Dear Young Tamil Men,
Remember this conversation?
"So what do you think of her?" says one young Tamil man to another.
"She's banging. But yo, I don't think she's the type you'd want to marry," his friend replies.
"What do you mean? You heard something bad about her?" The young Tamil man presses his friend anxiously but dreads hearing more.
"Well, how do I put this lightly? Let's just say she's been around. Her ex told me some messed up things about her. I would stay away from that girl if I were you."
The young Tamil man is downcast, yet relieved. "Is it just me or are a lot of Tamil girls sluts nowadays? There are like no decent girls left."
"Word," says his friend as they shake their heads in derision and disgust while they repeat the process, this time with another female target in mind.
Are you surprised by this conversation? Shocked? You shouldn't be because this is a conversation that occurs frequently within the Tamil community.
Don't get me wrong. I am not solely targeting Tamils. In fact, this conversation could be applied to any society that places a strong emphasis on female chastity. Yet regardless of the culture, this is a conversation that should not be happening. Especially not in this day and age. (And to add as a disclaimer, I have no problems with women who choose not to be sexually active. That is their choice. What I do have a problem with are people -- men or women -- who assess someone's character solely by their virginity or lack thereof.)
There seems to be a flawed assumption somewhere in the depths of our patriarchal culture that the ideal woman should be angelic and innocent, blushing at the mere mention of words like "sex" or "penis." Sometimes, when my anger doesn't blind me, I kind of empathize with you.
Some of you grew up hearing stories from the epic Ramayana and learning of the modest, angelic Sita. You probably sat there thinking, "Of course, one day I will marry a Sita. A Sita who will constantly prove her chastity to me and the world by jumping into a fire whenever doubts were cast upon her character."
As if this wasn't enough, the Tamil movies you grew up watching added to the damage. You were constantly bombarded by meaningless plots that depicted a meek, beautiful Barbie doll who emulated Sita. On the other hand, it was the villainess of the movie who oozed sexiness and lust that was at once appreciated in the form of an erection, yet hated for being "slutty."
I'm sure you whistled with all your might when Rajnikanth famously differentiated the three types of women in the hit film Padaiyappa. In his opinion, the three types of women were the type you revere like a goddess, the type you want to have sex with, and the type you're in mortal fear of. Of course, the character Padaiyappa chooses the homely and innocent Soundarya while defacing the strong sex appeal exuding Neelambari, a decision you probably applauded.
In these narratives, you were accustomed to seeing depicted women as polarized figures -- either modest and righteous or sexually active and evil. Well, did it ever occur to you that women -- even Tamil women -- can be both righteous and sexually active? It probably didn't because the idea of sexual purity has become the measuring stick for assessing good character in Tamil women.
Yet this is not the case for Tamil men. Let's be honest, Tamil men get to have full sexual freedom when it comes to dating and hook-ups. And we Tamil women are expected to complacently accept your indiscretions as if it were your right as men to explore and enjoy life, and as if questioning this right is blasphemous.
Let me tell you something that may boggle your mind. Tamil men, you may have to sit down for this one. But we Tamil women get horny too. Contrary to popular belief, we have sexual urges as well. Just as you experience complete sexual liberation, we wish to have the same without being judged and ridiculed as "not marriage material." We are not objects to be judged as "easy" or "used" and are disgusted that you would even use these terms to describe us.
Along with this, not all of us believe in the idea of marrying the first guy we date. And just like you, some of us want adventure and fun in our teens and 20s. Stop putting us on a pedestal and comparing us to an ideal that is not only completely unnatural, but boring.
And while you're at it, please erase this barbaric idea that being modest is the only way to be righteous. There are many sexually promiscuous women who are also intelligent, charitable, kind, empathetic and many other positive traits. The choice to be sexually promiscuous or chaste should not be central in defining a woman. So instead of putting virgin on the top of your checklist when assessing a woman, try putting qualities such as intelligence or independence and see where it will take you.
Hoping for a change,
Young Tamil Women