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Cult Health Sex. 2013;15(3):327-40. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2012.754945. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Love and desire amongst middle-class Gujarati Indians in the UK and India.

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Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education University of London, UK.


The paper describes findings from an ethnographic study exploring understandings of love and intimacy amongst young heterosexual middle-class Indians of Gujarati origin in the UK and India. A two-site comparative study was used to enable an understanding of how social and economic contexts shape cultural constructions of intimate relationships and sexuality. Focusing on attitudes to 'love at first sight', this paper shows that, for Indian participants, love based on physical attraction denotes a lesser kind of love. A relationship based on 'physical love' is not expected to last, since it has been formed without regard to family and status concerns. Even couples who meet outside of the arranged marriage system demonstrate the quality of their love by not having sex with one another before marriage. In the UK, however, participants view love as properly spontaneous. Love at first sight is considered desirable and demonstrates how the relationship must be based on love only, without any concern for (for example) material gain. This spontaneous love entails both physical attraction and emotional connection - an early transition to sex, usually before marriage, was seen as both desirable and inevitable.

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