LIKE A VIRGIN : My article printed in the May issue of Marie Claire
In an era of sexual prowess, promiscuity and pomp, to find women who have chosen to remain virgins well after their third decade is a rarity. But in India, there are many women who still believe that virginity is a non-issue. They mock the land of the Kamasutra, and the sexual urban jungle of the metros where people are discovering themselves and new positions. They scoff at the idea of having fun for the sake of it. They are even immune to the pressures of their peers who have told them the wonderful stories, the great revelation of finding the big “O” or even the perfect man and time for losing their virginity. These women are unfazed. Sex is a no show. And even if they are 30 and above, they do not care.
Vasudha was a walking paradox. She earned a 5 figure salary, had lived in New York, London and Honk Kong, owned her own luxury car and had bought her mother a house in Delhi. She was slim, pretty and uber successful. Yet she was a virgin. I had never met a woman like that. She didn’t care what people thought about. She lived on her own terms and was extremely corporate. None of her friends discussed their sex lives with her and she never mentioned her love life to them.
But I always wondered why she would be so rigid about her sexuality at the ripe old age of 33.
She told me the reason one day when we had a few glasses of wine and were listening to Harry Belafonte. She said it very quietly, “I think it’s cheap.”
“What is?” I asked.
“Sex.” She said softly. She couldn’t even say it clearly. We had never spoken about it. But I prodded with the opportunity, “But don’t you feel the urge sometimes?”
“No.” she answered adamantly, “ I have never felt the urge. There was a boy once when I was 17…we kissed and all but then, I thought I was too young and wanted to be the legal age before doing anything. Then there was Bharat when I was 24 but as soon as I said I’m not ready to sleep with him, he left me. As if that was the only thing, he wanted from me. I figured all men were the same.”
I could see now where Vasudha came from. She was scared of being rejected. But that wasn’t the only problem. There was more. A lot more.
She continued, “No there is no urge. If you’ve never tasted caviar, how do you know if you want it?” She asked hypothetically. I remained quiet. “I’m conservative. Very conservative. I think I’m the only one in this country who believes in morals and traditions.” She said emphatically. “What is it with all these women who want to go sleeping around? I think even holding hands is abominable. Public display of affection has taken on a completely new meaning. It never used to happen earlier. And now you see people kissing at airports, making out in movie halls, having sex before marriage. Doesn’t anyone have any self respect anymore?”
I could not argue. She was old fashioned I thought. She told her mother everything about her relationships and her feelings. Everything! And her mother believed she was doing the right thing. Her mother thought she should wait.
Vasudha was very judgmental. Here I was judging her for being this weird woman in the 21st century who was 33 and still a virgin and she was judging me on being the opposite. According to me, a modern woman was supposed to be completely sexually evolved by the time she hit her third decade. She could take on men and the world because she knew everything. But Vasudha was a successful modern woman who held on to her values, and her conviction and decided she would wait until she got married to lose her virginity. And no amount of cajoling would change her mind. I could see that this was not a good thing though. She was getting frustrated, angry, and cynical. She needed some emotional support. And she was scared. She was frightened into giving her heart to a man who might ask for something she wasn’t ready to give to him. Vasudha’s morality had become her biggest dilemma.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend.” said Adya most languorously. She sat with her elbow on the table munching on a muffin. Adya was 31 and a Virgin. She was intelligent and successful but she had one slight problem. She was 20 kilos overweight. And no matter how many people said it wasn’t a problem to find a man, she thought it was a problem.
Besides the weight issue, Adya had been stuck in the same bank job since she graduated from an MBA school. She had moved up the ranks and had achieved almost the highest degree at her international bank job. But since she went to the same place for the last ten years, she never met anyone apart from work. And she never found anyone at work to have a romance with. She could not move her job since at such a high position there was a dearth of good jobs available and there were no “good” men in her office.
“Why don’t you join yoga,” I suggested lightly.
She looked at me as if I was an alien, “Who has the time? I leave at eight in the morning and come back at ten at night. I work most weekends and travel every alternate week. There’s no time for yoga or anything else.” We remained quiet until she spoke again, “Look I know about my weight. I know that I have body issues. I can’t strip in front of a man. So even if I’ve gone out in groups with people, I can’t make myself to get any further. I don’t know if a man really likes me.”
“Why wouldn’t any man like you Adya?” I implored at her illogical self.
“Because I don’t know if he wants me as pity thing or if he really likes me.” I was going to say that’s absurd but I didn’t. Adya was fixed in her thinking. She was not going to lose weight so easily and she wasn’t going to sleep with a man until she did. She was stuck in a predicament that she had made for herself. Until she lost either her weight or her issues with being fat, I didn’t think that Adya would be losing her virginity any time soon.
Zara was not successful. She didn’t come from a conservative background. And she wasn’t fat. She was just scared. Zara was an ordinary looking woman who had many male admirers since she presented herself well. She wore bright clothes that went with her exuberant personality and she had a beautiful smile. She was not overly witty or intelligent. She was a secretary at a television channel that meant that most days she had a ten to seven job. Unlike Vasudha who lived in Delhi with her mother, and Adya who lived alone, Zara lived with her best friend in a one-room apartment in Mumbai and had plenty of opportunity to lose her virginity. But at 30, she was still a virgin.
Zara had an older sister who was married and lived in USA. She however had lost her virginity at a very young age and it was this experience that had scarred Zara. Zara would have been thirteen when her elder sister came back home and told her all about it. The pain, the blood, and the hype that was called sex. Zara was sworn to silence. But over the next few days the sensitive girl realized that if her sister who had been so excited about it once upon a time could not really care so much about sex, why should she? And this thought remained. It remained for the next seventeen years.
Over the years whenever Zara asked her friends to describe their “first time” it was always with words that said “pain” or “blood” or “no big deal” and Zara soon got to thinking that she need not lose her virginity unless it was absolutely imperative to do so. She was not prudish. She had no qualms about her friends making love over the countryside. She just did not believe that she had that much courage to do so herself.
She was attracted to men and vice versa but she kept her distance,
One day I asked her, “Wouldn’t you have to lose it once you get married? Don’t you want to have kids?”
She said very rationally, “Yes I have no problems with that. But I’m in no hurry to get married or have kids. I can wait it out a few more years.”
Zara was so frightened about the act itself that she hid behind the excuse of not finding the right man. And no matter how much I tried to show her the beautiful side of losing one’s virginity she was convinced that when it would happen, she would think it was no big deal anyway.
I realized that losing virginity was not just an Indian phenomenon. Women across the globe were having the same issues. Age didn’t matter anymore. The search for the true love, a perfect man or the correct time was most important to the women. And even if they were lonely at the end of the day, they would rather hold on to their belief than be impulsive with their principles.