Penned for America’s “largest circulated Indian publication,” Little India, “Homosexuality and The Indian” explores the limbo in which many of India’s “homosexuals” live. Now, we’ve discussed India before, particularly with regard to the perpetuation of colonial era sodomy laws and a burgeoning gay scene. The Little India piece, however, examines the space between those extremes.
As part of the piece, journo Sudhir Kakar examines men who have sex with men, but whom are not gay. This, we’re sure, is a population with which many of you are familiar. These men rationalize their actions through a variety of cultural mechanisms, which Kakar lumps together as “homosexual denial”. Kakar writes:
The “homosexual denial,” as some might call it, is facilitated by Indian culture in many ways. A man’s behavior has to be really flagrant, such as that of the cross-dressing hijras to excite interest or warrant comment. Some find elaborate cultural defenses to deny their homosexual orientation. The gay activist Ashok Row Kavi tells us about the dhurrati panthis, men who have sex with other men because the semen inside them makes them twice as manly and capable of really satisfying their wives. Then there are the komat panthis who like to give oral sex, but will not let themselves be touched. Some of these men are revered teachers, “gurus,” in body building gymnasiums, who believe they will become exceptionally powerful by performing oral sex on younger men. Both will be horrified to be called homosexual.
As Kavi notes in another interview, the idea of semen-centric power certainly isn’t isolated to India. A number of societies have similar practices, parallel mechanisms for diffusing seemingly “gay” acts. Ours does not.