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Small-town Indians are rocking

india Updated: Jan 28, 2011 10:44 IST
Sanchita Sharma

"Just because I slept with you, doesn't mean I'll marry you," actor Gul Panag told her celluloid squeeze in the Prakash Jha-produced Turning 30!!! and predictably riled the Central Board of Film Certification, which demanded the promos be censored to protect young India from such slutty talk (harsher descriptors censored).

The censors got it very, very wrong. The Hindustan Times Youth Survey 2011 found that life in small towns is far more adventurous and fun than in the big, bad metros.

With the exception of Delhi and Kolkata, smaller towns are rocking with premarital sexual activity – and women are more promiscuous than men in many cities. Indore is the pace-setter, with nine in 10 women (92.5%) surveyed saying they had premarital sex, compared to seven in 10 men.

In some cities, sexual encounters begin before youngsters turn 18, with one in five men (19.7%) and one in six women (16.6%) in Jaipur and one in seven (15.2%) men and one in eight (12.5%) women in Patna saying they had sex before the age of 18. In Delhi, one in seven men and one in 10 women had sex for the first time before 18.

What is driving the sexual revolution in mufassil India? It's the media, says ad guru Prahlad Kakar, who describes himself as a man of many hats.

"Popular media, both films and television, impacts small towns far more than the metros. While sleeping around is no longer an issue in the city, scoring has become big in smaller towns. And with women becoming more independent and less stigmatised everywhere, every town has become Peyton Place," says Kakar, referring to Grace Metalious' 1956 novel of the same name that has become synonymous with deep, dark secrets – lust, adultery, incest and abortion – in a seemingly conservative society.

If the people surveyed had been married (they aren't), a more contemporary comparison would have been Desperate Housewives. The sexual independence is far more marked in women. One in four women respondents in Chennai say they don't plan to marry their boyfriends, compared to one in five men.

"Women everywhere are independent and know exactly what they want from life, both economically and sexually. They do what they want and don't give a damn about what people say," says Jha, who produced a film about a single woman in a city this year after last year's critically-acclaimed political drama, Rajneeti.

"It's difficult to say whether promiscuity has gone up or whether people are just talking more about having sex. But speaking from the urban bubble where I live, casual sex has gone up in Delhi and Mumbai," says Anuja Chauhan, author of The Zoya Factor and Battle for Bittora.

Not enough, however, are playing it safe. A startling finding of the HT Survey is that young India isn't big on latex. More than half of India's youth usually have unsafe sex, and only
two in five (43.1%) always use protection.

But if you are one of those who has missed the starting gun and who now wants to be better positioned to beat the Durex Sexual Wellbeing Survey findings of women in India on average having two sexual partners and men, six – compared to nine for women and 13 for men in the United States – here's a tip: More than your looks, money or sexual prowess, what is likely to get you a partner is family background, intelligence and – yes – kindness.

Looks, predictably, are more important for men (18.9%) than women (13.9%) but the other parameters are almost the same across genders.

And if you still find yourself only and lonely, you could consider moving to Indore or Jaipur.

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