Wedding nights have always been anticipated as something very auspicious and necessary. Bollywood movies have an important contribution in creating the hype around wedding nights. Remember the essential wedding night scenes in which the friends of the groom prep him up for good performance while the friends of the bride and especially the sister-in-law gives tips to dress and behave in a certain way to look attractive. But why doesn’t anyone talk about the choice of the bride or the groom whether they are ready to be intimate with each other? Why is their nervousness sidelined as something normal rather than questioning the indispensable sex on the wedding night? Should the wedding night sex be an obligation or a choice? If a couple isn’t comfortable and consenting, shouldn’t there be better foreplay in marriages that involves courtship, love and understanding before taking things to bed?
The obsession with the wedding night is linked to the obsession over the bride’s virginity. It is no hidden fact that in Indian conservative societies, women are asked to wait till marriage to have a sexual life and do “bizarre” things in life. And wedding nights are seen as significant because the bride is supposed to lose her virginity on this day. Blood-stained sheets become the evidence of her good and chaste character, the absence of which has often led to the dissolution of marriage.
But is marriage the right criteria to decide the legitimacy of sex? What about the consent, desires and the right age of both the partners? Why should the hype around wedding night sex and virginity get to decide a woman’s character? Even though there is a specified age for women to be sexually active, the number of child marriages and early pregnancies show that girls become sexually active much before the assigned age. The idea that she is a minor or not ready to have sex (irrespective of her age) no longer matter after marriage. Why this hypocrisy and prejudice in women’s sexuality? Doesn’t the necessity of wedding night sex raises questions on the probability of lack of consent, unfulfilled desires and possible marital rape?
It cannot be denied that sex is a taboo in our society. There is no sex and sexuality education prior to marriage so that bride and groom could understand the idea of consent, desire and harassment too. Then how can the society expect men and women to be suddenly open to sexual relationship the day they tie a knot of marriage? It is important to note here that India still doesn’t have a law against marital rape. There is always an assumed consent for sex between a married couple because again marriage in India is a legitimisation of sex, no matter if it is consensual or rape.
Moreover, what also explains the obsession over wedding night sex is the idea that marriages are a medium to produce progeny. Which is why pregnancy within marriage is always considered legitimate and rarely unwanted. As a result, the chances of using protection during sex decreases further (as high as 73.3 per cent married men do not use protection as per NFHS 2015-16) which leads to early and unwanted pregnancies. Then, is it not necessary for couples to have a talk about family planning and protection before it leads to complications and misunderstandings? Because without knowing about each other’s ideologies, future plans and priorities, no decision in a relationship can be right.
Knowing about each other is necessary not only for the decisions that a couple makes within marriage but to decide to marry itself.
But in India love marriage is still not the norm and many arranged marriages even today do not allow the couple to meet each other before marriage which is done within months after families meet each other for the first time. In that case, it is often normal for a person to marry someone they rarely know or understand because the idea is that perfect match is important, which is based on caste, astrology and man’s purse, love can wait or happen after marriage. Then, isn’t it weird to expect a person to be comfortable in being intimate with someone he or she barely knows? Shouldn’t it be more important for the two to give time to understand and love each other? Because it is not right to close the possibility that the marriage might not work out.
Perhaps a way to solve the problem is to normalise a quality conversation on the wedding night rather than sex. It should be a time when the couple, exhausted of all the marriage functions, sits together and gets into talking about the day, their life and expectations from each other. Of course, sex is also fine if both are comfortable and the intimacy is consensual. What can also ease the pressure on the wedding night is the normalisation of pre-marital sex. If a couple gets to know each other well before marriage, there will be no pressure or the fear of expectations being shattered on wedding nights. But, we are way too far from this to be the reality. We live in a society that criticises Neha Kakkar and Hardik-Natasha for being sexually active before marriage.