Is this what it ultimately comes down to?
Is this what it ultimately comes down to?
I often wonder, what is the point of sex for a woman in India? Is it about pleasure, about reproduction or is it simply a pain in the ass (figuratively)? Why are young, successful and confident women so conflicted when it comes to sexual expression?
As a part of the generation which grew up in an era when sex and the city was airing on TV, I often wonder why women in India living in metropolitan cities cannot have the sexual freedom that our counterparts enjoy abroad?
Let me tell you the story of an Indian woman and her sexual experiences. Maybe that will shed some light. It all started the day she got her first period. She had been waiting for it eagerly. Though, she probably didn’t even understand why. She just knew all her friends had had theirs, and they carried it around like a secret. They whispered about it, and it was about time she joined that covert group.
The day she got hers, she told her mother, and she was told its normal. But that’s where it ended. Nothing further on what it means for her, for her body or why it happens.
Her next experience with her sexuality started when she got her first serious boyfriend. He was a nice guy. But they were both teenagers, the hormones were raging and to a person who had not been exposed to sex at all, it was a scary experience. Indian households are so hush-hush about sex, its all behind closed doors. As a typical Indian child, you have probably never seen the slightest show of affection between your parents. No hand holding, no hugging and definitely not kisses. To children who have been brought up in such households, all these things are put under the same category. To hold hands, to shower affectionate kisses on someone you love is just as forbidden, just as taboo as the actual act of sex. They can’t differentiate between what is a show of affection and what is about physical pleasure. So when this girl had her first boyfriend, she couldn’t either. She decided that since she had let him hold her hand, she might as well go all the way. But the one thing she didn’t count on was the shame she felt. Every time she was aroused and she pulled her boyfriend towards her, she let him take her clothes off, or took his off in the moment, one thing she could count on was the never ending waves of shame, guilt and insecurity that came with this.
Now way beyond her teenage years, the girl still feels this. Sex is a shameful act. The shame of it can only be taken away by having the man make a commitment to you that he will stick around for a few more nights. In earlier years, that commitment meant marriage. But even today’s generation cannot escape the patriarchy. They have amended the earlier definitions of commitment to mean a long term committed relationship. For any girl out there, who expresses her sexuality without giving a thought to commitment, she must learn to live with judgement and ridicule.
Shame the woman and praise the man, that is a way of life out here.
For most of my life, I proudly proclaimed that I am not a feminist. I scoffed at other women who declared they were. I saw feminism as a well-intending but misguided movement. I saw it as women admitting that they were in fact the weaker sex. I saw it as a case of mind over matter. I thought, if we act and view ourselves as equal, we will be equal. There is no need for extra measures or protection.
But that’s like saying women are treated unequal, because we wish to. That it’s all a consequence of our actions. And isn’t that exactly what patriarchy would want us to believe? Most women spend their lives being treated unequally. Few do achieve near-male rights. Those few are celebrated as being special achievers. They are told they have extraordinary skills, distinct from the herd of women, which makes them earn that equality. A woman is pitted against a woman.
This concept in itself is a dangerous one. That one human deserves specials rights for having certain traits. As a corollary, some humans do not deserve the basic human rights for not having that very trait. It becomes all the more dangerous, when that one trait is granted to us by birth, like a penis for example.
Just a little something for you to think about.
Rock on released a couple of years back. I remember watching it and I thought to myself, you really can have it all. A handsome couple, with all the money in the world. A great social circle. The guy balances his passion for music with his ambition for success in the investment banking world. And boy did they make a corporate look sexy.
Five years down the line, I’m working for a very similar corporate. Welcome to India Inc. It isn’t as sexy, needless to say. Farhan Akhtar is not your boss. There is no one handing you keys to your private office with one of those rare, glamourous views of Bombay skyline. You fight for chairs in office; the peon has more clout than you do. You’re completely dispensable.
During those five years, you have made a series of bad choices in your love life, and you’re completely disillusioned by thoughts of a relationship. You used to croon to ‘on fire’ by switchfoot and imagine an epic love, and now your criteria are down to any guy who can open his mouth without putting his giant foot in.
You dreamed of being a dancer, you wanted to be a journalist. You wanted to create something, contribute in some way. You wanted the world to appreciate you. Now you slave away in front of your laptop for hours/days for a stretch, to have no satisfaction. You are not connected to the big picture anymore. You threw away your dancer’s body. Dancing, swimming etc are no longer pastimes or passions. They are a means of exercise to get that body you once had.
And don’t even get me started on money. Suffice to say, you’re on a ladder looking up, all the way up to place you desire to be.
You find new passions, don’t doubt that. But you get a brief taste of it and keep longing to experience it again. Your life become long stretches of working at the slave shop saving every penny you can, to pay for a break from it all.
That is the story of the sad demise of an idealist.