Indian women want sex too

The pillow talk of new millennium couples in the 2010 INDIA TODAY-AC Nielsen-ORG MARG sex survey tells an unprecedented story of women's arousal being thwarted and of romance gone sour.

Call it the Eat Pray Love moment in the life of the modern Indian woman. Just as the lead character, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts in the film) was asked by her Balinese healer to "pray for sex", the survey finds Indian women meditating intently on the prayer beads of fulfilling and wholesome sex.

Shatter those stereotypes that tell you women are not as interested in sex as men are. Overturn the idea that women favour a romantic encounter - a walk in the rain, a bouquet of roses - while men prefer to fall into bed.

Check out the intricacies of the new woman's erotic litany: sex is crucial, say 70 per cent of women. No wonder, they are eager to make their sexual lives more exciting, with new situations (67 per cent) and positions (20 per cent), new types of foreplay (24 per cent), and sex anytime, anywhere. Pleasure is paramount, their own and that of their partners' (57 per cent). But that quest for hardcore sexuality is squashing intimacy and romance faster than bedbugs.

There she is, fragrant on bath salts, waiting for him to look up and notice her in her lacy camisole. And there he is, sprawled on the bed, flipping channels languidly, spoilt for choice between cricket and pole dancing on the telly. He finally looks up, yawns and reaches out for her. She looks disgusted and hisses at him, "Undress yourself." And she is not alone. Between 2003, when INDIA TODAY-AC Nielsen-ORG MARG sex survey first focused on "What Women Want" and now, the percentage of women not interested in "undressing" their partners as a preferred mode of foreplay has petered down from 16 per cent to 8 per cent.

Buried deep in this survey is another story: the growing happiness gap between men and women. While women show rising levels of dissatisfaction, men are full of buzz about their current sex life. Many more men than women are having weekly sex. They are more happy with foreplay than women. And more open about their own pleasures. Unlike women, an overwhelming percentage of men say their partners are "sensitive toward their sexual needs". While women don't seem to be too happy with the "sexual involvement of partners", men are.

Twice as many men have sexual fantasies and they are three times more likely to share those. Not just that. They are more contented with life in general than women - much more satisfied with their jobs and just as happy as women with their health, social, family and financial lives. About a 100 years back, Sigmund Freud had famously confessed that the one great question he could never answer was: "What does a woman want?" Today's Indian men do not seem interested in asking that question, as yet. "Women's sexuality is much more complex than men's ," says clinical psychologist therapist Shelja Sen of Delhi. "A lot of it is triggered by emotional, intellectual and relationship-based factors rather than the simple physical response required by a man. The brain is the crucial sexual organ in a woman."

That mind-body route to sexuality takes strange forms. Dr Neena Malhotra sees a host of patients walking through the doors of the infertility clinic at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, who have surprisingly low coital frequency. "They are not just weighed down by erratic work hours and stress, they also don't know that a fulfilling sex life needs a boost," she says. "They roam around the shopping malls, watch TV till midnight and then there is not much time for sex." The survey tells the same story. Between 2003 and 2010, there has been a 5 per cent drop among women having sex more than once a week.

Excitement about sex life has shrunk by 10 per cent among women, satisfaction after sex has come down by 11 per cent. Significantly, the focus on "own pleasure" is riding a steady upward curve. At the root of this pleasure quest could be the post-modern woman's desire to take charge of her own destiny. And, as matrimonial sites point out, it starts early. Courtships in arranged marriages these days find city girls asking some tough questions to their would-bes, as reported by a 2009 partner preference study by Bharat Matrimony: from "how close do you want to live to your parents?" to "do you expect me to stop working once we have children?" And, of course, the inevitable: "What's your idea of spending alone time?" "Compatibility is emerging as the primary evaluation criteria," says Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO, Bharat Matrimony. "This is one area where we see the most dramatic changes."

There is, obviously, a paradox at work. Those demands for companionate autonomy seem to take a serious beating once the mundaneness of everyday life kicks in (to 42 per cent men and women "quality time at home" constitutes a "perfect romantic day"). No wonder, the imagined world of romance leads to disenchantment and forced reconciliation of reality with fantasy.

To begin with, fewer women find their partners "romantic" than men (51:66 per cent). While 71 per cent of men share their sexual fantasies with partners, just 12 per cent women find men enthusiastic about theirs. To top it all, women don't seem to be "talking" to men to communicate their needs: those willing to discuss disappointing sex has dropped by 8 per cent between 2003 and 2010. But in a new turn, women seem keen to "tell" their partners that extra-marital liberties on their part would be promptly reciprocated.

"Why can't a woman be more like a man?" mused Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Today's Indian woman would have made him happy. Her new assertion for sexual fulfillment and dissatisfaction with the status quo tell the new story of femininity. As filmmaker Aparna Sen says: "I like today's woman. I like her spirit of independence, of her effort to control her own destiny. She might be confused and sometimes impatient with relationships, but she is brave." The plot and characters in the battle of the sexes are shifting. Let's wait for romance and enchantment to return to the bedroom.

Reproduced From India Today. © 2010. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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