Sex and language can be inconsolable bed-mates. Best friends with benefits. They can go out for a coffee, talk unabashedly 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 used to feel odd whenever I have tried to write about sex. However uninhibited I may have thought I was, I found myself in a state of imbalance. And I ended up regurgitating bedtime fantasies. Like the rose petal scene from American Beauty. It is the most Indian-influenced piece of Hollywood. I expected Kevin Spacey’s leg to tip over a glass of milk, as nine months go whizzing by and then – a baby’s squeal is heard behind closed doors.
Perhaps, it is because of where I grew up. The land of the Kama Sutra and the 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 the sweltering summer heat had nothing to do with the pimples on my face. Or how I might be spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I never understood the deprecating humor behind it. By the time I did, I had developed ninja-like skills to secure operative areas outside the vicinity of my bathroom.
I am still unsure who had the last embarrassing laugh.
Like most teenagers with raging hormones, I was intrigued by the female anatomy; rather the chances of seeing it as nakedly as possible. But I was embarrassed to engage in healthy social conversations about it, with my friends. Instead, we told each other tall tales and exchanged pornographic content, from playing cards that had showcased women in suggestive positions to 90s storyline-driven adult movies.
Considering the Internet was as real as flying cars to us, these were our most reliable and accurate channels of information. The guilt-ridden desperation with which we pursued them were indicative of the awkwardness with which Indians dealt with sex; especially, from my generation and the ones prior to it. Simply put, we had turned puberty a poorly-written peace treaty.
This historic repression of honest and intelligent discourses about sex has also led to its weaponization. Given the patriarchal structure of this country, it is one of the pillars of gender discrimination. And it does not help matters that Indian men can turn creepy quicker than hyacinth bean vines on amphetamines.
Shockingly, marital rape remains decriminalized. People can still be arrested for kissing outdoors. Some of our elected officials continue to shift the blame for sexual crimes to the manner in which people choose to clothe themselves.
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 digs into leather. Everyone feels tense for a few seconds.
Whenever I have told anyone – single or married – that I was on Tinder, I have noticed the aversion towards it. At first, I am subjected to condescending scowls but then, their curiosity overshadows their instinctive moral outrage. And they want to know about how I have fared thus far. Either to improve their chances of finding a bride or to vicariously live through someone else.
As I was writing this post, I had reminded myself that my dad often visits this blog. And I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about it. Basically, I am 35 years old, and feeling weird about his dad finding out that he is on a dating site.
Over years, I have found birds to be far less rigid about intimacy. They have made a happy cuckold out of me. While I never photograph mating pairs, I take pleasure in being privy to some of the moments they share. But it is remarkably different from watching pornography.
The blood rushes to my heart and cerebral cortex, instead.
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)