And I Continue To Walk The Tightrope Of Being A Demisexual Woman In India… Every Day

As a demisexual, I can't ever feel sexual attraction for anyone - unless I am really close emotionally. But does Indian society care about that? No. I'm called the 'finicky, choosy' woman.

As a demisexual, I can’t ever feel sexual attraction for anyone – unless I am really close emotionally. But does Indian society care about that? No. I’m called the ‘finicky, choosy’ woman.

Have you seen a tight-rope walked in a circus? Hundreds of pairs of eyes are on her. They cheer, they shout, they cat-call – but she must do her thing anyway. Someone from below is busy sending plates and cups and whatnot flying her way, which she catches with ease and balances them on her head. And she walks, walks despite it all.

I saw one just like her when I went to the circus as a child. I also remember how she tripped, slipped, and fell onto the net below, plate and all. I remember how everyone became silent immediately, and for the rest of the evening, all everyone could talk about was that she had “flopped.” It didn’t matter that she had changed and come back to swing on trapezes with aplomb.

I feel like that tight-rope walker today. One step at a time, but not a clue where the path lies, or who to trust on that path. Well, this is why.

Labelled “the prude”

When friends and classmates in school and college would have crushes and “a thing” for actors, boy band faces, sportsmen, and pop stars, I couldn’t understand it. What did they mean when they thought someone was cute, what did it mean to say that someone was kissable or that someone made them want to “jump another’s bones”? I tried asking once, but I was made fun of almost immediately – so I switched gears to look like a comic version of one of our teachers asking the question. Clever. My slip was swept away, but I came to know that I was walking a tight-rope for the first time.

But it hurt, all this time, it hurtWhat was this all about? Why was I being shut out of this? A friend’s mother, a counsellor, and the liberal mother among all of our mothers, decreed that it was just age. “It’s just a phase. Soon, you’ll find boys attractive enough to be with!” 

When crushes turned into relationships, it got tougher. Friends who didn’t think twice before hanging out were seen walking down hallways at school holding hands with one another. I couldn’t find it in me to “be attracted” to anyone – and the one sweet person who thought I was worth asking out received a tight-lipped no from me – because I couldn’t find that thing in me that would make me want to say yes.

Instantly, I was the prude. The loser. The nerd. The one with the books. The conservative one. The freak. The one-who-turned-HIM-down. Who-does-she-think-she-is. They saw the slip this time, but they’d sent back a plate instead. A plate called “I must avoid being bullied.”

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But it hurt, all this time, it hurt. Why was I not feeling this thing that other girls around me were? What made someone seem attractive to them? How did they think with their bodies like that? “Some people take time to develop…” 

The man who couldn’t take a NO

Then came the “turning point” when I was readied for an auction: on the marriage market, of course. My profile was buffed and polished, I was prepared for the one thing I was meant to do all my life. I was put on display. Sometimes, men were put on display. I couldn’t take my pick. I wouldn’t, take my pick.

Around this time, a man walked into my life. He asked me out, and I said yes. Why did I say yes? But I don’t feel attracted to him. I like him as a friend, and I guess I could love him, but I’m not attracted to him. He would make his advances, I’d say no.

Sixteen times.
No x 16.

But one day, he’d had enough. Look, I know you’ve had a past. I know you’ve been raped and all that jazz. Trust me, the only cure is to give in. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck in this trap forever.

No x 16. But he forced himself, anyway. I lay there, not knowing what was happening to my body or my mind. I felt nothing – except a horrible, disgusting feeling of being like a garden full of weeds and earthworms. So, how did that feel? He asked, his smile a twisted knife digging into my gut. I’m leaving, I said, finding my clothes in all kinds of places in the room that I didn’t know existed. Months of gaslighting, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and foisted titles of “abnormal bitch,” “freak.” “tease,” “damaged goods” followed. I had slipped a second time. But this time, I had to carry whole saucepans in the name of a secret, while I walked the tight rope.

One fine day, armed with my therapist, I opened the door and let him out, once and for all. He married the girl he had been cheating on with me, anyway, in under six months from that day. My therapist found the word I’d been looking for until then: asexual.

Attacked by the marriage market

But there was no way this word could even find its way into conversations with family, no. How, even, when all that you are doing is reduced to: “Ladki choosy hai,” “Ab yeh kaunsi Kareena hai joh ladkon ko aise reject karti hai?” There was also no way this word had found its way into LGBTQIA+ – because many “well meaning” people assumed that A meant allies. Way to co-opt things, straight people. The rope got narrower.

Eventually, there was another turn in the road. This time, when a sliver of hope arrived in the form of the deepest emotional bond I have felt for a human. I felt “something” for a man who had walked into my life. Asexual was adjusted into potentially demisexual. A person who feels sexual attraction only where there is an emotional bond. Two dishes were taken off, but I still walk the tight rope.

But what about mindsets?

Because even if the law decriminalizes consensual same-sex relations, it doesn’t change people’s mindsets – and that change in the law does nothing for people like me. Procreation is the only goal for mankind – so not being able to have sex is an anomaly. It’s a condition that’s “treatable.”

When I opened up and shared my story with a few friends, they were harsh. One said, “Dude I have the same thing too… I can’t sleep with a guy if he’s not cool.” Another said, “Hey that’s me too, I have that demi thing!” and then in the same breath said that she had a list of men she’d seen after right-swiping on Tinder that were all fantastic in bed, before ending with the line “sex is fun, give it a shot.”

Too many hands were tugging at the tight rope, waiting for me to fall. I’m still walking, slowly.

Image source: Shutterstock

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