Promiscuity...what does it mean?

September 2, 2011

For my review of the play, “Amrita”, directed by the noted film-maker, M S Sathyu,

click here

Watching this play, and doing the reading required before and after watching, I fell to musing. Today, I’d say Amrita Pritam was a woman not bound by “middle-class morality”. But by that standard of middle-class morality, a not-too-pleasant adverb would have been used to describe her: promiscuous.

What IS promiscuity? is the question that now makes me think. To my mind….promiscuity is the rapid changing of sexual, and possibly emotional, partners…with no discrimination. In fact, I think emotional promiscuity must be even more usettling for the partners in a relationship, than sexual promiscuity…the “one-night stand” is a well-documented feature of sexual relations between human beings…but an emotional relationship is usually invested with the notion of at least some length of time…so a partner who quickly changes hes affections can be a difficult person to deal with.

Even by this reckoning, I don’t find Amrita Pritam promiscuous. Her relationships…with her husband, that did not work within the marital framework, with her lover, Sahir Ludhianvi, and later, her long-standing partnership with Imroze….speak of a deep involvement of the mind and heart, not a passing romantic whim. Friendship, and literary efforts, seem to have been the backbone of her two extra-marital relationships.

However…in Indian society, a woman who leaves her husband, has an affair with another man, and then lives with a third…would certainly be branded promiscuous, and attract the censure and disgust of the average “middle-class” person. And yet…so often, I find these same members of the middle-class being very forgiving towards those with the creative temperament, who lead unconventional lives…“When Saraswathi bestows the creative urge on a man or woman,” said a very staid old aunt of mine, “She also bestows some ‘quirks’.” Quirks, presumably, meaning a disregard of the social conventions! Several movie actors have had a succession of wives and “consorts”, and they were not less the objects of public adulation for all that fact, there is often a sneaking admiration for the Lotharios of the film world!

So…my conclusion is, if I, as a Tambram housewife, take a succession of lovers, it will be promiscuity…but if I am a film star or a celebrity…then a lot of “moral lapses” are overlooked by the Mango Public (Aam Janta)! Double standards are alive and well and kicking over the icons of conformity….