Time for Sex: Kaam-Discipline and the Conduct of Childhood in Global/Hindu Sexology

Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:40 AM
Nassau Suite B (New York Hilton)
Ishita Pande, Queen's University
Historians of sexuality studying regions as diverse as Argentina and Japan have pointed to a sudden and unmistakable proliferation of popular sexology in the 1920s and 30s. In India, sexological tracts recast intimate morality as global science, citing with equal promiscuity “ancient” Hindu compendiums and “modern” western sexologists. In doing so, they reified “sex” as scientific object, everyday practice, and a source of individual, racial and national future. This paper scrutinizes the minute instructions on the timing of sex that animated these hybrid works in colonial north India: At what time of day must one copulate? How many times a week? At what time would intercourse be most productive? How might the timing of sex affect the quality of progeny? And the key questions that gradually overwhelmed others: At what time in one’s life should sexual activity begin? When must a young person be taught the facts of life, or the secrets of sex?

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the universal prescription of sexual satisfaction as a key to conjugal bliss and eugenic procreation was joined with the uniform proscription of the sexuality of children. Global/Hindu sexology served to shore up an emergent reproductive temporality that was characterized by a preoccupation with productive coupling, on the one hand, and an investment in the familial and national future to be secured through a proper conduct of childhood, on the other. By delving into the extensive sexological calculations on the proper ‘time for sex’ in an individual lifecycle, this paper suggests that the global nature of twentieth century sexology- including in its “Hindu” iteration – might be understood as the dissemination of reproductive temporality as a natural, universal, timeless norm, captured in the powerful image of the body as clock.

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