Sex is a taboo topic in India, and any discussion around sex is usually hushed. Governments are still stuck on whether to allow sex-education in schools or not. All this, despite India being the land of Kamasutra, and a land where temples like Khajurao depict sex in a very open and unrestricted manner on its walls through carvings pointing to an era when sex was celebrated openly. In such an atmosphere, where (straight) sex itself is taboo, you can imagine the many barriers that discussions around gay sex exist.
But does the reluctance of people to talk about sex means people are not having sex, or there is no sex culture in India? Far from it. Remember, India did not reach a population of 1.2 Billion through test tube babies. However, what it does do is make it difficult to talk about ones desires openly, and throws everything underground.
With the many restrictions, both legal and social around gay sex, it is not surprising that a gay sex culture (as it exists in European countries) does not exist in India. There are no bear or leather clubs, or clubs or pubs around fetishes. India does not even have gay clubs or bars. No Nude beaches. You do have gay parties but they are organised in regular bars/clubs once or twice a week, and notified via SMS or through secret Facebook groups. Sex toys are in demand in India, yet they are sold mostly underground (or online). Individuals do enjoy BDSM, master-slave relations, kink etc., and these are mostly put up in the profile description of Grindr and Planetromeo. LGBTQ space in India is still too preoccupied with discussions around coming out and fighting the homophobic law – Section 377.
But how does it all affect you when you visit India? Well, to begin with, it means when you visit India, there is no single club or bar in any city that you can go to to explore the gay life. If you do not know any LGBTQ Indian before who could show you around, or pass on the information of parties to you, then grindr and planetromeo remain your best friend to connect with people and gather these information.
And how does a law like 377 affect you? Well, the law is mainly used as a tool of harassment and for extortion of money by criminal gangs or by police. The Section 377 is mostly applied in cases of rape and child sex abuse, and is seldom applied on gay men for having sex. For more details on how Section 377 affects you as a gay tourist, you can read this post that I wrote sometime ago.
The fact that you are a foreign national visiting India however apparently acts as a deterrent for the police, as the police would not want to get into the tangles of dealing with embassies and disturbing foreign relations of India with other countries.
Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”