Sex and the city: Dominatrix to porn overrule; exploring relationships and sexuality

Psychosocial analyst and relationship counsellor AMAN BHONSLE explores the trends shaping how couples see sexuality and relationships

Sex and relationships are ubiquitous yet controversial topics with every faction sizing up the fractions that exist in what it means to be ‘settled together’ or ‘pleasured optimally’. For ‘love to find a way’ forward, here are a few interesting trends that are now shaping the way couples now see sex and relationships…

GENDER DEBATE
To say that the Indian woman is 100% empowered would be making an oversimplified statement. Battle lines are being drawn using social media between the genders as more women are now taking complete charge of their sexual needs by expressing themselves more vocally, publicly and openly to their partners and to a growing audience of ‘spectacle casualists’ who enjoy furores and chases. A woman’s pleasure and comfort is no longer the stuff of hidden pages in bedside journals. OTT platforms like Netflix are full of shows where women ‘take control’ of their pleasure and needs. This is no longer a debate. It’s a conversation. Justice is invoked using public naming, shaming and framing with a hefty upswing and bitter downpour against any perceived or genuine gender based misgivings that women previously buckled under due to pressures of ‘preserving the peace’, ‘placating the household’, ‘knowing their place’ or ‘standing to lose a bargaining position at the high table’. Misogyny and casual sexism are no longer okay. What previously squelched the equality debate now stokes the fire. It is no longer a challenge to prod and sniff out culprits and chameleons who threaten women. The #MeToo movement is an example of the sentiment of potent outrage erupting in a unanimous manner. This means that sex and relationships make for a hot and heated topic where the women are no longer afraid of saying ‘No more’ and ‘What if’.

SWIPING FOR ‘THE RIGHT ONE’
Shopping or swiping for love has never been easier with the proliferation of dating apps like Bumble and  Tinder. Finding ‘the one’ has become a number’s game and, as with all statistics, the numbers never sit still. Not all numbers lead to clever insights. Sometimes a number is just a number. The old school charm inherent in discovering someone surprisingly and completely different from oneself and finding a way to adapt towards a shared lifestyle is no longer seen as practical to the jet-set mindset that wants ‘custom parts’ for ‘customised romances’. Meeting someone new through data enhanced and geography based metrics ploughs through ‘wishlist criterias’ on the ‘desirables spectrum’ in a way that is as personalised as it is de-personalised. People are no longer people, but more often candidates and this is why ‘quick-start’ and ‘fast-finish’ relationships are more normative than ever before. Not unlike e-portals, adding romance to the cart has certainly made it easier to choose and yet harder to settle with who one has chosen. Due to the blocking technology, it is no longer impossible for a trail to go cold. Relationships are picked up and dropped with a casual speediness that wasn’t possible earlier. Removing virtual traces of a person’s existence in one’s life is merely an ‘app function away’.

AN IMAGE IS STILL AN IMAGE
Romance has become more about pruning imperfections through a plethora of ‘this-makes-you-look-better’ paradigms and filters on social media. The ‘picture perfect moment’ is now the new ‘happy moment’. This is fleeting. Many a relationship suffers on account of becoming perfunctory when the story being told online is disparate from the story being experienced offline by the couple. What is real? Weeding out ‘duds’ and seeding for ‘love’ through rehearsed curations of one’s best appearance and  lifestyle has turned experiencing romance into a general surveyor’s voyeuristic delight more than an individual experience of a shared journey. Social benchmarking online is being seen as a steadier measure of how well we are doing, as opposed to a more authentic measure of how good are we feeling with each other in this moment. This is a problem. Due to the many images of perfection around us, it’s common for some to impatiently force their partners to abide to unrealistic standards of being perfect without realising that compatibility and care require patience, time and not necessarily the right number of likes.

THE PRICE OF ‘HAPPINESS’ IS MONETARY
Sex and relationships are now being seen as nifty conduits towards shared strategies of material well-being as opposed to a shared journey of mutual fulfilment and support. A combined mortgage is decidedly less glamorous than a trip to Greece. Love isn’t what several relationships are about any more. With rising costs, the price of happiness has become steep as well. Making enough money is now a team sport played by couples with sex as the offset point for who gets the good stuff when the pieces align. Sex drives the power dynamic between partners who chase through life’s many scribbled paths by putting cash on the table while not taking the time to really understand each other’s heartfelt desires. Honeymoons are planned more elaborately than relationships. In a manicured online world packed with delicious food, fairy-tale weddings, glamorous workspaces, exotic holidays, fashionable wardrobes, expensive candles, well-intentioned gadgets, the right hashtag and good looking friends – people may forget that ‘a pleasing aesthetic’ is not always a reliable indicator of what’s really happening. Everything that’s real need not always be pretty. As a result, people who look good together don’t always feel good together.

PORNOGRAPHIC OVERTURES

Exposure to pornography on multiple devices appears to have muted people’s attitudes towards sex in a way that has led to a general numbness towards the act of intimacy. This doesn’t mean that sex is no longer pleasurable. It simply means that people are now willing to disinvest emotionally in the act of sex because it’s no longer something that individuals share between each other only when they are in love. It has now become something of an increasingly popular sport that joins the list of benchmarking tools discussed among friends in a was-mine-as-good-as-yours manner.

As love evolves, so will our ways to have our needs met. Only time will tell if the grass is truly green on either side of the fence.

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