A friend recently revealed that she bought herself a dildo that she keeps in her nightstand now. After years of sexual neglect from her partner she finally decided to take things into her own hands, so to say. This was ground-breaking for both her and I. We had discussed the possibility of ‘falling into another man’s arms’, having a fling, and even joked about the second coming of the hymen, but never this. Intrigued and secretly suffering from FOMO, I asked her how the experience was. She said she had it but didn’t intend to use it. The dildo in the nightstand made up for the fact that she had access to orgasm whenever she desired it, and that was enough.
Unsatisfied, I prodded for more information. How was this enough? What kind of sexual placebo was this? My friend, who was already one of the most successful women in her industry, the shatterer of glass ceilings, the slayer of IT boys club, seemingly had it all. She always got what she wanted professionally, but on the personal front there was always this gaping ‘hole’ that only a man could ‘fill’. And after years of beating herself about how emancipating her success was, and how undesirable it made her to her partners, who were more intimidated by her tall resume than their own shortcomings, she had found that the object of her desire could come without the emotional upheaval of an ego charged male. This to her was liberating.
For someone who always conforms, this was confusing. The cobwebs in my vagina had always powered my moral high ground. Sex was a burn meant to be felt in private. And boy did we burn, with desire, with disappointment, with the weight of years of expectation of how sex was supposed to be. I once read somewhere that men are always ‘in the mood’ because sex inevitably leads to orgasm. On the other hand, women need to be coaxed because not all encounters have a hallelujah moment. From personal encounters, this seemed like a pretty apt explanation of all the times I’ve said pass because it was just too much effort. Spontaneity was cumbersome because what if the legs were not waxed, or dinner too gassy. What do you do then? Like any self-respecting conservative, the headache comes into play or aunt flow used as an excuse. Oftentimes women make excuses for not going into the theatre of sex because they’re too tired to put on a show. The practised moans, the vocal assurances of virility, the same routine, sometimes it’s just too much effort for too little outcome. Or no cum at all. It’s like playing a game of teen patti, where you go in blind and whether you win or not depends entirely on luck and, a good hand.
My friend’s newfound liberation from conventional sex got me thinking. Maybe sex could be had without the frills. Maybe you didn’t necessarily need a ‘gifted’ man. Maybe you could be sexually empowered without the added ‘help.’ The orgasm could be an organic outcome of knowing your body well enough to know how to pleasure it. With this aha moment, I went deeper into the sexual landscape of women around me – the married, the single and the rainbow brigade. I come from a generation that neatly covered our Mills & Boons with brown paper and read Jackie Collins on long train journeys. Both presented the picture of sex as an act between the meek and the powerful, the provider and the nurturer, the man, and the woman. But what about those who colour outside the lines?
Which got me thinking about a creature I so admire. The single woman. The one who played by her own rules. Being single and enjoying a healthy sex life was an alien concept in India. In fact, we would welcome aliens with Haldi Kumkum but not single women, because our patriarchal mindset had established that there was genetically something wrong with a woman who did not need a man. After all, what can a woman achieve if she did not have the comfort of a man designated to take of her needs all her life? This well-preserved idea that women are only productive as long as they have the backing of a man has now been crushed thanks to strong, powerful women who choose to lead life on their own terms. With financial independence they have cut the shackles of patriarchy around them and with sexual liberation they have established themselves as the new alphas in town. The freedom to choose their sexual partners, and the ability to decide how they like it has upset the fragile balance of what we perceive as normal. Trailblazers of the new normal in sexual hierarchy, single women (straight, lesbian, or bisexual) are successfully rewriting the rules of desire.
And when it comes to rewriting the rules of sex and sexuality, nobody has done with better and with more grace than the queers. Lesbians and members of the queer community have always had a fierce defiance about them. Judged by society, the milkman, and the neighbourhood security guard, all who claimed to have agency over their life, the LGBTQ group bravely showed up wearing their sexuality with pride. The modern sexual woman is very much part of this revolution where conventional sex is challenged with a host of alternatives. Self-pleasure is no longer taboo in fact it’s gone hi-tech, and discovering your sexuality is no longer fringe, but mainstream. Unlike older generations, modern women have the option of masturbating for their pleasure.
This then begs the question, are we at the cusp of redefining sex for the modern woman? The woman who has it all but still has the audacity to want more? Is self – pleasure the new superpower? As complex as it appears, the answer is a simple yes. My own epiphany comes from the realisation that the modern woman is audacious, unbound, unshackled, and unperturbed by what she is expected to do. Be it the single woman that gracefully declines to be bound by tradition, who does not ‘settle down’ for the pleasure of society and seeks satisfaction on her own terms, or the woman in a relationship or the married woman who is vocal about her sexual appetite and not afraid to indulge herself, the modern self-sufficient sexual woman has arrived. We do what we like, and when we like. So, bring on the sex toys, the Cosmopolitan Sex Position recommendations, the polygamous lifestyle – we are ready for it all. It has taken some work to cleanse our sexual palette but settling for bland is no longer an option.
Do you talk to your partner about your sexual preferences? About what you like or don’t?