By Dr Mahinder Watsup Oct. 01, 2018
My partner loved mirror sex and it made me anxious. I’ve caught her on several occasions staring intently, making sexy eyes at herself. But it was only when I brought it up with her that I realised it wasn’t so much about narcissism, but a way of cherishing your own body.
Mehak and I had the textbook millennial meet-cute: Meeting on a dating app and catching feels despite initially deciding we’ll have a no-strings-attached fling. After four months together – as is often the case in the honeymoon period – the sex was particularly adventurous. Apart from just one pesky detail: her insistence on watching us in the act.
We’ve always had an element of spontaneity while having sex, but the one constant was Mehak leading me to this wall-to-wall mirror in my room. In fact, it became so common that I began timing exactly at which point during my sex playlist we’d end up in front of the mirror – last time it was when “Tum Ho” started playing. But I digress.
In the beginning, this was really hot. But after a couple of weeks, the mirror just made me anxious. There was something about how much she enjoyed watching herself during sex that made me wonder if I was even needed for this part. I felt like this was some sort of a threesome, where my job was to… do nothing maybe. I felt like a third-wheel between Mehak and the mirror. It didn’t really matter if I was on auto-pilot, or had stubbed my toe on the side of the bed.
Like most cis-hetero males raised in India, I initially believed that sex should ideally take place in the dark, or with little visual stimuli apart from flowers coming close together (thanks, Bollywood.) In fact, well into my late teens, I too wasn’t comfortable with the idea of lights-on sex until I discovered Naughty America. And now in my mid 20s when dudes my age would give an arm and a leg for a kinky partner, I couldn’t wrap my head around why mirror sex made me so anxious. Which, mixed up with my usual dose of routine anxiety about focusing on her pleasure and whether I was being a good enough partner, was a bit hard to take.
So there I was: Wrestling with the possibility that my girlfriend probably enjoyed getting off to herself more than sex with me. My uneasiness kept growing with each passing week. My Google search history was shot with countless essays I’d read on autoeroticism; office hours were filled up reading up on katoptronophilia, or an affinity to sexual acts in front of mirrors.
This whole thing about mirror sex isn’t so much about narcissism, as people relaying back to themselves how they are being pleasured, which in turns heightens desire.
I felt compelled to bring this up with Mehak but figured it was still early days and maybe I should just go with the flow, whatever floated her boat, really, I was happy if she was happy, even if I was just an accessory to the act, because I like to believe I am a woke man. This lasted all of three days.
I reached my breaking point the night Mehak insisted we tilt the mirror to face the bed, so she could watch me going down on her, while she watched herself smoking a cigarette. I obliged, with a short mental pep talk that this wasn’t about me. As I tilted my chin slightly upward to get a breather, I caught a glimpse of her sitting up, staring intently at the mirror, cigarette in mouth and making sexy eyes. At herself. This was when I realised I needed to address it, if I didn’t want to lose my girlfriend to a mirror goddammit.
So later that night, as Mehak and I sat across from each other at a suburban Chinese restaurant, I gingerly broached the subject with a tame, “I am all for loving oneself, Mehak but…” I prodded further despite her slightly askew smile and curiously clenched eyebrows suggesting I shouldn’t. “… But this isn’t the first time I’ve seen you checking yourself out in the mirror during sex. Hey, you do you, girl, but umm, do you… do you not get off to anything else but yourself?” Phew.
It turns out, my fears were completely unfounded – well, almost. This whole thing about mirror sex isn’t so much about narcissism, as people relaying back to themselves how they are being pleasured, which in turns heightens desire. I’d imagine it’s a little like people who enjoy watching pornography while they have sex. Except this is somehow better because they know that the material they are watching is safe, consensual, and not exploitative. As far as I was concerned, I was happy to have had a small role to play in the proceedings. I returned to my dinner, satisfied, when she lay into me with one final quip, “Still, I’d totally do me.”
That night, Mehak taught me an important lesson about sexuality: It’s okay to love yourself, a lesson I could use to turn my insecurity into appreciation. Once I dropped my apprehensions and began immersing myself into the act, I developed a newfound appreciation for mirror sex. And my own body.
I haven’t said this to her in person, but I imagine that Mehak’s “I’d totally do me” translates to something bigger. A declaration that in a world where so many of us live so much of our lives despising the folds, stretch marks, scars, and flab on our bodies, mirror sex is a step towards cherishing your body in all it’s natural beauty and acknowledging that it’s the best version of you right now. You could even say that mirror sex might be the closest sexual iteration of Geet’s “Main Apni Favourite Hoon.”
I’m still ages away from saying, “Hmm, I’d totally do me.” For now, I’m just glad I’m not third-wheeling.