I have been a 23-year-old virgin. At 27 too, there’s not much sexual experience to boast about. Not that I wasn’t close to men; they have been my friends and confidantes since childhood. And once I grew up, I knew I was amorous by nature. I liked the idea of sex though societal restrictions and my low self-esteem and self-confidence played havoc with my sex life or love life in general. I realized that lack of relationship education makes you commit chilling! mistakes because of poor judgment.
Every time I’m betrayed, I recall the red flags I conveniently chose to ignore. Many of us continue to do that all our lives despite being hurt over and over again. It’s because we are lonely and no sooner do we find people we can connect with, we latch on to them, thus overlooking all their foibles and making irrational adjustments to fit our lives with theirs. That is when they take us for granted, mistreating us, with no remorse whatsoever.
He was a friend of mine from school. I guess my attraction to him began when he introduced me as his childhood friend to everyone in the university. He had an image of a playboy which he affirmed after breaking up with his girlfriend. Not that I hadn’t been in love before. But my first one was a cold fish who was scared of his ever-controlling mother. Compared to him, this one seemed much more exciting. And I found myself getting more drawn to him day by day.
Unfortunately, I overlooked the red flags. I had often seen him degrading women. He did so with the girl he lost his virginity to. Often, women in short dresses baffled him. He would become judgmental about women drinking and I was often confused about his opinion of women. I did not think about it with much seriousness, which I should have. Let’s not forget that a majority of women get burned in love because they have never been taught how to identify predators. From mothers to other elderly women in the family, it is all about ensuring the man is happy, that he is satisfied, sexually and emotionally. Women just need someone to take care of them. That’s the traditional wisdom, ain’t it? Bollywood films, on top of that, put unrealistic expectations in the minds of young women.
Desiring someone is not the same as valuing them. My friend did desire me, but while I both desired and valued him, he did not. Not everyone takes responsibility for their actions. While I was ready to do so, he wasn’t; while I confided in him about my feelings, he was not honest about his. Probably because that meant I’d have refused to sleep with him then. He knows I’m not and never will be a casual sex person.
It’s been more than three years since that night in Kolkata where I couldn’t sleep because of the incessant crying. The pain was too much to bear and I couldn’t even scream. I was in a guest house and I bore the haunting look of a place which had been deserted by its dwellers. Nothing beats the feeling of being abandoned by a friend, someone you trusted, after a brief moment of weakness and intimacy. But slowly, I realized how I had conveniently overlooked what was right in front of me all these years. I had developed an idea of him and fell in love with that idea. In my quest to idolize him, I forgot his frailties and ignored warnings of countless people. I simply looked at my friend the way I wanted him.
Much later, I found out he had slut-shamed me too, saying that there is little difference between a woman wanting sex and a guest house in need of a tenant! His friends told me all about it and more, including how his bad treatment of women had been consistent; I was just one in the list which included a few of my batchmates from school and college too.
The deep resentment and the character assassination I had to endure has jarred my trust. I haven’t been able to get close to anyone, emotionally or physically. Not that I haven’t been in love since, but it has not been healthy – my insecurity and fear of being used and abandoned gets the better of me each time. The last time I tried having sex, I ended up screaming in terror and stopping before things could even begin. The guy was understanding and cooperative, but I know I’m not.
What bothers me most was how people, including the broad-minded millennials, feel men are no less than dogs. A friend of mine justified all of this saying that men will fake love for sex anytime, with anyone. Our culture ‘allows’ men to indulge in all of it by degrading them to the level of dogs – who would do anything for sex the same way dogs vie for meat. Consent is difficult for men to understand.
For some reason, men seem to be okay with these derogatory tags being given to them. I am friends with men and I know they desire love and intimacy too. But somehow, sexual flings seem to be their forte, something natural to them.
While I have been working hard on my self-esteem by establishing boundaries and being conscious, it is difficult and I falter a lot. I have had a few good men around me lately who respected me and I finally know how real consensual sex feels like. But, I seem to be a long way from accepting my body the way it is and allowing someone in. However, I know one thing for sure – confidence is sexy. You wish to have a healthy sexual life? You got to be confident in your own skin.