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The changing face of sexual norms

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Changing face of sexual normsThose were the days when love, romance and innocence were all part of one treasured package. Eager to explore the mystery of sex but too petrified about the outcome, you remained what you were meant to remain – a virgin till marriage happened. I’m speaking about life in the 60s through the mid 70s.

Like most girls of my age (I was 19 then), I had an ideal – to relate closely with a man emotionally first and only then physically. Given the potent attraction that the opposite sex held for us, one never forgot that sex was trouble and female sexuality, dangerous. If you were smart, you necked, you kissed and allowed his hands to probe a bit, but you held on tenaciously to the most important thing in your life as a woman – your virginity!

In the circles that I moved in, there were however, some couples who went beyond the prescribed limits of ‘decency’. But even for them, sex had to have an emotional resonance. Hardly ever did a woman relinquish her virginity with ease. And if you had indulged in premarital sex and people got to know about it, it most certainly put you beyond the pale.

There were good women and loose women and there was simply no question of mixing the two. Men on the other hand had no such classifications. ‘Experienced’ men often had a standing that privately evoked awe in women. They experienced the thrills of one-night stands and other forms of instant gratification and dalliances. Homosexuality was hidden and denied.

Ours was the generation that got sandwiched between rigid elders who would never countenance moral lapses  and youngsters who openly celebrated sex in its myriad manifestations. It was against this background that I and millions like me walked into marriage. Bathed in the luminosity of romantic longings and dreams, we greeted our mates with the awkwardness that comes from ignorance. If sex turned out to be messy, meddlesome and quite intrusive, we chugged on in the faint hope that tomorrow might be a better day. It wasn’t… but what the heck, sex was never priority number one on our agenda. Love and commitment were what mattered more.

Meanwhile waiting in the wings, was the next generation, a majority of whom were freeloading aspirants to that blissful state of sexual freedom, a state panned by us as ‘permissiveness’.

Their lives revolved around discos and dancing, sex, drinks and drugs, the works in short. Comfortable with their bodies and quite free from hypocrisy, they ushered in an upheaval of sorts. Kitu a child of the new times, recalls, “People criticized us for being blatant and blasé about sex. But that didn’t stop us. We were the ones who identified the phenomenon of sexual chemistry and brought sex out of the closet. We were the ones who said, “Yes, emotional tuning is important and yes, shared values too. But sexual fulfilment baby, is right up there – very, very important.”

The snug and secure applecart of marriage and long term relationships was upturned. Adultery though frowned upon, began to happen everywhere. Now divorce no longer happened to some distant acquaintance. It was closer home, perhaps in your own family.

Earlier, much of the philandering was done by men. But now women too had options. There were other fish around. As the emotional tributaries of peoples lives opened up to new temptations, multiple choices and more opportunities, sexuality lost its stigma and middle-class society, its iron-cast rigidity.

Times were changing and how! Women ganged up and fought men on their own turf, unshackling themselves from the chains of male chauvinism. Sex was no longer a whisper in dark chambers. Nor was there outright condemnation at the sight of bare legs and alluring cleavages. Suddenly it became okay to flaunt your female sexuality. Some men may have griped and snarled but change was inevitable. Today if a man commends his wife, saying, “You’ve come a long way baby,” he might well add, “despite me”.

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Responses to The changing face of sexual norms

  1. 1 r sunderajan

    I feel virginity is an overrated phenomenon. Other things being equal a woman who is tuned in to her own needs and desires has a better chance of making her marriage something to be cherished and savoured. After all the physical component of marriage is as important as the emotional quotient.
    So hurray to all the women who have had the guts to be honest to themselves.

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