Sex or money – which is the bigger taboo in India?


If you were to go around your social circle asking the question: ‘What is the one big taboo in Indian society?’ I guarantee you that you will hear the word ‘sex’ mentioned more often than any other. The reluctance of Indian culture to open up to sex has been blamed for many ills; rape, female subjugation, sexual abuse in families, incest etc. Popular television shows such as Satyamev Jayate have gone on campaigns urging India to awaken, to cast off the shackles of repression.

But there is another subject that ought to give sex close competition: money. It shares many attributes with sex; we like to have it, we’re constantly thinking about it, we immediately get awkward when it comes up in conversations, and we fear the lack of it. Indeed, many neuroscience studies have shown that the arousal we experience when we think of sex and when we think of money are remarkably similar.

I would allege, though, that money is a bigger taboo than sex. With the latter, though we don’t discuss it with our family members, we do discuss it with our peers, and we have a natural curiosity about how it works which drive us to seek information regarding it. And needless to say, if our population is any indication, we seem to know enough about it to get the job done.

But what of money? First, there is no financial education in our schools or universities. Second, it’s never considered good form to talk about it with our parents or siblings. Third, we don’t discuss it with our friends or spouses. And fourth, probably the most crucial, we don’t have the same levels of curiosity about money that we do with sex. Also, money is perhaps a more complicated subject than sex is, so understanding it could take longer.

What all this has done is that it has made us all terribly unequipped to deal with it. Wives fight with husbands, brothers fight with sisters, parents fight with children, all because we don’t understand what money means to the other person – and before that, what it means to us.

With liberalization and the rise in disposable income, there is a generation of people in India now who are drawing large salaries and are yet broke all the time. I fear for them, because many are my friends, and I fear for our children. I can’t help but think that the first step to break this cycle is to begin by talking to one another about money. More specifically, what does money mean to you? What does it stand for in your value system? And how much of it do you need?

After having seen the amount of wastage and destruction that a lack of money-talk causes versus that caused by a lack of sex-talk, I am more than convinced now – especially after finishing a book on the subject – that money and not sex is Indian society’s biggest taboo. Do you agree?

Image Courtesy: Take it Easy


  1. Loved how you interweaved two extremely diverse topics, both of which are taboo in Indian society. Especially loved the last two paragraphs of the post where you mention “More specifically, what does money mean to you? What does it stand for in your value system? And how much of it do you need?” These three questions to me are of primary importance whenever I even think of discussing money with anybody I know.

    And that last line “especially after finishing a book on the subject” is quite a teaser, isn’t it? This is viral marketing for your next book, at its best.


    • Didn’t put it in there as a teaser, no. Just thought of mentioning it ‘in passing’, that’s all 🙂 But since you caught on to it, I will tell you that it has been accepted for publication, and should come out sometime next year. My only fear is that I may end up blogging it all here before it comes out!


  2. Money, sex, alcohol, smoking, porn, etc. are all addictions. IMO.

    Destination Infinity


    • Interesting thought there, Rajesh. Since money and sex are on topic, how do you think we should deal with these addictions? Do you think talking more about them will help? Or will it make it worse?


      • There is a reason why Indian society doesn’t give much importance to (talk about) these things. Sex and money, in particular, can become severe addictions. To make things worse, (modern) society justifies these addictions. These two are a small part of life, but I know many people who obsess over them so much that they think it is life.

        I don’t want to get into right and wrong of things – these two are relative concepts. But people should at least know the characteristics of an addict.

        For that matter, I would say that even food and water are addictions. You can’t live without it – can you?

        See, this is the reason why I don’t talk philosophy 😛


      • Modern society does not just justifies these ‘addictions’ (as you call them), but also celebrates them. In fact, according to the accepted definition of success, sex, money and fame go hand in hand.

        Do you not think, though, that a lack of communication about money leads to a lot of resentment within families? Or are you saying that money is just a medium through which resentment comes out, and it’s not a cause?

        Food and water are definitely addictions, yes.


      • Money and sex being propagated as the ultimate (or the only) happiness agents, and the concept that people can hoard happiness by hoarding money or indulging in excessive sex, will surely result in resentment.

        If a book says that “modern” and “educated” people should openly discuss these things, it’s because the culture from where the author comes from has something to profit by propagating such a motive.

        What I am saying is, there are two sides to every coin. People should definitely discuss – both sides (advantages and limitations of money & sex, both little and excessive). frankly.


  3. R L Patnaik says:

    If u dont have money there is no sex Kommaaraju. Money is first and the sex is next. May be you had it without payment.



  1. […] my previous post I asked the question of whether money or sex is the more serious taboo in India. My vote goes for […]


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