Sex, video, satire

BY ARUNODAY MAJUMDER| IN Media Practice | 04/08/2014
A comic take on the proposed ban on sex education in schools exposes the urban elite's self-obsession,

Attention Please! I know how Gaza is being bombed, I know about ISIS running through Iraq, I know that your pet turned eight and I know what you did this summer. In that crowd of information on the social media, I want to draw your interest to what you may have already seen and ‘liked’. So, attention please! The youth of urban-elite India is angry. And just as a volcano erupts every time the comic superman Sabu is livid, so there is an explosion in the social media every time Youngistan is outraged.  

A few weeks ago, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is reported  to have suggested that sex education should be ‘banned’ in schools. There is no formal curriculum on sex education in India. So the report of a ‘ban’ on that which does not exist is somewhat misplaced. Nevertheless, the suggestion enraged a tiny but powerful section of upwardly mobile India – the urban-elite youth. Their size is small when compared to the population of this country but their clamour is relentless, whether it is against affirmative reservation (2007) or against the limited idea of public corruption (2011).  

The hostility of Harsh Vardhan towards sex education is certainly not a prudent stance, especially when such education can also pave the way for gender awareness. But the reaction to his reported statement by the overly enthused East India Comedy, a group of comedians involved in stand-up comedy, comedy workshops, private shows and corporate shows, is equally imprudent and even impudent.  

Available on YouTube is an eight-minute video called Sex Education in India. Produced by East India Comedy, it is a satire directed at the conservative attitude of the state towards sex education in India. The video is shot inside a classroom and depicts high school students, curious about sex, being browbeaten by their teacher in a sex education class. Towards the end, one student protests against the authoritarianism of the teacher. The others conclude that they already know much about it from the internet and find the teacher’s discomfort in discussing sex baffling. The plot is interesting but, as always, the devil is in the details.  

In its ode to the video, NDTV provides the highlights  of the East India Comedy production:

“The teacher begins his lecture by announcing, "Today we are going to talk about achoo (he can't even say the word - SEX) education.”
A few other eye-openers about the 'subject' in this sex education class:
- kundlis need to match
- parents have to meet
- a marriage needs take place
- babies are a gift from God
And here's the real stunner - 1.3 billion Gods x 1 blessing = 1.3 billion babies (this is the real cause for India's large population)

If sarcasm isn't your cup of tea, steer clear of this one. To all others, we guarantee you an informative and introspective watch.”  

Yes, the video is sarcastic. But it is not enough to make the point that the state has come across as orthodox and silly. It is essential to pose two questions. Should the sarcasm have been directed elsewhere as well? If yes, why has it not been done?  

First, the sarcasm directed at the state is selective because it is not just the state which denies sex education. The family, which is the basic unit of civil society, also cuts a sorry figure when it comes to discussing sex. 


Second, East India Comedy has excused the family from scorn because that would expose the deficits of civil society. Civil society has been propped up as the antidote to a seemingly pathetic state in recent times and it is here that East India Comedy locates itself. Unfortunately, civil society is not civil enough to make crucial admissions.  

The representation offered by East India Comedy stems from the politics of the urban-elite in India including Youngistan. At the heart of such politics is the consistent denouncement of the state as anti-merit (2007) and corrupt (2011) through sporadic agitations which are portrayed as ‘apolitical’ and ‘national’ by the mainstream media.

Such denouncement discredits the state and weakens demands for its increased and effective role in public life. As a result, civil society institutions such as business corporations and their way of administration emerge as alternatives in the name of ‘corporate governance’. This is music to the ears of the urban-elite. After all, they are the ones engaged in such business and administration as white-collar professionals.  

If the state is indeed worthless, why demand sex education from it at all? Why is it not the responsibility of the family and the extended civil society to impart such education? Why do private schools shy away from discussing sex despite the freedom to do so through extra-curricular activity? Why do impressionable minds have to turn to the internet to learn about sex?  

The reason is that India is a heterogeneous society where sex is taboo due to the oppressive traditions of patriarchy and religion. These are everyday challenges which cannot be tackled through politically correct satire addressed to an English-speaking viewership. Nor can they be addressed through demeaning caricatures of young mothers in colourful saris tending to newborns in class, as depicted in the video.

The taboo on sex poses a danger to sexual health and gender identities. Yet both the state and civil society hesitate to address the issues at hand and try to avoid unpopularity and conflict. By focusing only on the failure of the state, East India Comedy passes over the failures of civil society.

 However, the worst error in the video is on pornography. Disappointed at the teacher’s refusal to discuss sex in class, two male students are shown drawing satisfaction from the fact that they can know it all from YouPorn and RedTube, two pornographic websites. A female student ridicules their ‘immaturity’ and suggests that they watch X-Videos because it has high definition videos.  

The exhibition of greater knowledge about pornography by a female student may challenge gender stereotypes, but it raises serious questions. Can one learn only about the act of sex from pornography? Does pornography not legitimize sexual violence to the viewer?  

These are questions that require reflection and cannot be addressed through chic satires.– These are questions that require reflection and cannot be addressed through chic satires. In fact, the satire itself needs to be dissected for, concealed within the humour are the class prejudices of the urban-elite, masquerading as popular sentiment, just as they were during the anti-Mandal protests and  the Anna Hazare movement.     


(Arunoday Majumder is a Junior Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics and an independent media practitioner. He has worked previously with two prominent English news television stations. He can be reached at 

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