I think that sex and language are inconsolable bed-mates. They can be best friends with benefits. They can go out for a coffee, talk uninhibitedly about life, and get drunk on each other. They can wake up in each other’s arms, with one pretending to have already freshened up. And the other playing along for the kisses and giggles.
But I feel odd whenever I try to write about sex. Even if I feel uninhibited about the process, I find myself in a state of imbalance. And I end up regurgitating bedtime fantasies. Perhaps it’s because of where I am from. The land of the Kama Sutra, and home of the prude.
Growing up in urban India, sex education was non-existent. At home, it wasn’t brought up until someone would awkwardly joke about how I may be spending a lot of time in the restroom. Or how the sweltering summer heat had nothing to do with the pimples on my face.
As teenagers with raging hormones, most of us were obsessed about the female anatomy. But we are too embarrassed to engage in healthy conversations about it. Instead we told each other tall tales, making puberty a peace treaty with the universe gone horribly wrong.
The most reliable and accurate channel of information, for me at least, was local pornography. Even though, they were shot in unfavorable lighting conditions – they conveyed the awkwardness with which Indians deal with sex.
This historic repression of our basic instincts has also led to the weaponization of sex. It’s why marital rape shockingly remains decriminalized in India. Also, one of the reasons why people can be arrested for kissing outdoors.
It’s fair to assume that a majority of Indians are still conservative about sex.
Even today, simple onscreen kisses in movies draw major reactions at theaters. I have seen people hide their faces behind open palms, and nervously shuffle in their seats. A drop of sweat dances on a twitchy nose. A parched throat gulps dry air. A set of fingernails dig into leather. Everyone feels tense for a few seconds.
As I am posting this, I remind myself that my dad often visits this blog. And I don’t feel entirely comfortable about it. Basically, I am 34 years old man, feeling weird that my daddy is going to realize I may have had sex before. It wouldn’t have popped in my head if I were married. So it turns out that I am a moral zealot too.
However, over years I have found birds to be far less rigid about physical intimacy . They have made a sheepish cuckold out of me. While I never photograph mating pairs, I do enjoy – freezing in time – some of the intimacy they share.
the moon just to sweat
through the night with her
intransitive verbs, and
wriggle, like vaudevillian
larvae, grabbing air and light,
to find my way to her faux-pas,
and the warm crescents that
are her words.
(Photographs: Palani, Megamalai, Pulicat)