Dissecting the Indian Male
Posted by Jerry on May 29, 2006
[Refer to this post for a more formal treatment of this issue: Disecting the Gay Indian Male.]
So, at work, I sit beside this handsome, Indian boy; he’s tall, has broad shoulders, a sharp face, and wears rectangular, thick-framed glasses. As I said, he’s quite handsome.
Anyway, the point of my writing this post, however, is not to explore the details of his attractiveness, but to consider his non-verbal interactions with me in light of the larger attitude of masculinity and collectivist mentality in India.
This handsome bloke (yes, we speak British here) has this habit of nonchalantly placing his hand on my thighs while talking to me; or holding my hands in his and looking directly into my eyes when he’s asking me for some help or advice (typically, in matters of editing and studying).
Needless to say, being that I have the “hots” for men, or in other words, being that I fancy young blokes, his non-verbal style of communicating with me is only slightly uncomfortable – oh, but I’m NOT complaining! Just merely stating the fact that it’s a wee bit uncomfortable – especially the hands-on-my-thighs part.
And no, he is not gay – that is a fact. I’m certain of it. In all other matters, he displays the kind of typical straight boy goofiness that young, straight American males tend to display – a kind of hollow excitement of being perpetually at the cusp of puberty, only just becoming aware of their raging testosterone, and consequently going berserk!
His physical frankness with me is not unusual as a manner of behavior among Indian men. One could argue quite persuasively that India is an androgynous – if not an outright feminine – culture; its men are very well-adjusted to displays of sensitivity, emotional depth, and homosocial intimacy (I wonder if Bollywood has a big role in shaping the Indian male psyche as such).
It is not rare to see men walking around the city-streets hand-in-hand, or arms over their shoulders, or displaying other signs of very intimate affection towards each other. This one time at the train station, I saw a group of young men caressing each other’s hair, one of them combing the other’s lengthy locks with what seemed like so much love in his eyes, while the other men in the group carried on a lively and animated conversation among each other.
Well, all of this means, it gets awfully hard for *actual* gay men like to me to figure out who’s in who’s “camp” – if you know what I mean. It’s incredibly risky to assume someone’s gay, or someone has the “hots” for you just by their non-verbal behavior and displays of intimacy.
I suppose this could possibly lead to a further psychological burial of a gay man’s homosexual expression because of the ambiguous nature of homosocial behavior he observers among the men around him. Moreover, this ambiguity probably leads Indian gay men to try and seek satisfaction and fulfillment of their psychological desires to be intimate with another man in such homosocial relationships (i.e., in safe homosocial intimacies with straight men) thereby repressing a full-blown expression of their proper sexuality with other gay men.
All of that (and other socio-psychological causes) then probably leads some Indian gay men to delude themselves into thinking that they are in fact bi-sexual, or maybe even straight! And not as a matter of fact, but as an act of conditioned force upon their own minds – undoubtedly, with terrible consequences for themselves and for those they come in close contact with.
The collectivistic influence:
The collectivist expression in all of this is the apparent lack of any notion of individual space and personal privacy. It is deemed rude and disrespectful for one to insist on privacy among friends, colleagues, co-workers, relatives, or family members. In fact, insisting on privacy on any matter is also looked upon with suspicion.
For example, if I insisted on closing the door to my bedroom, certainly it must be because I have something to hide! What is it that I do that cannot be shared by others?
In fact, at work, I am routinely subjected to all kinds of questions about my personal and professional life that I find quite intrusive and unnecessary for them to know about. One of my co-workers insisted on finding out my middle name and my official signature – and I barely know the guy!
Yet, insisting on privacy or declining to answer such questions casts you in a suspicious light; you are considered as possibly dishonest, or at least obnoxiously conceited.
It is also regarded as offensive to maintain personal space between yourself and another person. Why would you want to maintain such a distance (a distance that Indians would find inordinately greater than necessary)? Is it because the person has foul odor? Do you not like being next to the person? Maintaining personal distance also could be construed as your unwillingness to be friendly with the person.
Thus, everybody wants to be in everyone else’s business and everyone else’s personal space. That is the culture. It is a clear expression of its collectivist influence. The psychological mentality of collectivism and the physical reality of a highly over-populated country exacerbate the rampant disregard for and stifling of individualistic notions.
This collectivistic influence probably plays a fueling factor in the kind of social, non-verbal behavior Indians exhibit among themselves. Even when they are being hospitable towards each other, the manner of their hospitality borders on force, coercion, and then even suspicion. It’s too much to get into right now.