Our population figures tell us that Indians are having at least as much sex as the rest of the world. Not all extramarital pregnancies are the result of rape. And from a purely scientific point of view, if there are so many conceptions, the number of sexual intercourse occasions has to be at least the same, if not higher. Let’s just face the fact that India has sex and needs to deal with all the issues and questions that come up with it. For example, what does NO really mean?
I’ve generally steered away from getting too close into the bedroom in my writing and so sue me, I’m Indian, it’s ingrained in me to never publicly acknowledge sex. But we are in the utterly ridiculous state of gangrapes, burgeoning population rates, teenage pregnancies and child abuse so I think it’s time I stopped being coy. I’m talking about this.
I recently read a post on TheFrisky by a guy who was left confused by an almost hookup with a girl who didn’t say no but didn’t exactly seem amenable either.
Flashing as flirty a smile as I could muster, I asked,
“Is everything okay? Are you cool with this?”
Her response wasn’t quite what I expected:
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just do what you need to do.”
This particular statement wasn’t spoken with annoyance or frustration or impatience. It also wasn’t spoken with any enthusiasm whatsoever. It was the most matter-of-fact, emotionless comment I had ever heard from someone I was in the midst of undress with.
Awhile ago, I also heard about an incident between two people I know. There was alcohol consumed and some hooking-up done. Later though, the accounts varied. The girl says that she was taken advantage of. The guy says that she was perfectly conscious and never once stopped him or said no. The girl says a combination of inebriation and shock worked against her.
A few years ago, I was in a steady relationship with someone who wanted to go much farther and faster than I was comfortable. It caused a lot of problems for us. From the outside, it’s easy to say, “He was a jerk. You should have left him then.” But what makes it so difficult is that these moments don’t occur all the time. In a relationship, there are good moments of shared intimacy, laughter, fun and even love. And bedroom conflicts tend to get categorized with all other things that couples argue about. In this case, I gave in a lot of the time just to keep the peace. Those were the times when my Okays were really Nos.
In a more recent relationship, I was shocked to hear my partner tell me, that he felt he couldn’t always say No to me. It was a conversation that changed our relationship. I never felt comfortable around him again, always worrying that I might be unknowingly transgressing into the predatory behaviour that men are usually accused of. It opened a whole new dimension to an already complex issue. What about those times when a guy wants to say No? Is this solely a female prerogative?
Interestingly, the same morning that I read TheFrisky article which got me thinking, also brought me another study by PsychCentral. It talks about how people routinely keep up small deceptions in relationships. Ordinarily, many of these get written off as compromises that one makes in a relationship. When there’s tension and bad blood, you can bet it infects everything in the relationship. Routine adjustments that we make every day suddenly seem like severe compromises. Since you can’t easily separate sex from the rest of the relationship, the murky depths suddenly fall into focus. The already grey area of relationship interactions is further complicated by the extreme intimacy and thus awkwardness, shyness and silence that couples and individuals maintain over sex.
And finally, as Indians, I think we’re already experiencing the consequences of being caught between the devil and the deep sea. On one side, a repressive social structure that doesn’t allow us to even think about these things. On the other, an increasingly bigger-better-faster-more global village where we’ve access to ideas, actions, social systems and behaviours that require us to be prepared with these notions.
I carried a fair bit of guilt for a long time simply over being physically intimate, a fact that I think the guy used against me when he told me that this was road of no return. Even today, a lot of Indians believe in virginity, rape victim blame and condemning the sexually active as ‘promiscuous’.
All the above-mentioned relationships ended on sour notes, ranging from acrimonious break-ups to the loss of a job in one case. It’s serious enough for us to need to talk about this. I don’t really have an answer. Realistically, how do we protect ourselves, first from unwelcome encounters and second from falling victim to misunderstood intentions?