Of Sex

When I was in college, I participated in every Indian woman’s rite of passage – listening to “first night” stories in a hostel room surrounded by squealing 18-22 year olds. The stories I was forced to hear were approximately like this. Flowers, a glass of milk, a pawing husband, and the woman’s sense of desperation (or is it cluelessness?), pain, and eventual enjoyment. The pawing husband is perfectly depicted in this masterpiece of a scene from Sekhar Kammula’s Godavari.

This is what happens when we equate sex with marriage. Marriage becomes a license for sex. You cannot picture a marriage without sex and you cannot picture starting a marriage by just talking, and getting to know each other. Moments like this cheapen sex more than anything else can.

Scenes like this are not the only thing that could (do) happen. As a consequence of sex being firmly tied to marriage, there are only two types of Indian women. The kind who know about sex before they are married and everyone else. This song says it all! Listen, “Main kya thi mujhe kya tumne bana daala/ Ek gori ka tumne ghoonghat utha daala”. So there we have it folks! Woman, dare not lose your innocence!

What if this innocence is forcibly taken from us? Well, then we have people making statements like these about rape and loss of virginity and claiming death is preferable to dishonour (whose dishonour?) They make these statements in all earnestness and they truly believe in what they say. Watch Sushma Swaraj as she tries to convince people that rape zombifies women and makes them a zinda laash (Dear Sushmaji, all humans are by definition zinda laash-es)

So earnest are these people, in fact, that some take it forward a step and believe women who don’t have the decency to die when raped should be hanged.

But yes, you’ve figured it out by now, gentle reader, I’m just exaggerating to the point of ridiculousness. All this can’t happen just because we decide pre-marital sex is bad, right? No. All this happens because we even care whether pre-marital sex is good or bad. Why should we care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home? We live in an age of contraception and DNA tests. As a society, we have ways to keep family trees organized and that’s all we really need to care about from a law enforcement/property inheritance/general creepiness perspective. Do we really need to police other people’s decisions?

If sex means so much to someone that they only want to have it with only one person, then so be it. If sex means so much to a person that they can’t bear the idea of being restricted to one sexual partner their entire life, that’s their choice too. If like Samantha in Sex and the City someone’s a trysexual and will try anything once, more power to them! Sex is too basic a need to be judged in absolutes.

I have no opinion on whether Pre-Marital sex is “Yes” or “No”. I only made the choice for myself and the decision as well as it’s consequences impact only me and my spouse. When we spoke about this topic early on in our relationship The Hero said,

India’s the only country where people lie about being less sexually experienced than they are

And that, dear folks, sums it all up quite nicely. Pre marital sex, you ask? I couldn’t care less. I recommend no one else does, either.

A post for the Indiblogger contest here.

ps: if you liked this post you might like these…

A review of Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You

A post about Love, lust, and attachment

pps: My dear, sweet, (Benagli) Mishti numbing your soul as a consultant: If I do get a copy of this book, please, please send me your address and I will have this express delivered to you two days after I get it.


Shikhandi and other tales they don’t tell you – Book Review


I picked this up at the Bangalore airport last weekend and finished it in about two sittings during my viral fever (see? falling sick has some advantages!). Given I was also trying to prevent Chotu from running away while shopping, I didn’t get a chance to figure out exactly what the book was about before buying it.  I expected it to be a book of lesser known tales which it is but it’s also a look at sexuality as expressed in Hindu mythology.

The books starts with a lovely poem which was my favourite part of the book. This is followed by a longish introduction where the author talks about how tales can be taken literally but also be interpreted from a Queer perspective. This was interesting and also very elegantly put. The author talks about sexuality as a spectrum rather than the binary M/F switch we are accustomed to thinking of it as. He also introduces the idea that various words used to describe different types of sexuality were actually non-judgmental. It’s modern Indian society that’s makes no room for anything beyond the binary, he says and then goes on to talk about the influence of monastic Buddhism on Hindu tales and the subsequent Hindu influence on Buddhist tales such as the appearance of Tara as a female form – again, very interesting stuff. After about 20 pages of this, the tales begin.

The book has 30-odd stories dealing with gods transforming into women, women turning into men, spontaneous spilling of seed (gotta be honest. I love this phrase!), long distance fertilization, arbitrary switching of gender, and so on. Thankfully, no immaculate conception through boons from gods in a book about sexuality. Each story is narrated briefly, a bit too briefly for my taste, and is followed by the author’s notes. This is where I felt a bit cheated. The notes are written as bullet-points and they re-hash a lot of what was already said in the introduction. It feels a little unpolished to read individual points that don’t quite flow and it gave me the impression of looking at an early draft of the book rather than the completed, published version. One thing I loved though, was his mention of “queer questions” about each story. These questions force you to think about the story and question some things about the nature of human sexuality. A minor peeve was that he didn’t include a glossary to explain the exact meanings of all the words in ancient Indian vocabulary to describe different types of sexual behaviour.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5 stars and recommend it. I consider myself to be quite liberal in thought and values but after reading this book I realized that it’s probably not enough to just adopt an “to each their own” attitude. It’s important take that next step to understand the perspective of someone who views the world so differently from us not for their sake but for our own. We can all use a little shaking up once in a while.

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Women want it too!

The original title for this post was “Women want sex too!” The only reason I changed the title was to pursuade corporate filters to let the URL through. Does anyone remember how I had to re-title “The Naked Face” to “The Bindi-less face”?

I found this post by IHM quite thought provoking. I’ve been trying to work some things out in my head about this whole women as sexual beings thing and this post came at the perfect time! Anyway, on we go to the actual stuff…

I feel that society, at some level, has not come to terms with the empowerment brought about by the invention of female birth control (and to some extent, disposable hygiene products). Imagine society before the Pill was invented and birth control lay in the hands of men. Imagine society where abortion was illegal and/or unavailable. A society where a menstruating woman could not step out of the house simply because there was no way for her to. Of course, in such a world it was women who had to be “careful” because it’s ultimately a woman who pays for an unwanted pregnancy.

Cut to today. Yes, the ads for sanitary pads border on the are obnoxious. But they exist. And their very existence proves that we’re starting to acknowledge women have periods. Something does happen down there. We have a birth control pill that a woman could even take in secret (if need be) and not get pregnant against her will. A woman could use the morning after pill. In India, at least, she can legally have an abortion as soon as she knows she’s pregnant but doesn’t want to carry the embryo to term (yes, dear anti-abortionists, it’s not a baby at 8 weeks, it’s not a fetus even. It’s just an embryo. And a fetus is not a baby until it’s born). Abortions are perfectly legal until 12 weeks and an adult woman in India can opt for one without anyone’s consent. So says the Punjab High court.

Now that we don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, we can actually think about having sex when we want to, not just when we are sure it’s ok if we do get pregnant. There’s a second, more dangerous implication lurking here. Now that we have birth control, even an “illegitimate” child can be a choice, not a curse. In other words, a woman can decide whether she wants to be a single mother. How empowering is that?

I’ve heard a lot of apologists for backwardness say, “Oh! But maternity is a fact and paternity is faith”. No, idiot. It’s not. Have you heard of something called a DNA test? You can now be perfectly sure who the father of the baby is. Or to be precise, who isn’t.

Where does that leave us? In a world where women can finally separate child-bearing and sex. And, just like the ads say, do whatever they like during their periods.

Here comes the twist. Society hasn’t caught up yet. We also live in a world where women have been conditioned to not want sex because, as the Telugu proverb goes, “Whether the leaf falls on the thorn or the thorn on the leaf, it is the leaf that suffers”. Where women are the leaves and men are the thorns, get it? Even though a woman can finally go ahead and do everything she wants to, society still wants her to be the child-bearing family nourisher. Worse, a woman is still considered defective goods if she can’t get pregnant. A good example being an angry mother-in-law who called up my MIL (a gynecologist) and demanded to know what was wrong with her daughter-in-law. The poor DIL had produced one child (presumably a girl) but was unable to get pregnant again.

Of course, this birth control explanation is an over-simplification but I do think there’s some merit to the idea. I remember how, in any “periods education” session conducted by Whisper representatives in our school, all questions would ultimately be, “If I do X, will I get pregnant?” Getting pregnant was the ultimate scare (can’t find the right word but I need to wrap up soon) against getting into a relationship. Take that away, and poof! half the monster crumbles.

The question is, what do we do with the other half?

ps: I will be editing this post later. It’s totally unfinished but I’ve run out of blogging time!