Sex is a no-no topic in our society, and its only purpose is considered to be procreation. So, we’re not always given a complete picture. Schools hardly talk about sex-education, and if they do, the curriculum focuses on reproduction – which explains the population in our country. Then come our homes, which are mostly too awkward a space to discuss personal life, let alone our sexual health.
And films, art, internet or social media literally become our major source of information. It’s normal to rely on them, but it’s scary when they’re misleading or just as shy as our society. Bollywood films often tend to do that – where representation of sex has been very awkward, even to look at.
The surprising part is, for the longest time, Bollywood managed to portray sex without actually showing people having sex, or showing people at all, for that matter. We had weird euphemisms like flowers meeting, the classic suhaag raat, and the doors closing, that always worked.
It’s not like sex is the only form of intimacy and that’s entirely what movies are about – but it is important to normalize the idea. If we can’t be comfortable enough to show an honest representation, then how can we even talk about it openly? And, visual representation or even coming close to it is not vulgarity.
In turn, these films played part in normalizing rigid and toxic belief systems. For instance, the scene from Prem Aggan where sex was considered a ‘shaadi ke baad ki’ activity. No people, it works just the same with or without the sindoor.
And, Kartik Aaryan’s rant in Pati Patni Aur Woh on how consent after marriage is such a buzzkill for him. I mean, seriously, why is consent so underrated? On a side note, Kartik Aaryan will rant about anything, no matter the what subject is.
We literally pass sex as a heteronormative idea – STILL. Even when it comes to films and shows that try to be inclusive, they somehow fail by casting heterosexual cisgender actors – who’re too ‘uncomfortable’ to act. For instance, the scene from Modern Love Mumbai’s Baai where Pratik Gandhi and Ranveer Brar kiss for the first time. Or the fact that Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga portrays intimacy as ‘hand-holding’ and ‘hugging’ – which makes romance look so platonic.
Of course, and thanks to OTT, we have some shows and films that didn’t shy away – because why should they? Made In Heaven is one example. But, the fact remains that these examples are very rare.
Oh, and let’s not talk about safe sex and contraception, because, Bollywood does not. Even the films that choose to normalize the idea forget to talk about important things like a safe experience – in more ways than one. To add on, the act is shown as something so perfect and flawless, that it ends up being toxic.
Intentionally or unintentionally, most movies end up making the subject about objectification or about an ‘ideal’ image. When it is an expression and a way to understand our bodies, films only talk about beauty standards, which we also see on-screen.
It is a constant debate to not blur the lines between fiction and life. But, art and media has an impact on our society, and hence sensitivity is important. Which means, to start or normalize a conversation around sex or sexual health, we should be more comfortable with the portrayal in films. Also, a flawed representation is just as careless or harmful as lack of representation at all. And honestly, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right.
Just saying, Bollywood isn’t the most reliable source.