In a country where sex is taboo, what does a single woman do to get her fantasies fulfilled?
Names have been changed to protect identities.
Unlike most stories about people exploring sexuality in India, this one opens in a non-metro city. Considerably less savvy and cosmopolitan than their counterparts like Bangalore and Mumbai, teens and 20-somethings in cities like Nashik and Kochi have leveraged tech to explore their inner fantasies. Smartphones have turned out to be the great equalizer. Now they too are exposed to the same Western notions of sex and sexuality.
It’s a rainy Friday afternoon in Kochi as Roopal begins to open up about her sex life. “The first time I had any sexual feelings where when I was 14 years old.” Normal by any standards, but taboo in a society that forbids women from expressing or talking about such “dirty things.” “I was 20 when I lost my virginity to a boy my same age,” she continues. “Most people say the first time is supposed to be painful, but to me, it was enjoyable from the start.” From that day, Roopal estimates she had sex with the same boy at least twice a week for 3 months. “Then he got a job and moved to another city. I get Whatsapp messages from him every now and then asking for naked pictures of me. And that’s it. There are times I oblige and regret immediately,” she rues.
Sex Psychologist Dr. Samantha Kaur says regret is normal, but the deep regret that Indian women feel after illicit sex has got to do with the rigorous moral standards that society demands of them.
Now, with the prevalence of Tinder, Indian youngsters are no longer dependant on their parents to find matches for themselves. Unlike their western counterparts, Indians in their bios explicitly state they are looking for something “long term.” That’s not to say they are averse to casual sex.
“When I arrived in Bangalore a year ago I had no friends. I don’t know what gave me the confidence, but one evening I just downloaded Tinder. I was craving for some love.” This was told to me by Aanchal, another 20-something single Indian woman. “Matches were plenty! I had too many options. For the first time in my life I was the center of attention,” she laughs.
Her experience is true for any woman on dating sites. But Aanchal was not as lucky. Her first 5 encounters ended on a sour note. The companionship she craved came at a cost she was not willing to give. “It’s just my luck. I know many guys who treat women well. I just happened to run into five perverts one after the other.”
And how many times a week does she have sex now?
Aanchal doesn’t reply but smiles coyly. It’s obvious the number is more than 0.
“I only went out with the same partner once.” She pauses. “I guess I’ve had some 9 partners in the past few months.”
Roopal too has had a similar experience. Once she got over her first boyfriend, dating apps have helped her expand her horizons and she no longer feels guilty.
Degrading a culture?
The side that proclaims this to be the end of the Indian woman is not far behind. Many men are concerned that they will no longer be able to find a “pure virgin” for their marital bed. Yet, many of these are the same men prowling dating apps seeking one night stands.
Some young men are scared. “I feel insecure and emasculated when I read these stories about women my age having multiple sex partners,” says Victor D’Cunha. “At the same time, I also realize women are allowed freedom over their bodies. I just don’t know if it’s my fault for feeling this way or not.”
Victor’s confusion is one shared by Indian men everywhere. No longer the demure and shy form, women have truly come of age in liberal India.
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