This weekend I posted the following on my Facebook page: “It’s bad enough that I’m unlikely to have sex on Valentine’s Day, now I don’t even have a good movie to watch!”
The post was about the lack of a good romantic movie releasing around Valentine’s Day, but within 7 hours of posting this, I got several messages from male friends and acquaintances hoping to have sex with me. Some even made it sound like selfless charity. “A girl should not be lonely on Valentine’s Day. How about I take you out for dinner…” suggested one. Others offered me “happiness” and “satisfaction” because “a hard working girl” like me deserves it.
Now, I’m no prude. I have a healthy sex life. I’m a single woman and a serial monogamist. I only look for long term committed and meaningful relationships, but don’t like to pressurize my partner with marriage. I like to let things evolve. Dating is a vetting process… a process of discovery. Marriage will happen if and when it is meant to. It is more important for me to find a good partner who is compatible with me in every way, mentally, sexually, socio-culturally, politically and economically. For example I can’t be in a relationship with a homophobic, right wing extremist with a judgmental backward mentality and who is only interested in my because of my body and my family’s wealth!
But I finally got an insight into the though-process of men who until now I thought were modern, educated and understanding friends. Their attitude made me ask myself, why is it that Indian men only see relationships as binary. If it is “true love” it must end in marriage. If it doesn’t lead to marriage, it is just “meaningless sex”. I wonder how will a man respect his wife, if he can’t truly respect his girlfriend? Why is respect tied to rituals and legality? Why is sexual liberation seen as a sign of deviant behavior in our society?
While Indian culture has always placed emphasis on love, romance was very private in the time of our parents who settled for arranged marriages but still enjoyed movies about young love like Bobby, Rafu Chakkar and Golmaal. They became a little liberal and their advice to our generation was that it was okay to date as long as it ended in marriage. We somehow managed to normalize “love marriage”, even “inter-caste marriage” and some of us also experimented with “live-in” relationships.
But the Millenials have taken it to another level with “hanging out and having fun”, a baggage free approach to relationships that actually gives people the time and space required to evaluate their relationship. It is alas, misunderstood and often confused with other concepts like “friends with benefits”, “open relationships” and “polyamoury”. All this along with commitment phobia has today been twisted out of context by Indian men to mean that a woman who doesn’t immediately insist on marriage, is to be just “used for sex”. This has led to over-sexualization and objectification, leaving little or no room for emotions.
The basic reason is that we still associate sexual pleasure with guilt and shame. Valentine’s Day is therefore still something right wing political outfits protest against in their bid to protect Indian culture. The day we free themselves from guilt and shame, we will begin to recognize sex as a celebration of our existence and an integral aspect of romantic love. Sex is how two consenting adults express their feelings for each other. How can it ever be dirty or meaningless?So this Valentine’s Day, I urge you to keep the romance alive. It’s okay if you are too broke to treat your partner to expensive presents. You should never run out of love and respect. And I genuinely hope you have great sex. Happy Valentine’s Day!