Saturday, 22 November 2008

Survey Janaha Sukhino Bhavantu

If you are of the creed that remembers the Perus Narkp hoax by pen pricks and do not labour under the illusion that all our media/press consists of dedicated hardworking individuals who take great pains to sell us the truth and nothing but the truth, and if you are looking for a good laugh then I suggest you pick up the latest India Today and read their sex survey. Be warned , the cover is a tad NSFW.

Yes this is India's top news weekly we are talking about. And just because I'm targeting them this time does not mean that other magazines are above par.

This survey, conducted countrywide across 11 cities and 5353 people purports to be reflective of the trends in India's bedrooms.

My first and foremost complaint about this survey, which mainly relates to the manner in which the results of the survey are presented, is one that has been made by several people against sex surveys conducted by almost every magazine every year. It is that they all primarily seem to be just an excuse to put sleazy photos all over the magazine. And one big one on the cover which I guess boosts the sales of the magazines in the stalls. An innocent reader would think India Today puts these pics there to titillate the reader. But just read through the text of the article (which is nauseatingly M&B) and you will agree with me is that the main function of these photos is to distract the reader and keep him from realizing that what the mag is trying to pass off as primary research statistics is actually just a shoddy compilation of numbers.

And then there are the absurdities with the results of the survey itself. For the sake of clarity, let us divide these into -
  1. results which I deem absurd because they seem to at great variance with the world I see around me.
  2. results which are objectively absurd and cannot logically be possible.
I could type all night and not put down all the examples that I deem fit to fall under the first category. But notable among these is one which says that 1 in every 3 men in Hyderabad are gay and two thirds of them openly so. Another would have it that adultery is routinely committed by a large section of the population and in some cities they almost constitute a majority(47% in Ludhiana with many more who would like to). If you manage to tear your eyes from the ubiquitous sleazy photos (it took me quite an effort, frankly) and actually read the article you will realize that almost all the results that they have come up with would very well fit into this article.

That possibly is the point of the article - to shock the reader with sensational statistics which give him some vicarious pleasure by either allowing him to tut at the decadence of his fellow countryman or letting him fantasize about debauchery that a huge chunk of country of a billion is up to. Even a person arguing for the magazine wouldn't disagree with me on this completely. He would perhaps say that the objective of the article is to disillusion prudish sexual revolution denialists like me. He could have possibly had a decent case there and the matter could have only been settled by another survey (hopefully with a more broad based cross section) which supported or contradicted the statistics thrown up by by India Today. The results falling within the second category render it unnecessary to have a second survey to bring the results of this one into doubt.

The results which are objectively absurd are the ones which gave me the heartiest of laughs. One of the results they put out says that about 80% of the population had their first sexual experience with a younger person (want to be shocked even more - this is the answer given by 90% of the women and 72% of the men). While such a result is perfectly possible for just the sample group, it is almost impossible in any sample group which claims to be representing the population of the entire nation. Now if a person has his/her first sexual experience with a younger person, then there could be these possible scenarios
  1. The younger person is also having his/her first sexual experience which for him/her is with an older person bringing the odds between younger and older person for first sexual experience partner to 1:1.
  2. This is not the first sexual experience for the younger person whose first experience was with a different older person, in which case the odds for first experience with older person only increase. We are ruling this out here because though it seems more likely, it is in direct contradiction the results of the survey.
  3. This is not the first sexual experience of the younger person whose first sexual experience was with an even younger person. Even now, between Person, younger person and even younger person the odds for first sexual experience with younger person: 1st sexual experience with older person is 2:1.
To reach the ratio given by the survey i.e. 4:1 you are talking about a scenario with four levels of younger persons which, given the mean age for first sexual experience by the same survey (lower than I expected but not ridiculously so), leads one to either impossible or really disgusting and morally reprehensible conclusions.

Then there is also a section of the population which has sex with prostitutes but never pays. This apart from the sets of people who rarely pay, seldom pay and mostly pay.

Something I should have had a problem with at the outset is the methodology. I can't really blame them for taking opinions of only literate, urban samples. But when you have a sample which by no stretch of imagination can be a proper cross section of the population, do not portray it to be one. It would have definitely helped if they had provided the mean economic and educational level of those interviewed.

Further they had such a brilliant opportunity to gather data that would actually be useful. It definitely wouldn't have harmed them to measure the level of awareness regarding healthy practices and basic hygiene relating to sex. Despite the several condom ads in between the pages, there is nothing that tries to delve into this aspect. A broad based survey looking into reproductive health awareness is actually necessary in our country which not only has a huge HIV population but also fares badly on most other indicators.

Even leaving ethical considerations and sense of decency aside, one wonders if the magazine is not afraid of losing a portion of its subscriber base just for the sake of selling a few extra copies from newsstands. If I were a subscriber who had it delivered to my home, not only would I be embarrassed to be seen reading it in front of family, I also wouldn't want my children (well, say I'm about 15 years older in this hypothetical) to go around with really wrong notions about the birds and the bees.

1 comment:

worn dog said...

lmao at some of the statistics, but ok - suppose you wanted your kid to be a whorndawg, ala kal penn's father in van wilder 2. wouldn't you want your kid to be inspired by these statistics?

You wuz here