Sex Across Borders
Above: Statues at a Karma Sutra Temple in India
Here is my personal experience with the three different cultures.
Our founding fathers were Puritans whose religious beliefs were restrictive to say the least. Sex was viewed as a necessary evil for propagation but sinful for any other reason, certainly not something to be enjoyed. And women in particular were seen as the most sinful so a woman who enjoyed sex was thereby… a witch.
Eve’s corruption, in Puritan eyes, extended to all women, and justified marginalizing them within churches’ hierarchical structures
As America grew, many cultures mixed in but our base remained this Puritan strain and we see it eek in different political movements as well as the culture in general. Despite the fact that we have a comparatively ‘open’ society when it comes to sex, we are overshadowed by guilt. Sex is seen as something dirty or at the very least something to hide. Everyone does it but no one talks about it and if they do it is with a guilty pleasure. Television shows often portray the American marriage as the one partner eager for sex (usually the husband) while the other puts it off. Eventually the assumption is the one put off will seek it out elsewhere.
Growing up, the message seemed to me that one should have various relationships to figure out what you wanted. During that time, a certain amount of sexual freedom was accepted, but, when you got married, you settled down and put your past behind you and sex became about your duty to your husband and for having children. A confusing message to be sure because at no point was sex valued as the ultimate expression of love. In one’s youth it was seen as a form of exploration, even acting out and later as a duty, sometimes even a burden, and a necessary part of having a family.
Because sex is a natural part of life but in America it is not culturally accepted as such (without guilt) then desires get suppressed which leads to them coming out in all sorts of other ways like infidelity, pornography, even perversity.
For an American, coming from a culture of repressed desires and an overshadow of sexual guilt, the Dominican culture feels like a breath of fresh air. There, sexuality oozes out of everyone, freely, openly. Sexuality is integrated into everything from the erotic dancing style, language expressions, fashion and of course, body language. There is no guilt whatsoever associated with sex, instead sex is seen as a pleasurable thing that doesn’t cost money (theoretically) and there is no reason no to do it. Men look at women boldly, seeing through their clothes with their stare, imagining sex with them. Women are greeted as “mi amor” (my love) or “mi vida” (the love of my life) even if they are talking to a stranger.
It appears to be a very romantic culture. The men consider themselves dominant, at least they act this way, but in reality, most Dominican men are powerless, they can not back up their proclamations, their big talk. Still, until you realize this, they all seem like Don Juan.
So I was swept away by this culture when I first came to it. As American I always felt out of place because I was raised to be very comfortable with my sexual side but I wasn’t interested in a series of partners. I was looking for a monogamous relationship that was sexually exciting and I wasn’t able to find it. Sex was exciting while I was single but as soon as I settled down it got boring. Being a very loyal partner, I stayed in these boring relationships for years…
So here I was in a tropical paradise where I was being promised just what I was looking for and I fell for it — hook, line and sinker.
What I then came to realize was that Dominicans will say anything, and mean it sincerely for that moment but when the moment has passed, they are on to something else. Love is promised because it is a doorway to sex but sex is not love for them. It is a fun exercise. The casualties of promising love are merely that, a means to an end.
After being married to man that had a double life for the entire time we were together, with his other family complicit in the subterfuge, I realized that loving a Dominican was toxic for me. I didn’t have the radar to keep myself on track. I feared I would only fall in love again and realize too late that the love was one sided. So I made a decision that while, at that time, my life remained in the Dominican Republic, my heart would never return.
Sometimes I think God is a trickster because who could have predicted that I would meet the man of my dreams, from a completely different culture across the globe, right in my neighborhood but that’s what happened. I was fed up with Dominican love but it was still my home.
India is a complex culture to say the least and so diverse that you really have to discuss its culture regionally versus nationally. Although outwardly India appears more sexually restrictive than the United States (and without question the Dominican Republic), India is the country of origin for the Kama Sutra, thereby having the richest sexual history of any nation. I can not speak of India as a whole but I can speak on how my ex views sex and it couldn’t be more different than the other cultures I have spoken of.
For Indians, sex is an expression of love, one to be enjoyed freely without guilt…but just with your one and only true love. Sex is a powerful way to connect and not be engaged in merely for physical pleasure alone. Culturally, in India the role of sex is the opposite of my experiences in America. In traditional parts of India, there is no sex before marriage — there isn’t even dating before marriage. Instead, sexual desires are channeled into worship, family duty, and patience. Men and women couldn’t even be seen in public together if they weren’t married or direct family. The police would stop you and call the parents.
Once married, sex enters the relationship not only to have a family, but as a way to express love to each other. Sex is honored, explored and considered a positive part of a whole relationship — not the most important nor the least.