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Editorial: Choice and Sexuality

A series of colourful fabric on display

How do we make choices? In most cases we do a sort of cost-value analysis, as in what it will cost us in terms of energy, time, money, social approval and /or whatever other costs may be involved as compared to what it will give us in terms of personal value, satisfaction, enjoyment, or any other gain that may be important to us. This sort of rational exercise is handy when it comes to most matters but it very rarely is, and for that matter, can be, applied to matters of sexuality, because let’s face it, our sexual choices for the most part are not a result of rational, level-headed decision making. Quite apart from that, they are also influenced by our milieu, by socio-cultural norms, by the laws and strictures that operate to regulate what we may and may not do. Lest this makes it seem that we are mere puppets triggered by internal whimsy and simultaneously constrained by external forces, our contributors show that this is not so.  For this month’s issue on Choice and Sexuality, instead of interviewing one person, we decided to reach out to many more through two short online polls and a survey.  From the responses that came in, Shikha Aleya offers us some surprising and some not-so-surprising revelations.

In these times of medical and technological advancements it is also not surprising that there is an extensive range of products to choose from. Some of these ‘products’ are babies born with the help of assisted reproductive technologies and surrogacy. Anindita Sengupta analyses whether these technologies offer the possibility to single and gay women and men to create their own families of choice.  And with increasing technology and online access, also come questions of consent, censorship, and what constitutes sexually explicit material as Siddharth Narrain elucidates.

From Malaysia, Dr Ravindran Jegasothy writes about choice and sexuality from the perspective of an obstetrician and gynaecologist. In a thoughtful personal essay, Sohini Chatterjee writes about the winding road and the (in)convenient choices that have brought her closer as a young queer woman to her mother.

Prarthana writes about what she has learned about class, caste, and choices from working with young women in urban poor communities while Vizla Kumaresan in her review of Crazy Rich Asians writes about how super rich people living at the other end of the spectrum in Singapore also have their choices proscribed.

In Hindi, Sumati Panikkar looks at choice and sexuality through the lens of having the right to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ and what the consequences of both can be for women.

In Brushstrokes see the well-illustrated dilemmas that having to make a choice entails, and then relax with Interior Café Night, a lovely short film that powerfully shows where our choices can take us, and that sometimes life offers us a second chance.

In the Book Corner read about a new book on whether Indian women are any closer to having the choice to be a mother or not. Are the individual choices of a woman inherently feminist because she made them herself? The short answer is No! Read all about Choice Feminism in the FAQ Corner.

In the mid-month issue we bring you Part Two of our public interview and Shikha Aleya explores our respondents’ range of opinions about issues of sexuality, disability and choice, comprehensive sexuality education, and young people’s choices and expressions of sexuality. In Hindi we have a translation of a letter from a man to his father where he (the son) talks about the choices he has made in life, the privileges he had and did not have to make these choices, and why and how he chose to come out to his father. In the blogrolls section we have five interesting and diverse articles. There are two that focus on recent institutional decisions about choice. One is about why women watch porn and what they think of the government’s decision to ban more than 800 porn websites and the other is about whether, despite recent progressive judgments in India, women really have the right to choose their sexual partners. This one focuses on the family – how the Indian family is changing vis a vis accepting sexual choices. Lots to think about…

Happy reading!

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