Expert Speak

Funny (but unfortunately true) things about making out in a joint family

With some of society's rules changing but not others, how to have sex when living in a joint family is a major issue for more Indian couples than you'd think
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A couple in their 50s brought their daughter for counselling.
“Please make her understand, we are at our wits’ end,” said the exasperated mother.
“All because you’ve spoiled her…” said the father.
“We’ve found a very good match for her, but she refuses on account of it being a joint family.”
Fine. So I talk to the girl. And we discuss the pros and cons of having 5 other members in the same space.
And then she blurts out…
“What about the nights? You know?”
Oh yeah…
Having sex in a joint family?

Related reading: My fiance’ comes from a joint family and has shared toilets with neighbours. How do I tell him I can’t handle it, and to explore alternatives?

Give us our space

India is still an amalgam of old and new. While we have a rising number of nuclear families, we still have our joint families and we are proud of it. We’ve had those for centuries. We’ve had sex in joint families for centuries as well. So why are we worried now?

There are reasons. Some common for all families and some specific to yours.

Our society still treats sex as a taboo subject. We don’t talk about it, don’t mention it, don’t think about it when it comes to family. Even though it’s the root cause of the said family. So while we are dwelling within the family, no talking dirty. Pretending the elephant in the room, or bedroom, is not there.

Can’t sex now

So when you are in a joint family:

You cannot talk about having sex.
You cannot invite, tease or make lewd gestures.
You cannot cuddle or romantically touch.
You cannot start foreplay anywhere.
You just cannot…

Other than in your bedroom, when alone, preferably at night.

Cities like Mumbai are space-challenged. In the land of makeshift beds, you might not even have an exclusive bedroom. Especially in the daytime. There’s no private space. Someone is always there. Watching. Mostly an elder who frowns at this. Or a kid who’s too curious and ready to come up with questions on your actions at a very ‘opportune’ time.

Not here, not now, not like this

Also, imagine how routine your sex would be if you were doing it the same way, same time, same place. And please make sure you’re silent or at least your pleasure is muffled. The walls have ears. And also those sleeping beyond them.

Related reading: How we kept intimacy alive in our marriage despite no privacy

And please, are you done? Get into your clothes. You weren’t thinking of spooning without, right? What about your contraceptives? Disposed discreetly? Good.

The next day goes as usual. No signs of a sexually active couple anywhere. Reproduction, yes. Sex, no.

But these issues have been there for centuries, remember? What’s the problem now?

The current generation has its demands. They want a sexual life that’s good, even exciting. Better than what the previous generations had. They want to do it, anywhere, anytime, any place. When the mood strikes. Kitchen, drawing room, bathroom, nothing is forbidden. And they want foreplay that involves more space than a 6×6 bed. And more clothes that incite. Or less. They want to use ‘things’. They also want to make sounds.

And they want to talk about it. Oh dear, dear.

Basically, they want to be expressive about wanting and having sex.

What’s wrong in that? Nothing.

It’s not acceptable yet

Except, we are not going to start accepting the elephant in the room within a span of a generation or two or even five. Not everyone thinks of leaving their families when they get a sexual partner. It’s going to take its own time and struggle and frowns and smiles and some overlooking and some understanding.

Joint families have their own set of rules, different from ‘it’s-just-the-two-of-us’ family. When you have guests or kids, it’s quite the same. Maybe you make the rules then, maybe you break some in the former situation. There are always ways and means to do it. It just depends on you to figure out the tricks of the trade.

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