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Flowers caressing each other have been replaced by actual French kisses onscreen today, but has the modern Indian household moved past its coyness towards good sex?
A few weeks back when I was approached to write this article I spent a good amount of time wondering if I should wriggle out of this assignment by making some lame excuse to the editor. I’ve written about a variety of topics ranging from careers to lifestyle, but writing about sex – and that too more specifically good sex – was a first. People will read what I have to say about sex, I worried; and perhaps some of them are people whom I know personally. I was dismayed. Never mind that I am a 30+ year old woman and a mother to boot. I mean, obviously my child was not born of Immaculate Conception!
Nevertheless I didn’t want to come across as a prude and hence accepted the assignment – after all as a professional writer I should be able to write about anything. But then I was faced with this strange reluctance to kick-start the article. The deadline was approaching slowly but steadily and yet, whenever I thought of beginning to write, I was filled with some vague nervousness and maybe what one could call bashfulness?
After a fair bit of pep talk to myself and not to mention a “gentle reminder” from the editor, I finally decided to stop with the unnecessary procrastination and get on with the writing. After all, it is precisely this very typical Indian attitude about sex that this article is meant to tackle in the first place!
Growing up, all the sex education that we received was limited to studying reproduction in biology class. I remember that the school library had stacks of a magazine called Teenager, in which the most interesting section that my friends and I sneakily – and eagerly – read and discussed was the Agony Aunt column. This column contained letters from adolescent boys and girls who, now that I think about it, were clearly caught in the confusing and chaotic transition from childhood to adulthood. However, the responses by the counsellor were always on the lines of the evils of masturbation, what to do to get rid of “unholy” thoughts and feelings, how it was the devil that was tempting us to stray into the wrong path and so on.
If anyone is harbouring the illusion that this is indeed the right way to introduce the topic of sex to young and impressionable minds, they cannot be farther from the truth. I personally know 5 people – all of them close friends of mine – who have had very unhappy and unfulfilled married lives simply because the belief that sex is something wrong or dirty is embedded somewhere deep down in their psyche. All of them are fully functioning and healthy adults who are great people in their own right, but sadly, good sex is just an impossible dream thanks to the years of social conditioning. I mean, for 20 years we are told to press our knees together and “sit like a lady” – and then one fine day we are expected to open our legs wide! Not so easy!
As a country, we seem to oscillate between two extremes when it comes to sex. On one end, we are ashamed to talk about it; and on the other end of the spectrum we have those articles in bestselling magazines which give tips to make your sex life “steamy”. I wonder how many people have actually found any of these tips and tricks useful. Where is the middle ground? When and how are we going to start imparting valuable and sensible information about good and healthy sexual practices to the next gen?
Even today, proper sex education is considered taboo in our country. One feels scandalised to even utter the word sex. What one can gather from the recent ban on condom ads is that apparently even our government is squeamish about it – never mind that India is practically bursting at its seams with overpopulation! Seeing the ad for condoms on TV when I was a kid taught me next to nothing. As a south Indian, for the longest time I was under the impression that the song, “Pyaar Hua Ekraar Hua” was the ad jingle composed for Nirodh. Only a few years back did I accidently discover that it is in fact a popular movie song! Just as I accidentally discovered the big O, again only a few years back!
When I got married, all the “advice” that I received was from a gynaecologist who told me that as a woman I should be prepared to handle pain; if not – she was quite confident about this – my husband would leave me and find someone else. Now, that’s what is called motivation, isn’t it!? The icing on the cake was that I was subjected to further counselling by a relative who said, “You have to understand that sex is not important to women but it is very important for men. So you need to keep that in mind for a happy and peaceful married life. But your husband is a good man, and he won’t go astray; so you need to understand that and give yourself to him.” Wow. I can hear a thousand vaginas just flooding with desire.
Honestly, it makes me wonder if these women have actually ever had good sex in their lives. Or does sex simply refer to a duty which you perform half-heartedly to keep your husband happy? Does it strike them that perhaps women need not always “give” and have every right to “take” too? Don’t we women deserve to find out what good sex feels like!? Aren’t we entitled to our fair share of toe curling, earth shattering climaxes?
It seems to me that all the misplaced and overrated lessons of morality that is imparted to us in Indian society have compelled us to curb our natural urges and instincts to such a great extent that we feel discouraged to even attempt to explore our own bodies and hence we fail to realise what pleases us. I wonder if Indian men realise that for the most part, a woman needs to attain a certain level of emotional intimacy before she can truly enjoy physical intimacy. How many take the time and effort to bother with foreplay? Communication is key to a good sex life but when we ourselves are not aware of what gives us pleasure, how can we properly talk about our needs and desires to our partner? The fact that the vocabulary of sex is western centric doesn’t help much either. It is hard to imagine a Subramanian or a Sitalakshmi going, “Faster baby, faster!”
Quite a lot of people – both men and women – whom I spoke to when researching for this article had no idea about female orgasms and female self-pleasure. Knowledge about adult toys is minimal. Only now have a few websites come up which offer sex toys for sale in India. Even popular contemporary Indian literature hasn’t escaped this strait jacket attitude towards sex. With a few exceptions, often Indian writing on eroticism seems rather forced or tepid. Movies dealing with sexual topics are either incredibly naïve or sleazy (again with a few rare exceptions).
A lot has indeed changed in India over the years but many of the changes remain superficial with respect to sex. Only when sex is accepted as something normal can we hope to appreciate – and expect – good sex.
Image source: Flickr, for representational purposes only.