By The Ladies Finger and Agents of Ishq
Over the last few months, we’ve been discussing the violence that happens as sex, the violence that happens in sex. If we want to change the interactions inside sex, especially heterosexual sex, we believe we have to talk more about sex actually – not only the concepts around sex. We have to be able to say what works for us and what doesn’t and make that a normal part of the world. Diverse women’s diverse experience of sex and their diverse interpretations of and responses to their sexual experience should inform discussions and understandings about sex.
This is why we started the campaign Sex Actually in collaboration with Agents of Ishq – to get that conversation started. We asked people to contribute a story about a sexual experience they couldn’t forget – awful or awesome or ho-hum – in this anonymous form.
Here are the stories people sent to us. Half the stories are here – half are here at Agents of Ishq. We will publish more as they come (all puns are intended because like the clitoris they have no purpose except fun), as you send us more.
Tell us your story by clicking here. You can write in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi. These are the languages in which we can process stories currently.
Just add your age now, your age at the time of the story and make up a name for yourself. Then, go ahead and write out the story and why you keep thinking about it.
Age then: 25
Age now: 38
This guy I met on a dating site pursued me for a few weeks hectically. He was a bit strange because he was five or six years older and had a job with some responsibility but seemed to have all the time in the world to pursue me on email and sms and on the site’s chat thingy. He had a very effective line of dirty talk that got me very hot and bothered. Which is why I decided to meet him. As a person he seemed rather charmless, or maybe I am saying this in retrospect because of what happened with me and because I heard from a few other women he slept with. No, I don’t think so truly he was rather grey. And I was really meeting him for sex. When we finally met, he picked me up in his neighbourhood and drove me to his house. He had lots of books in his living room that overlapped somewhat with stuff I was interested in.
I pulled a book off a shelf to look at. He began to feel me up sort of like round the book, over the book, under the book. It could have been sexy but I just remember feeling ki ye ho kya raha hain and why so urgent bro. Then in five minutes he backed me through his house to his bed. He took my clothes off very rapidly with great efficiency. I was still in slow-mo so not feeling anything, not even angry, you understand. Then I think he gave me head briskly kneeling next to the bed and I suppose I must have stared at the ceiling. And swiftly came the moment of penetration. The thing I forgot to mention in that his dirty talk there was lots of sophisticated implication that he had the perfect penis and that sophisticated direct statement that he was an awesome sex machine. Now here was the moment and he sort of penetrated and then exited just as rapidly. I looked up to enquire if sab khairiyat etc but he was looking lost in space. He said: I feel haunted by the ghost of my ex-girlfriend. I felt bad for him for exactly one minute because before I could even extend any sympathy he had begun the reverse hustle. Ten minutes later I was back in my clothes and out of the house and he was driving me back to my place. It was all too clinical and neat for me to throw a big, giant hissy fit which I should have. Not because he didn’t want to have sex but because he was behaving like I was the Aquaguard salesman after he had pursued me for weeks. I don’t remember if we continued communication briefly. We might have because I am sure I felt a lot of pressure to be cool. I see him once in a couple of years because we now have common friends and he finds it hard to make eye contact. I am viciously chatty. I don’t think he is like that because he is embarrassed. I think he thinks he is a sex machine but he is just not good with women or perhaps even human beings in general. He was good with dirty talk on text. He’d make a good app.
Name: Rita K
Age then: 22
Age now: 27
My sister used to make this joke about me. “You’re, like, the de-virginator of Mumbai or something”. This was something of an exaggeration. What it meant was that by age 22, I had had a few decent experiences with sex, all of them with men trying it for the first time. Sometimes it was great, and sometimes it was a little bit dull. Nothing excruciating, often sort of fumbly, but mostly earnest and sweet.
Unlike most Indian parents who either don’t talk about it at all, or load young women up with the heady cocktail of shame-pregnancy-log-kya-kahenge-apocalypse, my dad had explained sex to preteen me as “something nice two people do when they love each other”. Well that sounds neat, I thought.
So when I decided to start having sex, it was with a teenage boyfriend I loved very sincerely. We waited for a respectable amount of time into the relationship , talked extensively about our feelings before and after, and read every article we could find on contraception via web browsers in incognito mode. I explained smugly to my still-unsexed girl friends how we avoided first-time pain with seamless expertise. I was well on my way to a happy, fulfilled, sex-positive, feminist lifestyle.
A few years later, I met this guy, let’s call him Hari. Hari was my awkward engineer friend. Hari listened while I cried for months after my great teenage love found his own (other) great teenaged love. Hari was especially interested in hearing about my exciting experiences with sex. When we met, Hari sometimes stared at my chest, but became abashed and stopped when I told him I had noticed. Hari was sad when he asked me out and I said I didn’t see him that way. Hari was angry when I kissed someone else. When I told him I had slept with this someone else, Hari called me a bitch and stopped talking to me.
But Hari and I eventually became friends again. We dated other people and a few years went by. One day, Hari and I went to a party together. “Don’t hit on me, okay, there are lots of single women here,” I told him. But Hari and I got very drunk and made out. That night he took me home. On our way there, I said mildly, “Oh, are we going to have sex then?” Hari said, “Yup”. After dodging it for years, I found that hooking up with Hari was not as terrible as I had imagined it would be, and I was surprised and relieved.
One of the first few times we were having sex, Hari lay back in bed and said with a smile, “Now serve me”. I stopped and looked up, sure he was joking. “Say that again and you’ll never see me naked again,” I said coquettishly. “Don’t bring feminism into the bedroom, you’ll ruin sex,” he replied, dead serious. I rolled my eyes and thought, “Ruin sex for whom, I wonder?” But Hari wasn’t a bad guy. Sure we sometimes disagreed on whether the friendzone was fair or not, but he had come a long way over the years. At least he had stopped saying, “It isn’t rape, just surprise sex, haha.”
I was quite sure where the power in this relationship lay. I was young, skinny and conventionally attractive. He was, let’s say, a little less sought after. Sometimes I would joke and cruelly tell him I was doing my social service for the month by sleeping with an awkward engineer like him. Eventually, we fell in love. I apologised profusely to him for that jibe, and for not coming around to dating him sooner.
Over the next year, Hari and I had lots of arguments about politics, and lots of sex. Hari didn’t really like condoms, so I went by myself to a gynaecologist for the Pill and the lecture that comes free with it. There was nothing especially tender or thoughtful about sex with Hari, but it was alright. I remembered the things he told me he liked, and pretended to get just a little more excited than I actually was when he tried his newest moves. None of his newest moves included mastering the clitoris. “I think you should do this yourself,” he would say, after a few minutes of prodding about. “Don’t worry about it,” I’d say smiling. Unfazed, Hari would continue heroically to the main event. After he had had his orgasm, he would ask me breathlessly, “Did you?” Sometimes I would say yes, and sometimes I would say no. Either way, Hari would kiss me, then roll off me and fall asleep. The point of sex isn’t the orgasm anyway, I would tell myself, and fall asleep too, a little while later. Eventually, I just started saying yes when he asked. He did ask every time, though. That was thoughtful.
The years went by, we moved in together and Hari started to become less interested in sex. That’s normal as a relationship goes on, I thought. Maybe Hari just can’t keep up with me and I have unrealistic expectations, I thought. When I tried to bring it up, he said talking about this made him feel emasculated and said dolefully that he could never make me happy. Sometimes he said it was not me, that he just felt too lazy, had watched too much “fucked up” porn, or had trouble with his body image. I felt guilty for pushing him, and told him how handsome and attractive I thought he was. I bought nice lingerie and got really fit. But I noticed his disinterest was especially evident when I tried to initiate sex. Not when he wanted it, though. He got sad if I said I was tired, so I decided I was not that tired after all. Wasn’t I the one harping on about how little sex we were having?
By this time, we only had sex when Hari decided we would. In moments of anger, I would try to tell him how I felt I had no sexual agency or control over my body, but feminist jargon had never been the way to Hari’s heart. He would roll his eyes, then hug me and promise to make it better when I cried. If I said I was sad that maybe he didn’t want me any more, he would show me how much he did by tossing me around the room. “I wonder if this is what being raped feels like,” I once found myself thinking casually, before chastising myself for being insensitive to people who really do get raped. One day, in one of these displays of masculinity, Hari called me a slut. I froze for a second, but didn’t want to ruin the mood. Later, while we were watching The Handmaid’s Tale, I paused the episode, “Hey do you think maybe you can avoid that word you used yesterday, I don’t particularly like it.” He said, “It was just something I said in sex, you’re impossible to please. Okay okay fine, I won’t say it.” I gave him a kiss and hit play again.
Eventually, Hari decided we were to have sex mainly while I was asleep. The first few times, I thought it was kind of sexy. The next few times, I realised I really just wanted to go back to bed. One night, I thought maybe if I appeared to still be asleep, he’d get the hint. When he didn’t, I let him get on with his business, to spare his feelings, while hoping he would be done soon so I could go back to the nice dream I had been having. In the morning, I wondered why I felt sort of sick inside. I decided to do what I usually do when I have awkward questions, and Googled “Did my boyfriend rape me last night?” The answers were inconclusive, but a bunch of self-help forums told me I should just tell him frankly how I had felt. That evening, I was especially quiet when we were both home after work, and Hari noticed something was up.
“Are you sad again? Is it about sex?”
“Umm. Okay don’t get mad, I’m not saying anything drastic, but I sort of feel like maybe you didn’t…I guess, what I mean is that I think maybe you didn’t exactly have my consent last night.”
“Look, I know you were really sleepy, we both were, but I guess I just didn’t feel very good about it when I woke up.”
“Oh well, I’m so sorry I made you feel that way. What are we eating for dinner?”
“Hmm, maybe do you want to talk about this some more?”
“But I said I was sorry, I was also really tired, I won’t do it again, obviously.”
“Yeah, sorry but I feel really upset and confused about what happened.”
“God, stop making me feel like a rapist man.”
“Okay okay yeah, you’re right, never mind. Let’s order something nice?”
Hari and I dated for a few more months after that. In that time, we had plenty of sex while I was asleep. Sometimes I said “stop it” a few times before he would listen. Sometimes I got up and went away to pee and waited till he was asleep again before I lay down again. Sometimes I said nothing at all, and let him finish. The night before he broke up with me, I was woken up for sex, and he softly called me a slut one last time. I didn’t fight it, and plus, I was the one who had wanted us to have more sex. After all, sex is something nice two people do when they love each other.
Name: Some Girl Bose
Age then: 22-23 (you know how things are)
Age now: 25
This was my first relationship, as in, I had said yes to a guy for the first time in life. Within two weeks, I realised he was possessive, but also liked discussing his ex. This confused me and frankly, I wasn’t that intense about the relationship yet. So I was losing interest pretty fast and in another week or so, it was a friend’s birthday.
Now, we all belonged to one big circle of friends and he was childhood friends with the guys in the group. So at the party, we told everyone that we broke up (kind of). He said it sadly enough for his bros to take action. They insisted we put our differences behind because we were “gorgeous together.” By now everyone was drunk on Old Monk rum and people were congratulating me and him for making up. It was the weirdest thing.
Suddenly they put us in a room and asked us to “talk it out”. That is when the trouble began. He started kissing me and groping me while professing his love, while all I could smell was his rum-soaked breath. I did not want to make out because I had been forced to patch up with him by the others and secondly, this wasn’t how my first kiss was supposed to happen. It was extremely uncomfortable and I just couldn’t make it stop. I wasn’t rude enough to walk out, I don’t know why. And the worst bit, I later realised, our friends, mainly his bros, were all watching from the window and cheering loudly. Felt the most humiliated ever.
I was casually hanging out with this guy during my last semester of college, but I like taking things slow when it comes to sex, so I pretty much only engaged in everything upto oral sex most of the times.
It was only once we ended up moving to the same city after graduation and ended up in a relationship that we tried to have penetrative sex. But the minute we tried to engage in intercourse, he would lose his erection. I wasn’t put off by that at all. Intercourse doesn’t do much for me anyway. And I never shamed him or even tried to pressure him into intercourse. I just kind of went with, “hey, if this isn’t working, let’s try something else”. We weren’t trying to have kids, plus at the end the big O is what mattered and there were a lot of other ways for both of us to get there.
But this guy kept on making it seem like it was my fault. I was too tight, or I wasn’t wet enough, or I wasn’t stimulating him well enough. He made me buy lube (he was stingy too but that is another story), but lube wasn’t going to do anything for a flaccid penis! The fact that he blamed me for his inability to hold his erection was really not okay. I knew it wasn’t me, but clearly he was insecure about it so I let it go. Had I had lower self-esteem, I would have probably believed him when he made it seem like it was my fault. He eventually, a few months later, accepted that it was his performance anxiety that caused it. And when I told him about how it was shitty of him to make me feel like it was my fault, he didn’t seem remorseful. We are no longer together, for this and a lot of other reasons. But I learnt how toxic masculinity is. I learnt that he was only trying to put it on me so that I would lose confidence and as a result stay with him and not go looking for sex anywhere else. I learnt how men put their emotional burden on women and how frustrating that can be for women. I learnt where I should draw the line for myself when it comes to this kind of manipulation and shirking of emotional labour.
So, a conversation about sex. Finally a conversation to be shared not on Whatsapp with my best friend, or reflecting on it after a couple of drinks of cheap whisky.
Sex can be so many things. It can be good, great, terrible, regrettable, hot and heavy, god fucking ugly, meaningful, not at all so, confusing. But this encounter is nothing like that. It was so normal that it took a while to make sense.
I always wanted to share this experience because of how unspecial it was, in a nice way. To give the reader a little profile, I started having sex with my first boyfriend when I was around 16 (not an easy thing to accept by the way). He was a nice guy and we dated for 4 whole years. In time, things got bad, our paths changed and we became different people, accepted different distractions and ended up having a lot of bad, pathetic, gross, teenagery sex (the prolonged break up sex thing we do, that!).
I moved out of Calcutta, where everyone knows everyone, a small incestuous set up that it had offered. I had sex with a vengeance after that. Lost a bunch of weight, which made it easier to be woke, walked with confidence (only so much that the city of Delhi can offer you) and without waxing my legs.
I ended up meeting a lot of nice people— interesting, ambitious, creative etc etc. So, here is the thing, sex is always so loaded. It means so many things and it somehow comes with these swiftly changing codes and norms based on reactions and observations or whatever. Heteronormative sex, that’s the weirdest shit, in the last decade I realised that nothing was sacred and neither were the dumbass values that I had in my mind and they are changing every day. The nuances are breaking and building, this beautiful and exciting beginning of a process has probably caused some minor inconveniences.
I have been lucky enough (though this should be normal) to have at no point of time ‘had’ to have sex. If I ever didn’t feel like it, I didn’t do it. Things have worked out for me like that. But a good one night stand has left me confused or in agony or left me in a strange mood of self-hate and introspection. Quite a few times.
But you know a thing or two about the usual set-ups, right, when sex is a possibility. I went to a bar one day, without the intent of picking someone up, being picked up, or pretending to be picked up or any of that. I went with a few of my friends where we ran into some of their friends from college and some other guy. Some-other-guy, the tag along, was extremely good company. We talked over the music, not the typical “singled out, lets go to a corner and talk about whatever the fuck you think the other one is interested in”, but just nice conversation. Snappy and aware of the things in the meme world. So we all hung out and someone called us over to their house to continue the merry-making.
The perks of having friends in South Delhi is that they have 4BHK houses and a fully stocked bar (not that we would be doing anything about it, just stocked bars make people happy) and Bose speakers while their parents have a weekend in their farms in Chhatarpur. I love having South Delhi friends. They also drink Old Monk. So we went back. We all talked.
A few failed attempts at drinking games later we all decided to play a song we really like. I played Marinade. Not a lot of people know that song but guess what some other guy, the tag along did, and we sort of looked at each other and thought “kindred souls!!!” (read: potential lay for tonight).
The people got drunker and the songs got sadder and a friend went on a Tinder date at 3 and everything made sense and it felt really nice. So, some other guy asked if I want to go back to his place. I blamed convenience because he lived close to campus and had a spare mattress. The prospect of not having to go anywhere alone in Delhi at night overwhelmed me with gratitude and I agreed.
He was taking his car out and I requested politely that we take an Uber and we awkwardly waited for the cab to come, discussing our favourite brands of cigarette (Benson versus Classic Regular, psht!). We went to his place, tidy and minimal, film posters of shit made by Fassbinder, Ozu, Ismail Rodrigues. So here I am at his apartment, after an overbearingly silent Uber ride where all the ghosts of sex mates past paid a visit.
What if my breath smells, what if his smells, what if his dick is crooked to the left, what if he wants me to play dead, what if he doesn’t have protection, should I leave right after or stay for breakfast but there I was with a magical surprise beer in my hand looking at film posters.
So, some other guy asks me to wait while he comes from the room and I sit and wait contemplating the loaded-ness of modern day casual sex. Fuck, what if I fall in love with him tomorrow. What if he does. Shit shit! I was sure I was going to see a naked guy wearing only his socks standing in front of me with his hands on his waist. People do that shit a lot. But here he was with a laptop and all the clothes he had on and slippers and no socks. I was shocked. Apparently his Uber ride silent thoughts were about all the cool videos he wanted me to watch. He made me coffee so I would be less drunk for the non-adult entertainment segment of this show and I was oddly so happy, not relieved. I totally wanted to do it, the word for the feeling would be ‘chill’. I felt really chill about the situation.
We laughed and laughed and cried from laughing. Smoked a beautiful joint and went to the terrace for the sunrise. It took too long and we came back and laughed some more. He asked if he could kiss me and I said something completely stupid that conjured about a bunch of crickets to lend me some sound effects so I proceeded to kiss him first. It was a very good kiss. He asked me if I wanted to go ahead with it and again I said something completely awkward (read: mai toh kabse hu ready taiyyar) and I am sorry, bad humour helps me deflect questions that have straight answers). We did it and we laughed and we got confused and fumbled, we moaned and gasped and I came and so did he.
Then he said something nice, while we dramatically smoked cigarettes like we’re in some Godard film, some other guy also feels the pressure like me and he didn’t know how to go about it. We were not going anywhere with this and it was all going to be about right now and we would go our different ways but without feeling burdened or hurt or sad or extra. The only thing we would have in common would be Marinade and the hangover we would wake up to. He slept. I went to the bathroom, saw my reflection and didn’t feel a thing. Not a single thought. Woke up to some strange sounds. He was in his kitchen.
“Get me my coffee, bitch,” I said. Followed by forced laughter at the comical role reversal of gender stereotypes.
“On it. What do you want for lunch?” he asked.
“A quickie,” I said obviously punning on the word cookie but not wanting either.
He laughed at my terrible sense of humour and my perseverance as well. I said I have to go and he agreed. We hugged and added each other on Facebook and let ourselves be.
Now, a few years from then, we still share memes and songs, wish each other on our birthdays and if we run into each other, we chat.
I had sex. It felt really good and it wasn’t all of those other things sex used to mean to me. This sex meant nothing, not that bad nothing (with the exclamation mark) but the nothing nothing and that was the best part. We had coffee, food, ungodly amounts of alcohol, sex, more coffee and a nice day. I don’t go about looking for that in general. It happened and could happen again or not. All these possibilities reinstored a certain faith.
Sex for sex not for intimacy, vengeance, procreation, anger, horniness (maybe a little), violence, love, friendship, nothing. It was two consenting, aware, well-adjusted (well sort of) adults. That’s my sex story. Boring sex rocks!
Name: Sensitive Bitch Switch
Age then: 22
Age now: 27
When I was 22, I entered into a relationship with a professor who was 40 years my senior. He wasn’t good-looking by any conventional measure, but he was charming, wealthy, well-known in arts, journalistic and academic circles, and had, by his own admission, the biggest private library of Marxist literature in the city. Classes with him were unremarkable, but he would frequently exhort us to ditch apathy in favour of some kind of rebellious fire that he proposed we then channel towards “political causes”. On sultry afternoons, my female classmates and I would titter idly about which one of us he fancied. He fancied more than one of us, but I think I was the only one in my class that he slept with.
He sent some of us naughty, but also plaintive messages indicating longing. In the insecurity of my early 20’s, I often found men desirable when they desired me first. So I responded first tentatively and humbly, and later with passion.
We went on a couple of dinner dates soon after the course formally ended. He called me to his home. The first time I went we lay in each other’s arms amid tall piles of books, kissing feverishly. He called my small pointy breasts beautiful and sucked on them — a peculiar but also pleasurable experience for me, because I felt like I was a hot babe in a too-tight dress who was nursing an old man in a blue film. I had just finished reading J M Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’ and I spoke to the professor in a haze about the parallel between the novel’s central characters and us.
That first time, we did not have sex. The second time he called me over was after we had sexted for a couple of days. I asked if he had condoms with him. He said he did not use condoms and that he had never so far got any of his female partners pregnant. I said I was concerned about STIs. He said he didn’t have any, and didn’t I trust him? After all, he too could suspect me of having an STI. But I was a virgin then. I reminded him that I could not have had an STI unless it was congenital, in which case I would have been symptomatic years before I was 22.
I bought Durex condoms under the bright lights of a local cosmetics store and went to his home but he wouldn’t use them. I remember lying beside him on a mattress and saying, “This goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about sex.” But we undressed and had sex. I was uncomfortable and tight because I anticipated pain. He admonished me to relax, penetrated me with his fingers and tongue and then his penis. When we kissed, I tasted my own blood. He climaxed quickly and withdrew before he came.
When he had recovered, I asked, “Was that it?” This wasn’t an expression of condescension. I high-fived him in juvenile euphoria. It felt liberating, of course, to have sex, even if it wasn’t my most thrilling sensual encounter. I know from conversations with my female friends that they felt a similar high when they lost their virginity at age 17 or 20 or 26. I remember savouring the blood on my panties later that night. I remember feeling the power of a secret.
But in the years since, I have acquired a deep sense of regret towards that moment of capitulation when I agreed to have protection-free sex (the professor and I had unprotected sex on numerous later occasions too). It is another matter that I have frequently since tested negative for STIs (though I haven’t screened for HPV). The thought does cross my mind that if an educated and —to borrow an Orwellian phrase — lower-upper-middle-class woman like myself could disregard the most fundamental aspects of her education (namely, self-protection) because her charismatic partner told her it was a ‘bourgeois’ thing to do, how many times do other women also put themselves at unnecessary risk?
It really did come as no surprise to me that the professor’s name was on Raya Sarkar’s Google Document, but I did feel wave upon wave of anger and nausea. I did not put his name on the list, but I sympathise in full with whoever did.
There have been many important conversations on the subject of sex, power and consent since the Harvey Weinstein moment, but I think that relatively scarce attention has been paid to the circumstances in which consent is ventured. My relationship with the professor was what would broadly be termed consensual. But what does consent mean in situations of gross power inequality? Power, as everyone knows, unfolds along several axes simultaneously, manifesting according to differentials in caste, class, gender, social and scholastic capital, age, and seniority, among other things.
Is there space for love and respectful admiration when one partner is so clearly more vulnerable than the other? How do we assess or quantify vulnerability anyway? Surely powerful cis-men could also claim that they are vulnerable? In other words, does the opening up of this conversation into further nuance actually compromise its politics?
Age then: 21
Age now: 27
I had recently had sex with my boyfriend for the first time. While I was never a prude and had engaged in other kinds of sexual intimacy, penile-vaginal intercourse had not yet happened. When I was 21 and in B-school, he came to visit me in my city (we were in a long distance relationship) and we booked a hotel and spent 3 days going at it like bunnies. Soon after he turned emotionally abusive. However, this story is not about that.
A fellow student, who had more or less ignored me for 3 months, suddenly developed an interest in me. And before I knew it, we were sending each other text messages in class and coordinating when to bunk so we could fornicate in our hostel rooms. One look from him could set me on fire. He was the first person with whom I had multiple orgasms. He was the first person I had met who thoroughly enjoyed going down on women. He also helped me discover my own sexuality by teaching me about my own body.
While all the sex with him has been great, the one incident that sticks out is this. It was evening/dinner time. Most people were in the mess, eating. He walked into my room with no warning. Locked the door behind him. Asked me to take my pants off. He went down on me like I was his sole source of nourishment and he was famished. I was moaning into a pillow because our hostel walls were thin. That was the first time I had multiple orgasms – maybe about 4. He then got up. Looked at me. Smirked. Said, “Thank you for dinner” and walked out of my room. He didn’t take his clothes off. He didn’t expect any pleasure in return. It was that simple. It’s been 6 years since we first had sex. The fire I feel in my loins when he is around is still the same. We have fallen in and out of love with many other people, but our sexual chemistry stays strong. I can be in love with the most amazing person in the world. But my body will always crave his.
Name: Yo Tambien
Age then: 20
Age now: 23
We met on Tinder, and spent a night together in a hotel. Neither of us had discussed our expectations for the night, or whether and what we thought our relationship was. I should mention that while we initially connected on Tinder, we spent several weeks talking day and night to each other before deciding to meet.
We were drinking, sitting on the same bed. I did feel attracted to him but also unsure – I’d never quite been in a situation like this. And then he kissed me. I kissed him back, and things just continued on from there. And then he tugged at my shirt and took it off. I remember feeling vaguely uncomfortable at how things were going. I wasn’t a virgin, nor was I a stranger to hook ups, but it just felt like it was going too fast. I asked him to slow down for a while, and we did.
The rest of the night is blurred in my head, but it went like this: we kissed some more, he took my pants off, then I put them back on. Then he seemed very disappointed, almost impatient with me for not being able to make up my mind. Suddenly, I was scared and confused. I was in a room with a guy I didn’t know at all and I had nowhere else to go. I had already kissed him, expressed some sort of sexual interest in him. How was the night going to go? He didn’t force me into anything, but for some reason I felt like by kissing him in a hotel room, I was expected to go ahead. So I did…We kissed again, this time I took my pants off and didn’t put them back on. We slept together and it was alright – he was a nice guy but it wasn’t earth shattering. The entire time, this voice in the back of my head was telling me that this wasn’t ok and I just wanted it to finish soon. Outwardly I was enthusiastic, almost afraid to show him how hesitant I was.
I’ve thought about this a lot. Especially since the Aziz Ansari story came out. In my case I don’t blame him exactly – he was not as persistent as Ansari. But it pains me that I was so conditioned that I thought I had no option but to sleep with him. It pains me that I didn’t feel comfortable saying no, let’s just cuddle. The fear that I was possibly being assaulted and forced to sleep with him, propelled me to do it anyway, with fake enthusiasm. At least this way, I could control the narrative.
I often ask myself why I felt like I had no other choice, and I don’t really have an answer. But perhaps it’s because I’ve always been told that there wasn’t another choice, because I knew that no one would be sympathetic to my circumstances. You chose to go to a hotel with him – what did you expect?
On another note…I continued to see this guy. Many months later, we met up again in another hotel room. This time, we had sex once, after which I wasn’t really in the mood and put off his advances. And he was irritated – angry, even! But I was more confident in myself and told him I didn’t feel like it.
In fact he was pushier the second time, but I held my ground. I refused to let him make me feel bad about saying no. While he didn’t physically force me to do anything, there was something very discomfiting about the way he kept on making jabs at my refusal to have sex. I think men should be more mindful of that – it isn’t only about physical compulsion, but about the subtle belittling that occurs when women don’t do what men expect them to. Of course, that isn’t confined just to the bedroom.
That was the last time we saw each other. While it took me a while to put my finger on what exactly bothered me about our encounters, I feel like I’ve become far more confident about saying no. I’m proud to say that since then, I’ve only had very consensual and generally excellent sex.
I sent him the Aziz Ansari article and told him it would be good for him to read it. He responded with the NYT article on Aziz Ansari only being guilty of not being a mind reader. I suppose only one of us learnt from that experience.
Age then: 21
Age now: 22
The first time we kissed, we were both drunk on bangla (local alcohol you get in Kolkata) and had had raw onion with it. It was the best, most disgusting-tasting first kiss ever.
Another time, we were having sex in her bed. She was seeing another dude at that time and she would talk to me about him. He was a total misogynist asshole, you know, the kind your body is instantly attracted to and to your mind that’s a warning sign to stay the fuck away. One of those fuckboys.
But she would talk to me about him in bed and that was fun. She was on top, and she asked me if she could show me something that he does to her that drives her crazy. I said yes. She proceeded to hold my neck, gently choke me and tilt my head back. It was incredible. I felt super turned on, and as though a light had gone off somewhere in my head. I had never been choked before, and I haven’t had sex since where I haven’t asked to be choked. It was amazing.
I remember going down on her, tasting her, and being very surprised because her thigh tasted sweet! I couldn’t stop biting it. Later, we hung out naked in her balcony under the moonlight/streetlights. It was great.
Age then: 38
Age now: 42
I had only a couple of dating experiences as teenager, but then I had an arranged marriage at 22, and had no sexual experience before that. I didn’t know what to expect other than I liked kissing my past boyfriend. My husband didn’t like kissing and due to my lack of sexual prowess, I didn’t even recognise for years that he had erectile dysfunction at his ripe age of 26. I made do with oral sex and no intimacy but had two children by some miracle. Things were sexless and boring. He didn’t want to find a fix. I knew in my heart it was over.
I ventured into the world of online dating. Landed up finding a man who happened to be from India too. Yes, I live outside India. He was younger by 3 years, divorced and no children. I felt drawn to him, but not due to looks.
He was a stranger, we’d exchanged fake names. We met and watched a musical and then, went to his place. I didn’t know it will be a sexual encounter on the first date (Didn’t know that website we’d used is mainly for sexual dating.) I resisted but landed up enjoying the oral sex and then the real deal sex. I was 36 and married 14 years. His long penis inside me, hard and deep, was the first time I understood what my body had been missing. It was easy to fall in love with a stranger with the hormones that surged with him cumming inside me (dangerous but was in my safe period, so didn’t want to miss this one, who knows if I experience it again or not). The warmth I felt was something else. Then the hormones calmed down and I did realise we had little in common. But I did have encounters with him again and again. There was this one time, overlooking the river from his apartment lying down after sex on top of him, with his penis still inside me, dusky skies and it was so awesome to have experienced it. I felt sexually alive. With each part of my body feeling gratified and touched and satisfied. I had no regrets, for I knew, whether I found another partner or not, that moment I came to a decision — to walk out of my sexless marriage and it has been the right decision.
Images by Debasmita Das
All names are pseudonyms