No matter how progressive we may be, we still tend to drop our voices when we discuss sex in India or use metaphors to indirectly indicate body parts or sexual acts. It’s because we’re taught that sex is taboo from a young age.
But what happens when you want to talk about your sexual life with your partner? While it can be awkward and daunting to verbalize your desires, your dislikes, and also gauge what your partner wants in bed, it is an important conversation to have. This is especially true for many Indian women, whose desires are invalidated from a young age, who are taught not to speak openly, who are even discouraged from speaking to the opposite sex until they are married.
“For most Indians, Bollywood is the main source of education when it comes to romance and sex.”
In such a repressive system, that lacks proper sex education and doesn’t encourage conversations around sex and sexuality, it can be difficult for Indian women, especially those who enter an arranged marriage set up, to talk about their sex life. While traditional discourse also doesn’t allow for these conversations to happen in an arranged marriage, it is slowly becoming more normalized thanks to progressive cinema and social media. But, for the most part, Indian women in arranged marriages don’t often get the opportunity to talk about their needs and wants.
“For most Indians, Bollywood is the main source of education when it comes to romance and sex. Unfortunately, its skewed perspective teaches men that they have a right to demand and have sex, and it teaches the woman that the man can ask for sex and she needs to give in to it. Both forget that the woman is also an equal part in that equation,” intimacy coach and sexuality educator Niyatii Shah told Re:Set.
So how can a woman, who has just entered an arranged marriage, overcome these cultural and societal barriers and talk to her partner about her sexual desires?
“Whether you’re unmarried or married or just about to get married, it’s important for women to know their own bodies and know how sex works for them. Because when you’re sure of what works for you, it’s easier to talk about it,” Shah said. She suggests exploring your body, getting comfortable with your own touch, and trying masturbation as it will help you understand how your body reacts to different kinds of sexual stimulation.
It’s also better for a woman to know what in sex works for her — what makes her orgasm, whether penetrative sex works better or if a certain kind of foreplay brings her more pleasure, so that she can specify what she likes and what she doesn’t.
The key to making an uncomfortable conversation bearable is to start with baby steps. Shah recommends initiating the conversation slowly, when getting intimate with your partner. “It can be a verbal or non-verbal communication too. It can start by the way you touch each other when you’re being intimate, when you’re kissing or flirting. Say what you would like them to do to you or if they’d like to try something,” she said, adding that it’s important to include the partner and also ask them what they would like. “Always offer first and then ask. It’s crucial that they consent to trying new things in bed.”
Another great way to initiate a conversation about sex is to read and watch things related to sex to understand what you’d like to try. “Try picking up clues from a TV show you’re watching together and ask your partner if you could try that. Or even if you notice another couple indulging in a public display of affection, bring that into the conversation and say you’d like to do that,” Shah said. She also suggests using phrases like, “Hey, I read about this new sex act and how good it is, would you like to try it together?” in order to set a non-serious and open tone to the conversation.
The patriarchal nature of Indian society puts the man in a position of power and that can make it difficult for the woman to verbalize her needs or have him invalidate her preferences. So it is more common to find that a husband will not be open to a conversation about or be shocked to learn of his wife’s sexual desires. In such cases, using subtle, non-verbal cues may help. If possible, try guiding him while you’re in bed together by taking his hand and showing him where you’d like to be touched, Shah suggests.