Put Your Dipstick Under the Burkha

Welcome to the Wetlands

Put Your Dipstick Under the Burkha

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Ionce met a guy who ticked half of my boxes, which made him a superstar. He was hot on one side, cool on the other, and quick-witted in between. Or so I imagined.

As we got busy, I asked him (rhetorically) if he’d put on a condom. Would I mind if he didn’t, he wondered aloud. I did mind, but I asked him why, just out of curiosity. He gave me the most spectacular answer. He looked me in the eye and said, “My dick’s too big.”

I snorted loudly, assuming he was joking, only convinced otherwise when he withdrew with a wounded expression. Did he forget that I could see his average dipstick?

Here’s a lesson you might want to learn in a hurry: Even the nicest guys can reveal themselves in the moment when it comes to negotiations on wearing a condom.

Men always have stupid reasons for not wanting to wear condoms, and they all sound like someone who wants to fly a plane with the doors open because they really enjoy the breeze. But mostly, it’s just the same doltish reason: It deadens sensation and he can’t feel anything.

“It feels like I’m wearing a plastic bag on my dick,” explains my eloquent friend, Kadu. His brother, Jun, chimes in, “Condoms aren’t supposed to be part of sex, and they feel unnatural because they are.” (He also wears glasses and shoes, neither of which he was born with, but whatever.) Jun adds that a big part of the joy of sex is “spilling your seed” into a person, plus it’s only fair that he feels pleasure too, right? I suppose referring to the Bible here helps a bit. Keep calm and religion, as the British say, eh?

Men unleash all their creativity when it comes to finding ways to go condom-less. My friend Anshu combines mathematics, biology, and astronomy to convince his girlfriend to follow the calendar method – a primitive form of contraception that involves counting the days since a woman’s last period, to figure out when she’s ovulating. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. “If you avoid that three-day window, you can’t get pregnant any other time,” Anshu mansplains to me, erroneously. You can’t calculate these things neatly since each body has its own rhythm.

Unlike my nerdy friend, 31-year-old Vinay prefers teamwork instead. He insists his girlfriend “doesn’t mind” him not using condoms. “We got her on the pill,” he says.

“Who’s we,” I ask. He sheepishly amends to say he brought up the idea, and slowly convinced her to get on the pill.

Other friends have even less effective and more dangerous methods of contraception, including the infamous pulling out method. And some have none, leaving all the responsibility and headache to the women.

In our brave new world, men are now exchanging tips on non-consensual condom removal as casually as they used to once, to exchange dirty jokes.

What jumps out from these conversations is that the men I know are lucky to have found someone who is willing to sleep with their sorry selves. To them a pregnancy is as real as visiting fairies, and STDs, unless they come with a large billboard declaring that this sexual encounter will leave you with an eruption of vivid red rashes, don’t exist. My 19-year-old certainly believes that STDs and accidental pregnancies are things that happen to other people, and are not as common or prevalent as your sex-ed teacher would have you believe. But he’s 19, so it doesn’t shock me. Most teenagers think drink driving isn’t that bad until they lose a friend in a car accident.

But Kadu has the kind of answer that makes every nerve in my body jump. In a bad way. “I don’t sleep with the kind who have STDs,” he says. When I look mystified, he elaborates, “Like slutty girls. They’re not my type. I like classy girls, the ones who make you work for it. Only slutty girls have STDs.” I guess I wasn’t aware that men came with in-built slut detectors that helped him make that choice.

The desire to duck the condom isn’t new or niche: There are entire communities on the internet, with apt names like iblastinside.com, where men exchange notes and provide tips, including suggestions to prick holes in condoms and the moment at which to roll off a condom to trick your partner. These men also congratulate each other on their “victories”. In our brave new world, men are now exchanging tips on non-consensual condom removal as casually as they used to once, to exchange dirty jokes. Men don’t surprise me, but when I see articles in teen and women’s magazines advising women on what to do if their partners don’t want to wear condoms, I want to scream, “Don’t fucking have sex!”

Unfortunately, negotiation has only gotten worse, to the extent that some have skipped negotiating entirely. It’s called stealthing, a mindless practice that was in the news after an academic paper was published on it in April 2017. Stealthing isn’t exactly new: Julian Assange was accused of it, and a Swiss court convicted a man of rape after he removed a condom without consent during sex. However, the appeals court in Switzerland changed the conviction from rape to defilement.

My friend Deb says that it happened to her when she hooked up with a guy at a party. When they got to down to it, she asked him to put on a condom. He did. They struggled for a while and he couldn’t get inside her so she reached down to help him, only to greet his bare penis. He’d thrown the condom off and said nothing.

The Swiss case has triggered a worldwide debate on stealthing, with efforts underway to classify this practice as rape. If you agree to have sex with someone using a condom, it’s not the same as consenting to have sex without one. The reason why stealthing is particularly sickening is because it is the ultimate violation of trust. But Indian men are far from accepting stealthing as anything more than “bad behaviour”.

I know what you’re thinking – “I’d never sleep with a stealther” – but here’s the memo you probably never got: Today’s condom negotiators will become tomorrow’s stealthers. Picture your tall, slightly gangly engineer boyfriend who says he “respects women” when you ask him if he’s a feminist. There’s nothing on the outside screaming he’s quite the opposite, but he hates the condom and a couple of confrontations later, he’s ready to stealth. A stealther is just every condom-hating boy’s supreme leader, his benchmark of achievement and his ultimate wet dream.

But don’t you let him come. Not unless he’s put a jimmy hat on that brat.