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Stigma around sexual needs of women, and the belief that sex is only for having kids? This is 2021 now, let’s throw away that mindset!
Hey guys! So one of the plus points of being a ‘stay-at-home’ mom with no ‘office schedule’ constraints until the pandemic struck, was that I could travel at the drop of a hat, which means I have a most eclectic mix of female friends scattered across the globe. And even though we all do not talk with each other everyday, we end up having very interesting chats whenever and wherever we meet up. It’s like time stands still, and we simply begin from where we left.
Social media obviously plays an important part in nurturing the bonds and conversations flow seamlessly across shared photos of kids growing up, books read, articles liked, tweets and daily moments captured in pithy two-liners.
And so it was that I bumped into this friend I had met in the Bedouin deserts of the Middle East, and we started talking about kids, school, pollution, extra curriculars… the usual stuff.
How that conversation meandered from there to sex I just don’t know! But that’s what happened and soon she was telling me all about the MIL’s role in her sad sex life.
Please realize that at 40, we were not giggling slyly and dissecting 50 shades of sexual fantasies, but discussing the often sidelined preliminaries of the raasleela. Or, in her case, saasleela, that included the ‘in-laws diktat’ on when you should and should not have sex. This travesty about sexual needs of women in the 21st century mind you!
Having delivered the goods – a boy and a girl — by her early-30s, my friend had been condom-ed, err condemned to a sex-less life dedicated to simply providing ‘service with a smile’ to humanity aka neighbourhood aunties in general and the immediate family in particular. Her job description only hovered around hot phulkas, spotless surfaces, starched clothes and a ‘can-do-will do’ attitude even if that meant packing tiffins of home cooked puri-sabji for all the — chachas, taus, third cousins, Bareillywali mausis — on demand, and adjusting on the communal bed, spread out on the drawing room floor every time relatives visited the family in the Gaon. All of this besides her full-time job.
The scene was such that she had actually been told in no uncertain terms that “there was absolutely no need for her to share the bed with her husband, now that the deed was done! Beti are you going to do it for FUN, hein!!!??? she was asked aloud with much collective rolling of eyes and tittering. “No more crassleela” was the verdict.
There you have it the sanskari KLPD! Now what?
All I could do was lend a sympathetic ear to my friend. But it did make me wonder about the pathetic state of female sexuality in this supposedly ‘modern’ era where fundamental, legit sexual needs of women are frowned upon by totally misplaced notions of propriety.
And talking of propriety, the biggest taboo comes in the form of discussing female orgasm. Any wonder then that the female species is caught in the ‘orgasm gap’ — i.e. men orgasm-ing more frequently during sex than women?
This skewed orgasm equality, caused mainly due to socio-cultural factors, is resulting in more and more sexual dysfunction among women.
According to a survey, there is a lot of stigma attached to “women initiating sex and openly expressing what they want sexually.” In fact in most relationships, very little is known about the “sexual behavior, sexual attitudes, sexual fantasies and marital functioning of women.”
In the light of all of this, the latest photo series on breaking taboos around the Big O was like a breathe of fresh air as I flicked through the news reports today. Dubbed Project O, this tastefully captured photo feature-cum-video on female sexuality by Brazilian photographer and film director Marcos Alberti, along with Smile Makers, shows 22 women in four stages of pleasure – before orgasm, while masturbating, during climax, and after orgasm.
The aim of the project? — to empower women enough to control their sexuality and fight off the ‘shame and silence’ surrounding female masturbation.
As I went though the pictures and the video, the ‘fun’ reaction of all the 22 women, from different nationalities, as they wholeheartedly participated in the campaign, laughing at their own reaction was striking. I think their courage in sending this “strong message” is truly commendable.
The project also throws light on the physical as well as emotional benefits of an orgasm, including stress reduction, boosting the immune system and promoting relaxation due to the release of oxytocin.
All the more reason then to discuss the Big O in the open, especially in the Indian context, where sexual matters are generally brushed under the carpet.
Data collected since Independence clearly shows that Indian women often “lack authority for the control of their sexuality or reproduction” and suffer sexual disharmony in silence. Things are, however, changing, ever so gradually and the new line of thought is aligning itself to sex and female pleasure too, as opposed to pure procreation! Though a whole lot still needs to be done in the field of female sexual dysfunction (FSD) that continues to afflicts a vast percentage of today’s women.
Besides, myths like “Male orgasm is primary and female is secondary” and “No woman wants to have a quickie” also need to be debunked to promote an equitable and healthy sexual environment. An environment where my now 40 year old friend does not have to sneak cuddles with her husband in her own house. An environment where a teenager does not feel embarrassed talking about masturbation. An environment where each individual’s sexual rights are respected, and sexual needs of women are not invalidated. An environment where the audience does not need any prodding to say ‘vagina’ out loud by the cast of The Vagina Monologues. An environment that does not foster the female eunuch!
In the immortal words of Germaine Greer: “It takes a great deal of courage and independence to decide to design your own image instead of the one that society rewards, but it gets easier as you go along.”
O yes! O yes! O yes! Time to talk the Big O… Open…Objective…On top!
First published here.
Image source: Babienochka on pixabay
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