reported among Indian men, leading to other sexual problems in them.
Therefore, the topic of masturbation was studied in great detail for the first time involving a community-representative sample of Indian men.
About 80% of men reported that they currently masturbated and that they were doing so since they were 15 years of age. Watching erotic material on the Internet was the most common source of stimulation.
Contrary to past studies conducted in sex clinics or involving college students, two out of three men who continue to masturbate expressed positive feelings about the habit in the present research.
Indian men, irrespective of their relationship status, tended to engage in safe sex practice primarily by avoiding risky behaviours.
More than 80% of men reported that they used condom during sexual intercourse.
One in two men surveyed agreed that it was difficult for them to discuss safe sex issues with their sexual partners. They also said that they used alcoholic beverages prior to or during sexual intercourse.
While many were aware of HIV/AIDS, their knowledge of other common sexually transmissible infections (STIs) was highly limited.
Conducting a research on a sensitive topic like sexuality and that too in a community setting was not easy.
This study would not have been possible without the support that I received from Indian community organisations and media.
Dr Vijayasarathi Ramanathan is a medical doctor trained in India. He obtained three postgraduate qualifications and a doctorate (PhD) in Sexual Health from the University of Sydney. He is the Founding Director of SSS Centre for Sexual Health. He can be contacted on 0091-9698976062. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.sexualhealthindia.org;
The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink.