The National Family Health Survey conducted in the year 2019- 2021 concluded that women have more sex partners than men in several Indian states and Union Territories. The survey was conducted in 707 districts of India taking into account 1.1 lakh women and one lakh men. And yet, we seldom hear women open up about sex and pleasure, even in the company of other women. Why?
As per the survey, women had more sex partners in 11 states and Union Territories such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu. The state of Rajasthan topped this list of women with more sex partners than men.
The survey gives us a clear view of how women are now reclaiming their sexual agency. Considering that every sexual encounter taken into account in this survey was consensual, it will not be wrong to say that women today do not shy away from getting what their body needs. But if women really have more sex partners than men, why do they hesitate in sharing or talking about it with others, especially women in their vicinity? What keeps women from sharing about their sex life with women around?
One of the reasons could be the stigma that is still attached to sex, especially for women. Even today, sex in our society is considered dirty and is always brushed under the carpet during discussions with family or friends. Sex is always rendered as a private matter which if exposed in the public can bring immense criticism and shaming. Since sex is considered immoral, women are not expected to nurture the idea of sex or pleasure, let alone express it. Women are upheld as idols of morality who must preserve their purity and block out all dirty thoughts and deeds like sex.
Moreover, sex is never related to women in terms of pleasure and orgasm. Society teaches women to see sex just a means to produce children or satiate their husbands. Premarital sex, masturbation, being pleasured by one’s partner- these are deemed okay for men, but even talking about these will bring immense shame to women.
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Because of society’s attitude towards women’s sexuality, they do not feel safe sharing about their sexual encounters within their peer groups, let alone other people in their lives. They are afraid of being judged, shamed and excommunicated by society and by their own sisterhood. Afterall, we all know how women themselves shame other women for their unconventional choices. Then how can a woman trust her female friends with information that change their outlook towards her?
But do we know the consequences of the silence on women’s sex lives? If women do not discuss about sex, many will remain unaware of the necessity of protection to prevent unwanted pregnancies or from contracting sexually transmitted diseases. While many more will never know how practices like stealthing are actually a violation of their consent. A survey shows that 62 percent of women are not satisfied with their sex life. If women don’t talk about sex then how will they know that dissatisfaction in bed is something that needs to be discussed with their partner?
Talking about sex is a healthy practice and everyone benefits from it. However, we can’t expect women to do so, until we get rid of the stigma around sex and pleasure entirely and vow to walk into such discussions with no judgement on our mind.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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