We need to talk about what women want… in bed
With Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories breaking the cultural taboo around this touchy topic, it's time female pleasure became top priority
“The hand-held mini shower by my toilet is more likely to make me orgasm than most of the men I’ve ever been with,” my friend Shreya says softly, shaking her head and laughing as we discuss our romantic lives over coffee.
“You should tell them that so they work on their skills,” I reply.
“No way!” she responds immediately, virtually cutting me off. “That would be so weird and embarassing for me.”
Even though we live in a cultural moment where #girlpower has become a mainstay in the popular imagination, publicly, we’re awfully quiet about a very important part of the gender equality puzzle: female pleasure.
More couples in urban India now seem comfortable challenging ideas around who ought to pay the bills and who ought to make the chapatis than ever before—but as for who should be having the orgasms—unexamined gender stereotypes still persist, and even talking about them remains taboo for women, let alone actually breaking them down.
I was lucky to grow up in a liberal family—my bohemian parents have always been extremely open with my brother and I, so if I ever had a relationship or body-related anxiety, I could simply turn to them for context, without fearing judgement. But I know that not everyone has that sort of safe space to talk about their sexual concerns and experiences.
That’s why I recently started a YouTube channel with the vision to initiate and normalize honest conversations about love and sex, especially among women.
And whether married or unmarried, most of the women I’ve spoken to while doing research for my videos share the same major complaint – they wish they were having a better time in bed, but they’re not sure what to do about it.
That’s why watching Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories made me so completely ecstatic. Both these pieces of relatively mainstream Hindi cinema depict Indian women reminding the world that their desires are real, and that their pleasure matters. And that vibrators are awesome.
The scenes in each film of women masturbating stood out as among the most powerful portrayals of the urban Indian woman in pop culture in recent times. Because they so vehemently undermined the prevailing gender stereotypes around who sex ought to be pleasurable for.
In my biology class in the 9th grade, when human anatomy and the reproductive system were taught, the penis was labelled on the textbook diagrams of the male body. Male ejaculation (his pleasure) got a notable mention. But on the diagrams of the female body, the clitoris definitely never featured.
In ways like this, we learn that male pleasure is a vital part of sex. And men, therefore, feel entitled to it without shame. But women are fed a very different message: For us, sex is supposed to be about having babies, not orgasms.
As a result, not just men, but even many women often don’t know enough about how the female body works in relation to pleasure. So many of my female friends have been shocked to learn that they don’t pee from the same hole that they menstruate from.
Even among the women who do know the difference between their vulva and their cervix, many share a sense of embarrassment around their bodies.
We are made to feel that we have to be waxed and douched and perfumed before anyone should be let anywhere near. And even then, we’re so often worried the whole time about whether it all really looks and tastes and smells okay.
So how can we help shape a new narrative?
First, we ourselves need to know in great detail the extent of the magic our bodies are capable of.
Unlike men who see their penises several times a day, women barely ever get a proper look at their vaginas.
So if you haven’t yet done this, the next time you have half an hour to yourself at home, please lie down with a hand held mirror and admire and acquaint yourself with your most intimate parts. Unlike our school textbooks, the internet is full of properly labeled diagrams of female genitalia if you need help identifying what is what.
Then, take the time to figure out what arouses you. It might take a few weeks, or a few years—but it will be so worth it. Touch yourself, watch feminist porn, buy a dual action vibrator.
Make understanding your own pleasure a priority.
Let your partner know exactly what you want and what works for you. You’ll find that men are actually pretty receptive to this sort of communication. When I’ve asked my male friends what they wish women would do more of in bed, the first thing almost all of them say is that they’d appreciate more instruction.
So next time, instead of faking it because you don’t want to hurt his ego, tell him how you like it and what you want more of.
And let’s teach young people that — for both men and women — good sex is less about how your bodies look, and more about making your partner’s pleasure —and consent — your top priorities.