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The taboo on talking about sex has made dolls for the “husband’s pleasure” of us Indian women. Let’s get a bit dirty and uninhibited, and talk about sex so that we know what pleasures us.
“Never have I ever… done it on top.”
“Never have I ever… had a quickie.”
“Never have I ever… pleasured myself.”
“Never have I ever… watched some erotic with my partner.”
The statements landed unabashedly on the table of the pub, a bunch of female colleagues winding down after an arduous day at work. The drinking game of “Never have I ever…” started innocuously, with confessions of white lies and childhood pranks sprouting as the game moved from one person to the next, and irrevocably swerved towards the siren call of sex-related activities.
My colleague Maria was to my left; a mother of 2, older than me by 7 years; she had spent 17 years in the same organisation and had recently begun to warily seek company of the “young” girls in office. Maria had a glass of untouched Pina Colada resting in front of her as the raucous revelations spun around her and people took sips of their drinks, grinning widely.
While food orders interrupted the thrall of the game, she drew close to me and said, “You girls are so different from me. You come a different world.”
“Nonsense Maria, you’re not that different from us.” I replied, lightly.
“I am. I don’t know all this… I can’t be like… I have never talked about sex before.
The most culpable act in the criminal state of the knowledge women have about sex and sexuality, is not talking about it. Sex education in urban India today, while snarled with controversies, does not help women understand sexuality. It only focuses on sexual intercourse and douses it with facts like STDs, AIDS, pregnancy and hymen-caused pain. Add to that the garnish of “proper” behaviour as construed by society, women usually are shown the picture of sex as an act of wifely duty and procreation, within the strictures of society.
Sex has been an age-old and potent weapon to control and restrict how women dress and talk, curbing the length of our skirts and limit the words we utter in any language. Un-lady-like, scarlet woman, too-forward are all phrases commonly dropped when a woman has toed the line of propriety. And those very words have kept women from exploring their body, desires and even needs.
In college, one of the papers I chose to submit was on the attitude parents held towards sex education, and while I was conducting my interviews with the 35 odd parents who were willing to discuss this with me, I recall all of them squirming when I asked, “Do you talk to your child about masturbation?”
Honestly, I learnt about the act through Harlequin novels, but it’s not like all women read.
So, I do wonder, who’s telling them about the nubbin that holds more power than the brain in the female anatomy?
Who is telling women it is not something only men do or only the male anatomy allows?
That it is not taboo?
Or that it can be done at home and nobody will come to know?
Your body will not change because you touch yourself?
And most importantly, if you don’t know how to touch yourself and give pleasure, when the time does come with your man asks you what you like, you’ll be left befuddled and, most likely, unsatisfied?
And similarly, who is telling women to read that book of Cosmo and find your sex position once in a while? To indulge their curiosity and download the Kama Sutra app if only to learn that kissing and humping does not constitute as sex.
I had a set of friends who helped me wade through this journey, and we were definitely considered “those girls” – the ones who talk and think dirty. But for us that was the definition of being empowered – it started with our body. We also transitioned from being wary to think about it to breaching the conversation in bits and pieces and eventually having enough courage to discuss battery-operated boyfriends and porn.
Empowerment does not only reign in civil rights and societal attitude. Sometimes, it is also the self-limited beliefs we have been fed and continue to believe, even about our bodies. Why do we still shy away from talking about what we like and dislike sexually? Why do women still think it is a man’s job to pleasure them? Why have we let parts of our body be deigned to only have the privileged caress of “the husband”?
You hear feminism is about moving away from ruling the kitchen to ruling the boardroom. I’ll also add the bedroom. The hesitation, anxiety and curiosity about sex and sexuality still lingers, across the old and the young. While there may be a few women who may call themselves emancipated, there are plenty that are still oblivious of the pleasures and possibilities of their body.
That evening, I and Maria shared a cab to the house. And I plucked the courage to ask her, “Do you like having sex?” She continued gazing out of the cab window and replied, “It’s not bad.”
“What did you tell your daughter? She’s old enough to start asking these questions now.”
“I told her to be careful, of condoms and the risks of sex.”
“What about the pleasures of sex? What about the fact that she can control with whom and when and how, but she doesn’t need to afraid of it?”
Maria sat quietly for a while and then replied, “Will you meet my daughter? We can talk to her together.”
“Yes, I’d love to. But you also be there. It’s important she has a mother with her.”
“Yes”, Maria readily replied, and then turned to me and grinned, “I can also learn something.”
Image source: pexels
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Meenakshi Iyer is known to put the "fun" in dysfunction.
Writer, poet, avid reader she
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