Youth suicide involves personal, medical, family and social matters. A complex subject and worse for a foreigner, but I’ll offer a different, perspective. I’ll focus solely on sex as one part of the issue. Let’s view the touchy subject of sex in perspective of some of the largest worldwide suicide rates among educated youth. Let’s be brave and have a rational discussion.
One night in 1985, my friend Mike Neff hit his girlfriend. I disapproved. My mistake was assuming there would be a tomorrow.
He chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. He hung himself.
We were both seventeen years old. I’ve been affected by three suicides in my youth and later two as an adult.
Indian youth suicide compels a discussion about suffering, both of those who die and of people who suffer similarly but do not commit suicide. For two more reasons I broach this topic.
- I spoke with some professional young Indian men about their pain over the alienation between men and women.
- Most who follow the Vivriti.org blog are in the at risk group for youth suicide, ages 18 – 24 followed by 25 – 34.
Harmless sex is part of a happy life, it shares affection between people…
At a café in Hyderabad, after a public discussion, young professional men opened their broken hearts to me. ‘Women are like aliens to us,’ one said. ‘We’re kept separate all through school and even in college.’ One man added, ‘I’m afraid to offer my number to a woman, if she calls the police, I would be taken to jail and it would destroy my career.’ Another man said, ‘I have a colleague who travels to Thailand and has affairs.’ I asked if his colleague would give his wife such liberty? ‘No!’ Was the answer. Another said, ‘a colleague agreed to an arranged marriage simply for sex.’ He was thirty-five and still virgin. He feared he would die before having sex. Everyone agreed the logic (something is better than nothing) was a horrible reason to marry. I know one Indian woman in her early thirties who fell in love overseas. Nothing prepared her for the intense passions she experienced, she became terribly unstable. I feared for her safety. She would have done almost anything to have access to the lover that denied her. Unrequited longing makes some people emotional but for others it’s dangerous, especially to face it alone with no experience. Allowing experience, especially for women, is not a crazy foreign idea. It’s a response to a problem.
“…what if a young woman just wants a physical relationship without getting married? That is unthinkable.
The radical position to take would be that of increasing the age of marriage to 21 for women and lowering the age of consent to 16 years. But that would give her 5 years of sexual freedom.”
From the general chart above, we see causes that explain Indian youth suicide
The youth suicide causes overlap with sex relations, this includes divorce, pregnancy, cancellation of marriage, social reputation, dowry, love affairs and probably many Indian youth suicides from the huge class of unknown causes involve intimate relationships.
Arbitrary ideas around sex vary through human culture and history. Some cultures are painfully restrictive compared to others. Saudi Arabia, India, America and The Netherlands are all different in the way society views sex. In the book Mothers and Others, Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy recalled the story of a Naskapi tribesman who criticized a Jesuit missionary. “Seeing the priest’s dismay at the group’s sexual promiscuity and uncertain paternity, the man responded: ‘Thou hast no sense. You French people love your own children, but we love all the children of the tribe.” To which Sarah added; “Spoken like a true cooperative breeder.” We should all agree violence, coercion, recklessness (like unsafe sex) and deceit should be avoided. These guides don’t create an ideal, they exist to stop harm.
“In [India,] 19 of the 35 states, … females outnumbered men when it came to suicides triggered by love affairs…”
India gave the world Tantra, the Kama Sutra, the temples of Khajuraho, and Osho Rajneesh. It makes no sense for India to hold back on talking about sex alternatives in the 21st century. After all, India is literally a fountain of creative genius to the world in science, art, music, medicine and technology.
I went to the Hyderabad comedy club and most of what was funny was the sexual inference. The reality is not hidden but the honesty is indirect. So what is the solution? Sex is an instinctive life impulse, to deny it is dishonest. I speak directly to the huge indian demographic between 18 – 34. The truthfulness needed may go far beyond what our parents ever imagined. Every human advance today came about as an alternative to what went before, that process of advance is still ongoing. The conventional mind feels certainty and that’s absurd in the light of the change in conventions over the centuries. Every advocate for a new advance began as a minority. If we wish to recon with sex honestly, harmlessly and pave the way to more wholesome access to freer choices, we need to be part of a new kind of thinking that adapts to the world as it is, not as our ancestors saw it.
People need to feel safe and respected in their sexual self discovery. People don’t want the wrath of the orthodox to crush them especially women whose desires lay hidden behind fears about reputation, pregnancy, abuse, rape, loss of freedom and livelihood. I’m saying we must put an end to using sex as a weapon. We cannot share a woman’s private pictures and be considered trustworthy. We cannot slut-shame women for having their own desires that make us uncomfortable. We cannot punish another for not loving us for if we do such things, the environment will remain hostile to any discovery of freer love that is more life affirming. Do not think women are the only ones who suffer the starvation of joy. Regarding youth suicide, men kill themselves just as effectively and suicide is a way out of pain filled desperation.
Despair arises when we struggle within ourselves and we see no solution on the horizon. Denial of an instinctive joy represents just such a struggle. Again, with youth suicide it is a matter of life and death. Peoples discomfort is of less importance than mitigating the problem.
We can only explore our instinctive joys with like-minded people and such people need the ability to both find each other AND also have the freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ To respect others wishes to the same degree as we want respect for our own, this is contrary to selfishness and that is why it is truly spiritual. If our spiritual integrity cannot reckon realistically with instinctive impulses, then spirituality remains undeveloped. We need the strength to let the tears stream down our faces as our hearts break because another does not choose us. We must still stand strong for other people choices and not turn into reactive beasts. Defend women’s choices as you would want them to defend yours.
If a man or a woman says ‘no,’ they liberate us to find someone who truly wants to say ‘yes!’ Human beings are fallible, we live in a state of trial and error, but handling sexuality is both delicate and the emotions are intense. We need to find those people who will support us in our discovery and hold us when we cry. Like minded friends need to gather in mutual support and put other friends in check when their behavior leads to distrust or harm.
Love each other.
By Todd Vickers