When he leans in to kiss you how many times have you offered your cheek instead of your mouth? Countless times, right?
As a nation, our women are never depicted to lean in towards the lover. The woman is always shown as looking away, rather than looking into the eyes of a lover. We naturally took to this popular notion of romance where the hero is hungry for a glance of the woman, and the woman is seen either shutting her eyes with quivering lips or right when the moment comes where she has to embrace the man, she looks away or just lowers her eyes.
To look away was seen as the ultimate romantic gesture a woman could make.
To be coy and shy, to be trembling and closed, was the most passionate a woman could ever get. I don’t remember seeing any leading lady saying, ‘Pehlu mei aa jao’, or ‘come, let me embrace you’. Did the cinema makers or art makers further their own outlandish notions of patriarchy or were they, traditional boys, trying to depict what they learnt while growing up?
Be shy, be coy
I remember, growing up, my father being very interested in my mother as a woman, for a long time. He would sneak up quietly, after work, and surprise her, by holding her in the kitchen, where she spent most of her time and she often whispered, as if the walls were made of stone, “There are kids studying, what are you doing?”
Many say this is changing. I ask where? We all grew up in the same society, with a little bit of value difference here and there, but overall we watched and experienced the same movies, songs and dialogues.
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While men sang, Badan pe sitaare lapete hue, o jaane tammana kidhar ja rahi ho, or a Choo lene do nazuk honton ko, kuch aur nahi hain, jaam hai yeh, women were increasingly making a swami or lord out of her man, Tumhi mere mandir, tumhi meri puja, tumhi devata ho, tumhi praan mere, tumhi aatma ho. Yes, there are many female songs which sang out their romance for the man, but it was still fewer than the male songs. In the epic movie Roja and the first ever intimacy of the newlyweds, it was sweet and erotic when the husband tries to woo his coy wife; again, a typical scenario where only men are interested.
No sex please, we’re women
We almost never see a female protagonist lusting for a man, or for that matter, she doesn’t even ‘lean in’, when there is an advance by him. Is this deeply ingrained in us? Does the female child see these images and grow up to think this as ideal? It is no secret that in our society, the male is suppose to be interested, he is suppose to be always the one who desires, I wonder does he also want to be desired? I’m sure he does; he’s human too. So why is it always the male who’s shown to desire and lust after a female?
In a very interesting new-age movie, OK Jaanu, the girl was also equally interested in the guy, sexually. She is free, independent and knows whom she likes and what she wants, she knows desire, and she definitely knows lust. This wasn’t the Chikni Chameli hun mein type of raunchy mindless objectification.
The in-between generation
But what about the generation stuck in between ideas of restraint and freedom? Will we ever break free of the shackles we created? Will we ever say, ‘yes, I desire you’, ‘I want you right now’, will we ever be able to express our own wants? Even to our own selves?
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I attended a workshop by a counsellor/doctor who taught a whole class of 15 women how to approach your partner for sex. And it was hilariously sad to watch women acting really naïve, pathetic, shy, and almost clueless in this department. It’s usually, him or never. ‘If he doesn’t approach me, I never ask or even feel the need to be close to him.’
How do I do this…
The doctor asked us to walk towards the window in a sexy way, imagining he’s standing there. In a way that screams ‘today I am lusty, I want you’. Most of us were shy to death, frozen, couldn’t move a finger. Some started crying because of shame, some tried walking in a slutty way, but ended up laughing hysterically; but nobody, none knew how to walk in that way.
It was then that the doctor revealed the simplest idea about approaching a partner. She just enacted it with her assistant, who walked like herself, without any exaggerated sighs and pants and lip smacks. She was her beautiful self, she said, “I feel sexy when I let my hair loose. I feel good about myself when I wear my favourite sari. I feel great when I have a loving heart and I feel I’m in touch with myself at those few moments.” She went up to the window where the doctor, her imaginary lover, was standing, looked him in the eye and lowered her eyes, then she looked up again into them deeply. I knew, I had the chills; this was it. Everyone waited for her to say something, and she said, “This is who I am. If you find yourself, you know what to offer to the other,” and we all clapped.
Break the barriers
Did we become the best lovers after that, did we start approaching our partners? I don’t know, but I think I realised something precious, that you need to break the conditioning of looking away and adopt the new practice of leaning in. Next time he comes kissing, kiss back if you want to, don’t be the coy old Hindi movie star looking away with a sigh.
It’s time we gave up our old notions and ‘it should be like this’ attitude about who makes the first move.
Be yourself; if you feel like it, ask him out, if you feel like it, tug at his t-shirt.
Don’t keep waiting for him to turn you on. Because it’s not external, it’s within us. If we don’t want to keep it alive, it will die, and then one day no matter how much you want to lean in, you won’t be able to, because you lost the flame somewhere in your endless wait to be pursued.
It’s time, make your move!