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Celibacy, Sluttiness and Everything In Between

Now that we’re all adult and modern and can talk about sex openly, let’s.

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Image via Unsplash/Jairo Alzate

Only let’s not do that dialogue about repressed sexuality, about the male fear of women’s sexuality about all the cliches. Let’s talk about how women feel about their own sex, shall we? Wait, The Vagina Monologues already did that, didn’t they?

Okay fine, but let’s do more of it. Because this here is a blog and we love talking about ourselves and not enough of it gets done and it’s always about how we are in relation to men. I say enough, I want to talk about me, about how I am whether men exist or not (well, obviously they do because sex, right?). I want to know how other women feel about themselves.

So sex. One of my first and most deeply entrenched ideas has been (Note the use of ongoing present tense or whatever that thing is called) that all my body organs will fall out of my vagina. Think about it. Gravity. So much stuffed into one body. A hole right at the bottom. Yeah. Of course I worry when I cough or sneeze or well, shit too hard.

Then there’s the one about the man being an intrusion. Look at even the language of sex. Penetrate. Bang. Ram. Horny. Hitting that. At the other end of it is the too coy, the nauseatingly abstract. Making love. Becoming one. Barf.

I have learned that sex does not have to be, actually should never be painful. Well, not you, 50 Shades of Grey peeps. My body is wonderfully designed to stretch, to contract, to bend, to twist in all manner of ways. Not inefficiently did Mother Nature design a body that could sustain multiple orgasms. But it’s learning that has come over time, over much challenging and forcing my way through preconceived notions, over inhibitions and over censure. It’s been a mental as well as a physical journey.

How do I feel about having sex? Outside of love, outside of control, outside of social norms, outside of all of that. Ever ask yourself that? Do. It’s one of the most fundamental things your body can do, should do.

Tuvale bastırıp geliyorum 🙈🎉

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I like it. There’s no ‘with the right person’ because that’s too much like a romcom and life, I know has been nothing like that to me. I like it when it’s on my terms, when it is fun, when it carries respect but not reserve and when it goes through and ends with both of us feeling pleasant about it and each other. And there just isn’t enough of that going around.

Tinder, you suck. I don’t even want to meet the men on it, let alone do anything with them. Hookup, what a horrible word. It makes me think of Captain Hook and which sane woman would want that going into her?

I was a virgin for way longer than most people suspect. It’s hard to say why. Early in my life I met a man (boy?) who forced himself on me and tried every mindfucked trick in the book. (“If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll go elsewhere”, “When a guy doesn’t have sex for long, he falls sick”, “You are so ugly, nobody but me will want to have sex with you”). It scarred me for a long time, yes. Also, the only way I kept some vestige of self-respect and control over my own body was by telling him that I wanted to save myself up for marriage. I don’t know how much I believed it. I do know that that idea carried me through what could have been a much more damaging situation than it was. And an idea that saves you, deserves to have a prominent place in your life.

As it turned out, my first time – and I will not call it ‘losing my virginity’, ugh what a horrible way to put it, so materialistic, so fear-ridden – was with someone I loved very much and who I believe loved me then. We were also going to get married. We didn’t and that’s a different thing.

Reconciling that fact took time because it also brought up other things that people don’t normally think are related. What if the reason I had not found the right man was that I should have been looking for the right woman? And what about children? Funny isn’t it, we never tend to think of how we feel about children in the same conversation on how we feel about sex. Oh wait, there are no conversations about how we as women feel about sex.

Two years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. Now all grown up, she leads the kind of single, sexed up life that is the stuff of crusty Indian politicians nightmares. She describes herself as ‘a bad girl’ and she does this with a laugh. Look how she has internalised the slut-shaming we are subjected to.

I want to believe that if I do something, it’s got to be worth doing. And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And there is no shame in that, only pride. And fucking self-respect. Heh. Fucking self-respect about fucking. If you don’t got it, it ruins everything wonderful about sex.

Some days I think about what it must be to be a testosterone-fueled being and I think I’m better off. I want to believe that it’s a myth that male libidos are bigger than female libidos. I mean that doesn’t make sense. My gender is the one that can go on longer, have multiple orgasms and hell, has many hundreds of more nerve endings (thus pleasure points). Momma Nature would never have put all that in a body that just didn’t feel like it much. What nonsense.

I do think that testosterone makes creatures impatient, perhaps even foolish and one-minded. For most of my life I have not had sex. Sometimes it’s been when I did have somebody in my life; sometimes it has been when I didn’t. It sucks to not have sex when you are with someone. But when there isn’t, well, there just isn’t. And there I fall into the opposite trap from slut-shaming, the celibacy-shaming. Why is it such a big deal whether someone wants to have sex or not? What is burning need for it? There are 7 billion of us running around the planet and stepping on each other’s toes. We really don’t need to make more human beings. And as for pleasure – it’s only pleasurable when you’re not doing it under pressure.

Signing off now. No, not to go have sex but because I’m tired.  Yes that happens too. There may be such a thing as enough sex.

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Sex Stuff

Some home truths about sex.

It is open to a wide variety of interpretations. That completely depends on you and your partner. And each of you may have a different take on it, in which case, God help you. It could or could not be a lot of things.

Commitment. A bribe. A transfer of respect. A power game. Love.

Then there are things that have got nothing (or should not be allowed to have anything) to do with it. Whatsoever.

Good looks. Religion. Rebellion. Alcohol & drugs.

It hurts. A lot. Physically, sometimes. Emotionally too. But most of all, in what a surprise it is. There’s much that you never understood, no matter how many books you’ve read, how many conversations you’ve been a part of. There’s much that will surprise you, no matter how much you’ve already had before. And anybody, anytime has the potential to surprise you. That surprise is not always a good thing, even if the sex is. You never realize just how much of your belief system is founded on certain assumptions of sex and sexuality, until they’re broken.

Everybody has a problem with sex. This is because everyone has problems. And it boils down to this. It’s a fundamental need, for one. But it is also the most fundamental way in which we relate to each other. It’s practically the building block of civilization. We spend our lives trying to figure out how to deal with life and to journey through the madness that is each other. How could those problems not turn up in our sex?

Sex

Sex (Photo credit: danielito311)

These problems do not mean that sex will not be pleasurable. But there’s much that gets released other than key fluids during the most intimate act two human beings can share (apart from childbirth). Fears, repressed notions, hidden states of being – yes they’re all in there imprisoned inside you. And guess what, with sex, you’ve gone and peeped into the dungeons. You may even let one or two escape by mistake. And that’s problematic.

These problems don’t go away by having more sex. Or by having sex with a different person. Or sex in a different way. Or with having sex at all (if you haven’t before). Or for that matter, abstaining from sex. You’re going to have to figure out the best way to deal with those problems and not let your sex life become a problem as well.

Stuff happens when you have sex. Something shifts within. Some things get released and other things take their place. You feel better for awhile. Scientists tell us that’s endorphins. You may go through the gamut of guilt, shame, fear, wonder, awe, affection, confusion. If you don’t feel anything at all, then you’ve got the MOTHER of all problems. Please see a doctor and sort it out. This problem may be the worst STD of all.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of a bad experience relating to sex (peer pressure, abuse, rape), then that experience is going to stay with you. It would be comforting to hear that everything will get sorted out and you’ll never remember it again. That’s a lie. The truth of violation or violence or both will never be erased. It will be there with you, right in your bed with the blankets and sheets and the other person. But, as with every other fear, you can learn to live with it and not be stopped by it. Yes, this is possible but don’t make the mistake of expecting that life will deliver that justice to you on a platter. It won’t. As unjust as the past may have been, it will still, unfortunately, be up to you to get past it and build a better world for you to live in.

Never let somebody else’s judgement, morality or ideas cloud your ideas of sex. It’s just not worth it. Taking on someone else’s notions is like throwing a little carbon monoxide into an already foggy, smoky place. Also remember that as a member of this society, certain things are defined as legal, ethical and decent. Be aware of those boundaries and for your own sake, respect them. But inside your mind, run free because if you don’t, you’ll inevitably lapse outside and that’ll be a lot worse.

It’s not really that different from life. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not worth the price. You pretty much won’t know for sure till it’s all over so try to relax and enjoy it.

XXFactored Mar2011: Sex, Self-Image And Complicated Committment

Time for another XXFactored post already! So much has been happening this woman’s own life that I’m afraid I’ve been lagging behind in the spectator stakes. Maybe what I’m reading mirrors what I’ve been thinking. Here’s what was up with March 2011:

  • A basket of goodies from the queen of confessions who lists the different kinds of sex (via TheCompulsiveConfessor)
  • Daughterly guilt and who’s fighting it – Google, Infosys! (via EconomicTimes)
  • A personal account of bust enhancement surgery and its aftermath. Forget sniggering, this really makes me want to say “No judgement” (via DailyMail)
  • Is this the truth behind all those annoying ‘happily ever after’ couples? Meet a woman who wants Facebook to know that she’s married and ‘It’s complicated’! (via YourTango)
  • Do some of the phrases that gain popularity, make you cringe? Dating terminology that we need to ditch (via YourTango)
  • Couples fight more than 300 times a year! I don’t know about you but that certainly makes me feel better! (via Glamour)
  • How ironic that we talk about the emotional/moral/social aspects of virginity and totally neglect the physical? 7 things you didn’t know about the hymen (via YourTango)
  • Lalita Iyer of HT Cafe’s Chickwit column presents her take on a chauvinistic comedian’s act (via Chickwit)
  • And finally a bit of a self-plug (I think I’ve earned it!): Do check out some of my top-of-the-line posts at Yahoo! Real Beauty. A few of them are sparking off a storm in the teacup there!

XXFactored Jan2011: Dutch Dates, Blind Dates, Lipstick, Wingmen, Dumping, Sex & Style

The first month of 2011 opens bright and clear for me. I think I’ve gotten a grip on this Bookmarked feature but I’m still waiting for your inputs. Talk to me! Tell me if this works for you and why. Do you prefer getting the links as-and-when on the XX Factor Facebook Page? Or do you like seeing a ‘best of’ list at the end of the month? What else would you like to see? What would you like to dump?

Here are my picks for the first month of the year. We’re heading into the (not going to say it, not going to say it) pink, heart-shaped month of February and  that could mean a number of interesting things for XX Factor. Keep reading!

  • As a bonafide geek-girl, I guess these are the women, it would be a compliment to be compared to: Ten Classic Nerd Queens Over 40 (via Gunaxin)
  • To go dutch or not, that is the big question. Here’s some reasonably sound advice from a man: The New Take On Going Dutch (via ManOfTheHouse)
  • Pop psychology has its uses, especially in dating!: Judging A Guy’s Dating Potential By His Job (via YourTango)
  • There’s nothing quite like red lipstick. It really is the superhero cape for a girl! How To Do Red Lips For Indian Skin (via Republic of Chic)
  • If this were in a movie or a book, I’d deem it cheesy. But here, I’m all “Awww…”: “The customer is only enrolling so she can see you more often. The customer is in love with you.” (via PostSecret)
  • A Girl Who Set Up 15 Dates In The Same Bar…And Stood Them All Up! (via Nerve)
  • Find The Perfect Wingman! (via Foster’s)
  • Harsh but true: “You always post those “85% of people don’t have the courage to post this as their status” FB status updates.” (via ThatsWhyIDumpedYou)
  • On bad-boy-loving women and how to behave around them (via AskMen)
  • 12 Types Of Friends You Should Break Up With (via YourTango)
  • A matrilinear society in modern day India? (via TheGuardian, tipped off by Sveccha Kumar)
  • 10 Fun Facts About Kissing: See no.4 on this list! I’m tempted to say it’s worth living a short life if you live it rightly and kissfully! (via TheFrisky)
  • Tricky Tacky Trousers (via WTForever21)
  • Health is a privilege for Indian women: 70% can’t afford sanitary napkins, reveals study (via TimesOfIndia)
  • I’ll stick with ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’.:Passion Fades & The Phenomenon Has A LOLsy Name (via NakedCity)
  • What women really think of sex (via Twitter)

XXFactored! Dec2010 – Social Networking, Relationship Dilemmas, Fashion Follies & A Masulinist Edge

December has been full of drama and dazzle as always…a wonderful way to finish the year! I’ve been running ragged between parties, lunches, brunches, dinners, meeting out-of-town friends and family and celebrations. But I have managed to keep up with what’s hot and happening on the internet as well. And here’s what I was warming my fingertips with this month on XX Factor:

  • Financial independence, earning capacity…What’s sex got to do with it? (via Yahoo! Real Beauty)
  • Does this mean I can claim my romcom DVDs under ‘Education Expenses’? Lessons from 90s romcoms (via YourTango)
  • Grrrlllll power! Or maybe men are just easier to pick up than women! (via RhealityRings)
  • We’ve seen ChickLit and then DickLit (or LadLit). Now here’s to GadLit (which is my truncation of Gay Lad Lit)! Tell what is thunk? (via Gaysi Family)
  • Other people’s mistakes almost always provide a laugh…especially when they’re bigtime celebrity types. So here’s appealing to the inner cat in all of us. Miaow to that! (via Yahoo!)
  • Maybe a lack of flexibility is the cause for most of our problems. That, and the fact that we expect people to love in exactly the same way we do. (via Twitter)
  • My post on Yahoo! Real Beauty and a version of it that appeared earlier right here on XX Factor. I’m still asking for your thoughts.
  • Five secret tests guys use to evaluate you while on a date (via Glamour).
  • You can outsource anything in today’s day and age!! (via idump4U)
  • Of course, this has a misogynistic air about it but it is funny. How to spot (and save your wallet from) a golddigger. (via The Bachelor Guy)
  • Earlier posted on The XX Factor and now also on Yahoo! Real Beauty – the world’s most popular social network adds another layer of complexity to the already-intricate labyrinth of relationships.
  • If our relationships are a reflection of the games we’re used to playing, maybe the people we date, are images of our favorite toys. Who then are we, by the toys we play with? (via Yahoo! Real Beauty).
  • I can’t vouch for the people but the idea sounds interesting. For all you single bibliophiles out there! Alikewise is a dating website that matches you with people of similar book tastes.
  • Really interesting how many of the roles depicted on this list tackled gender stereotypes. Ten ladies who’ve cross-dressed for roles. (via TheFrisky)
  • Revolutionary or ridiculous? You tell me. I’m going with funny. “French Women Who Like To Swim Topless Protest By Asking Men To Wear Bikini Tops” (via TheFrisky).
  • I tend to avoid risque on The XX Factor but this one was too good to pass up! TheFrisky‘s Sexy Rating Chart!
  • Eh heh heh. This site makes fun of the Forever 21 brand. But this post likened superheroes to hookers. Funny, that resemblance never occurred to me. (via WTForever21)
  • Earlier on The XX Factor and now on Yahoo! Real Beauty: Why do we trade in the attention of a hundred men for the indifference of one?
  • A rather looooong article but it brings up some salient points. Gender equality isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, is it?”A modest proposal for male reproductive rights” (via MensNewsDaily).

If you found yourself featured here, if you’d like to be or even if you just enjoyed anything on this list (or…umm, didn’t), hop over to the XX Factor Facebook Page and talk to me about it! A very happy new year, everyone! XX Factor will see you on the other side of 2011.

What’s Sex Got To Do With It?

The recent India Today poll looks at the importance of financial independence, sexual satisfaction, romance and emotional security in a relationship. I’m most intrigued by inference that about half of urban India links sex & earning capacity while the other seems indifferent. That’s a neat but disturbing split right down the middle of this generation.

Most people now accept that it is important, almost necessary to be a double-income family in order to be able to even consider having all the benefits that urban life has to offer. We’re still struggling with the emotional upheavals caused by the changes in societal order but the need of the hour is to bring in the bucks and fast. So we’re all getting into the workplace as soon as we can and racing ahead at our best pace. But we haven’t quite figured out how that makes us feel about each other, have we? Does the average man feel emasculated by the equal or better earning power of his partner? Does the woman feel like the man is falling short of the deep-rooted standards of male superiority? And how does the relationship endure the burden of these frustrated expectations? I think the jury is still out on that one and where else would the confusion make its presence felt but in the bedroom?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

The Feminist Hangover

I feel let down. I put my foot right into my mouth justifying why women want to watch Sex And The City 2 despite the first movie having been such an epic disaster. The second one wasn’t just bad, it was mortifying!

I’m tempted to suspect that the second movie was secretly scripted by men and acted out by guys in reverse drag, all part of the anti-feminist movement. But credit where it’s due (or blame in this case). The SATCmania has spiraled downward into a place where even your best galpals don’t want to follow, or indeed be associated with.

Whininess, cheating (and being condoned), shameless ignorance of and blatant disrespect to other cultures, spoilt-princess behaviour….okay, none of these were ever on the agenda for women’s lib. I feel like I should apologize to all the men I’ve been preaching to over the years about equality and empowerment. This, ah….this wasn’t what I meant.

At another level, I feel like this movie mirrors my own attitude shift in the recent times. A close guy friend (yes, there is such a thing even though he’s straight) said something interesting.

“You know what the trouble with you women these days is? You’ve got your grades and then your promotions. You’re taking care of your families. You’ve got great careers and fabulous lives. And so you believe you’ve achieved everything and that you’re invincible. You know, you still do fall sick, you still need other people too. Everyone does. It’s not a man or a woman thing. But all of you act like no one else matters, run over anyone who cares about you because you think that’s how a powerful woman is supposed to behave.”

I didn’t like hearing that at all. But there was truth in what he said. He was thinking about his ex- who was sacrificing her health for career and lifestyle and refused to listen to his concerns over it. But I was thinking of my own workaholism, my arrogance and ruthlessness. I cultivated all of it thinking I needed it to survive in these times. Well, maybe that’s true or maybe it’s not. But it’s also left me with an unhealthy level of cynicism, I’ve lost a number of good friends over the years, there’s judgement where there used to be connection and oh yes, the health has suffered too. I’m not condoning chauvinism or saying equality was a bad idea. But that’s why this is so difficult. Toughness has meant losing gentleness, caring and indeed some of the most wonderful things about being me, being us.

The other side of feminism was supposed to acknowledge that men had emotions too and could be just as nurturing and caring. But somehow it spiraled into a blamegame, an ugly, vindictive ‘up-yours’ crowing-over. It’s not about equality anymore, it’s one-upmanship (upwomanship?). All of us are losing.

My friend is as torn up over his breakup as I’ve ever been over mine. I just fear his lady is as well but she doesn’t know it or won’t acknowledge it. Remind me again how this is good for any of us? It takes two to build a relationship. How do we proceed when one of us is hungover on power, sado-masochism and inaccessible?

I had another thought about the classic equation of relationships – men trading love for sex and women trading sex for love. At that oversimplified level, all these years were about men reneging on their side of the deal by taking sex without paying back with adequate love while women withheld sex till love was forthcoming. It was a business and it worked with all the bartering, the bad debts and the constantly fluctuating scales on both sides. Today though, it’s women saying they’re not interested in shopping at this market anymore. Why pay for love when you can get its substitutes (power, fame, respect, attention, awe) far more easily? And there are the women who decide to infiltrate the competition and take over the business. Enter the Samantha Jones prototype – a woman who trades for sex the way men have been thought to do.

I’m not going to judge what anybody wants and how they go about getting it. But I do wonder about the fabric of our society, based as it is on the warp and weft of both sexes, the constant barter and transfer of emotions and sex, of needs and provisions.

This is the morning after the party and we’re hungover on that potent mix of power, glory and attention. I don’t think most of us are thinking straight any more. Who’s going to rescue the world now that Superwoman has ousted Superman and killed the collaboration?

Everyone Wants To Get Into My Wallet!

Late one night as I was driving down the city, I looked up at a huge billboard of Sushmita Sen, an advertisement for Kiah jewellery, which said,

You are the occasion
You are the celebration

I told him,

I really love that ad!

He smiled and said,

You would. It celebrates you, after all.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Earlier in the month, I wrote about my first experience with luxuriant self-indulgence, the retail therapy way. I wear my diamonds with pride, a pride that comes not exactly from their aesthetic value but from the knowledge that I earned the power to buy them for myself.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

A few years ago, I wrote about the Superwoman. I don’t know whether to be happy or not that it’s turning out to be prophetic. Take a minute to think about my words..

I am the center of a marketing model titled “High income single decision maker”
I am the brief given to fashion houses when they design the new Prada suit
I am described as ‘Joan of Arc meets Helen of Troy’

We are indeed, the hot new consumer demographic. Urban women, financially self-sufficient with all the trappings of our successful professional status – the need for new status symbols combined with the ability to pay for them.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Our parents’ generation saw the upsurge of women at work and all the initial beginnings like the glass ceiling, women bosses et al. Our generation in contrast is the one that gets to enjoy it (and be taken advantage of). We’re prominent for our purchasing power and marketers have been quick to pick up on the need for our own set of status symbols and paraphernalia. I speak as the target group of a woman who earns and has the independence to spend. I also speak as a marketing professional, seeing the other side of it, so to speak.

Successful men who earn well have been well tapped into as a market and are induced to spend on everything from their own selves (personal gadgets, cars), social settings (restaurants, pubs, sports activities) and all sorts of dating-related paraphernalia (presents for women, tokens of what makes them an ‘ideal partner’). What do their opposite numbers in our sex have?

We have shoes, clothes, bags, accessories, jewelery, make-up and personal grooming services. If the men-targeted products homed in on the traditional masculine need to be macho and an alpha male, we are being targeted for our vanity and need to be ‘the babe’.

Of course, the more complicated dynamics of women actually competing with each other in these stakes is well played out. What else do you think Bhala uski saadi meri saadi se safed kaisi is?

The more expensive products are obviously affordable only to a certain type of woman – she has a career, she’s ambitious and wants to be respected for her intelligence, she doesn’t want to stand in anyone’s shadow, she has a personality of her own. And hence diamonds, super-expensive shoes and clothes come with the messages that they respect your individuality, celebrate your independence and will take Visa as well as American Express.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I was invited to the premier showing of the big Hollywood release of Confessions of a Shopaholic. I saw the movie with a group of girlfriends and all of us identified with the heroine. We would, she’s based on us after all. While the movie is meant to be a really light-hearted comedy, it points to something deeper.
I got to wondering about the phenomenon of shopaholism. Is it a reality that we’re likely to be facing very soon? All manner of excess is driven towards filling a need that hasn’t been satisfied earlier. So women who binge are thought to be unconsciously compensating for a lack of affection in their lives. What unmet need are we trying to plug with this excessive buying?

Becky Bloomwood in the movie nails it on the head when she explains her addiction,

Because when I shop, it feels so pretty, so nice, so good! And then it doesn’t so I have to shop even more!

True to all successful marketing strategies, this one also gives us a taste of what we like and then leaves us begging for more. Shinier hair! Higher heels! Bigger (and smaller) bags! Cooler sunglasses! Brighter make-up! Lotions, creams, gels, powders, liquid liners, sticks, brushes, concealers, colorants, rinses, crayons, cakes, gloss, sequins, beads, rhinestones, denim, silk, linen, velvet….the list never ends.

So for all our gloss and gorgeousness, we are nothing more than the product of a very successful marketing program designed to relieve us our newly-minted paychecks. ‘Fabulous’ is the bait they use to lure us in and the looming bill at the end of the month is the hook.

It used to be about too many people wanting to get into my pants.
Now everyone wants to get into my wallet!!

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