James W. Hicks, M.D.

Sex among South Asian Men

In Cultures on August 8, 2010 at 9:45 am

A first time visitor to South Asia might think he or she is surrounded by homosexuals. South Asian men and woman commonly show physical affection for each other in public, for example by holding hands as they walk down the street or through the park. In contrast, such public affection is almost never expressed between a man and a woman. South Asian men also make strong eye contact in a way that can be misleading to a Westerner, who assumes that an unbroken stare indicates sexual interest.

Over the last decade, concern about the spread of AIDS in the Indian subcontinent has led several researchers to examine men’s sexual behaviour with other men, with surprising results. Even though almost every man gets married, rates of homosexual behavior were generally in the range of 10-50%.

Ten percent of single men in rural villages reported that they had had anal sex with another man in the previous year alone. The highest rate was found in Orissa, in the east of India, where nearly one in ten married men and one in five single men had had anal sex with another man in the past year. Two other studies found that seventeen percent of male college students and six percent of male slum dwellers in Chennai had had sex with another man in their lifetime. Among the college students, about half of the men who had had sex with men had also had sex with women. Nearly one third of male prisoners in Uttar Pradesh had had some sort of sex with a man, mostly anal.

Several studies have focused on truck drivers, because they are seen as a potential vehicle for the spread of AIDS. A survey of long-distance truckers in Lahore, Pakistan found that half had had sex with a man. Half of these truck drivers were married, and rates of sex with men were no different among those who were married than among those who were single. A survey of truck drivers and their helpers in Dkhaka, Bangladesh found one in five had ever had sex with a man, most often with a friend, and mostly anal sex. More than eighty percent of men who had had sex with a man in the previous year had also had sex with a woman in the previous year.

These surveys suggest that men are not having sex with other men because they lack opportunities to have sex with women. In fact, the men who reported having sex with other men were more likely to have had sex with women as well (even if they were not married), more likely to have had multiple female partners, more likely to have paid for sex, and more likely to have had anal sex with their wives. In most cases, homosexual acts appear to be just part of the repertoire for a South Asian man with a strong sex drive and/or close male friends.

  1. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. I wouldn’t say South Asia is a sexually repressed society, but there is hardly any condemning of pre-martial sex and boundaries toward sexuality, especially when it comes to males.

  2. […] also my posts on Sex Among South Asian Men and Bisexuality among Indian Women. Share this:FacebookTwitterRedditEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the […]

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