isrepresentation of modern sexual 'trends' can lead to confusion. Couples who feel they aren't hip enough because they don't experiment enough, get bogged down and discouraged. 'Threesomes are supposed to be 'in', but I'm not ready for such stuff,' I heard a young wife say. Or, 'Our friends go to Bangkok for sandwich massages and group sex -- are we prudes because we don't find this cool?' Or, 'My husband watches foreign porn films constantly and thinks it's okay to demand kinky sex from me. If I refuse, he threatens he'll look for it somewhere else.' Or, 'My wife's girlfriends tell her she's leading a boring sex life. She wants to blindfold and whip me. Sorry
but that sort of things turns me off.' Or, 'Is it normal for straight couples to have only anal sex?' Or, 'My husband says if he's having relationships with men, that isn't counted as being unfaithful. He says adultery is restricted to bedding another woman -- is he fooling me?' Or, 'I'm constantly being criticised for not being adventurous in bed. When I ask what that means, I'm told to shut up and use my imagination.' Or, 'Sex is so overrated. People keep talking about it, but frankly, it's a big headache.' Or, 'Sex is a one way street these days. All my partner cares about is his own pleasure.'
Maybe in that last 'accusation' lies the key. Sex, in a good marriage, is not about taking, but giving. It isn't about performance; it's about mutual pleasure. A man who's only focused on being a 'tiger in bed' can never be a sensitive lover to his wife who, poor creature, may not be a tigress in heat herself. Sexual compatibility is achieved over a period of time, and only through trust and caring.
Then, of course, there is the basic question of sexual drive -- if one of the partners happens to be a sexual demon with a high sex drive as compared to the other, who may not be able to keep up ('Three times a night -- 10 times a week? Ridiculous!'), it's a genuine problem requiring adjustment and accommodation from both. This, perhaps, is the single most frustrating sexual issue in marriage -- how often? And who decides?
Women claim it's almost always the man who takes the call. 'Why should sex be exclusively on his terms?' they ask. Quite rightly, too. But the men argue, 'Of course it's on our terms, we are the ones who have to get it up and get on with the job.' Women, who are increasingly setting the sexual pace in relationships and taking the initiative, have no use for these 'dumb' excuses. 'We want to be able to drive the sex thing, too. What happens when I'm in the mood, and he is thanda? Do I just wait for him to get aroused -- which could happen a week later? Or do I actively work on him?'
Women who 'actively work on' getting their partners to toe the sexual line, admit that the challenge is worth it. 'I feel less passive and more empowered, this way. After all, if I can make the effort to oblige him when I'd rather be watching TV, he can do likewise.' In all this struggle to achieve sexual equality in the bedroom, something very vital gives romance and tenderness. You can't achieve sexual harmony by maintaining a scorecard and giving marks. You can't view sex as a shopping list with 'must buys' that have to be ticked off.
Excerpted with the publisher's permission from Spouse: The Truth About Marriage by Shobhaa Dé, published by Penguin India [ Images ], Rs 250.
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Illustration: Uttam Ghosh