Gift Wrap The Lovestick


Gift Wrap The Lovestick

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

Dear Self-proclaimed Feminist Friend,

How are you? I recently saw an ad that reminded me of you and prompted me to write this letter. I would have thought that after spending four life savings’ worth on your Master’s degree in Gender Studies in that posh foreign university, you’d have changed your stance on this one quibble we’ve had since the time we were seventeen. No, not the quibble about whether Ranveer is hotter than Ranbir or not (obviously, he is). I mean the one where you don’t stand up to your boyfriend when he refuses to roll on a condom while you two are bang-banging.

Maybe it’s none of my business, but I really don’t understand. I shared your post celebrating loitering women on Facebook, and retweeted your thoughts about female reproductive rights, but am baffled by your submissiveness when it comes to your own sexual safety. I’m certain that when you went for that Slut Walk last week, safe sex would have been a topic that came up. Surely you know that condoms do more than prevent pregnancy. Why, then, are you okay with bidding au revoir to Beauvoir and letting your man stick his nanga peepee into your vajayjay? Why are you okay with just popping a pill a few hours later, or worse, chilling out because “he withdrew in time, yaar”?

I don’t mean to single you out, friend, but one would think that an upper-middle class upbringing, a posh education, and extensive exposure to accidental births like Donald Trump would make protected sex a mere instinct for you, but weirdly enough, it’s not the case. A strangely high number of people refuse to use condoms. It’s not just you, I remember the first time my mother explicitly brought up my sex life with me. The conversation went something like this.

The Mothership: “Have you had intercourse?”

Me: “Ma, who calls it intercourse?! You may as well say coitus now… Well, yes.”

The Mothership: “So what medication did you take?”

Me: “Medication? None, we used a condom.”

The Mothership (does a vintage Ekta Kapoor serial double take): “What! That’s SOOOO NICE of him!”

Yes, friend, I heard you the first 3,826 times, and I get it, he doesn’t like using condoms.

It’s not just my mother who was surprised that a guy would be “willing” to use a condom. The narrative around safe sex even in our liberal, middle-class worlds seems mostly only about preventing pregnancy and less about protecting ourselves from STDs. HIV awareness videos starring Bollywood superstars be damned – the general idea is that it’s not going to happen to “people like us”.

But friend, I expected better from you. Your murmurings of “he doesn’t seem like THAT kinda guy” seem pretty naive; after all, people with STDs don’t usually walk around with forehead stickers saying “Caution! Exposure to Ajay May Cause Crabs!” Also, a fun fact that I’m sure you learnt at the age of fourteen: STDs are not exclusively sexually transmitted – they’re wily enough to move from person to person through needles, close contact, and when they’re exceptionally clingy, maybe even by sharing a toothbrush (which is why I keep my oral sex and Oral B separate). This means that many carriers may not know that they’re walking, talking STD vending machines.

Many of my other girlfriends have spouted equally feeble excuses for not making their boys don a condom during sexytime – everything from “I was damn drunk, ya” to “I took an i-Pill na, can you chill?” Though I’m sure it’s a better story for the future accidental kids than spinning an imaginary tale of express delivery via the stork network, I don’t need to tell you about the hormone hangover that emergency contraceptives can cause in your body.

Yes, friend, I heard you the first 3,826 times, and I get it, he doesn’t like using condoms. However, it’s indisputable that women usually face greater repercussions of not having safe sex: An unwanted pregnancy is usually our headache to “take care of” and the interactions with judgmental pathologists and doctors at every stage (whether you’re infected with an STD or an unwanted baby) are enough to make one challenge any male to star in a super flop reality show titled So You Think You Can Vagina? So maybe, just MAYBE, the two of you need to take your feelings into account about this together, instead of just his.

I know, I know. In India, most people restrict their “precautions” during sex to ensuring that they park in a quiet, dark lane where they have only a 0.128 per cent chance of being discovered by a non-bribeable entity. But come on friend, while sex may be 99 per cent perspiration, let the 1 per cent inspiration be remembering to use the trusty Nirodh. Hope Fluffy is well and good. (I was talking about that dog in your building, what did you think?)