Some nights Pia would wake up in a cold sweat, her body quivering, her fists clenched. Others, she would just toss and turn, unable to sleep at all.
In her early 20s, Pia was to be married to Anand in a few months. Though theirs was an arranged match, they’d spent several evenings immersed in conversation, getting to know each other. After a year of dinner dates, movie outings and long walks on the beach, Pia was certain that she was marrying a decent man. She was excited at the thought of sharing her life with him. But as the wedding drew closer, something was eating away at her.
Pia was a virgin.
And the thought of losing her virginity was turning her into a bundle of nerves.
“A lot of women come to me with this problem,” says Dr Rajan Bhonsle, a premarital counsellor, sexologist and best-selling author. “More often than not, it is a phobia based on misinformation. They associate pain and bleeding with the act but that’s a myth perpetuated by people who don’t know better.”
“If the technique is correct, there’s enough foreplay and the couple has perfect understanding between them, sexual intercourse for the very first time can be pleasurable and pain-free.”
Like Pia, many youngsters are now heading to experts to tackle their relationship issues. Single people, married couples, about-to-be married couples, couples in committed relationships, those longing to be in a committed relationship…
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And some men are as troubled about losing their virginity as women. “They are taunted by their peers as well as members of the opposite sex,” says Dr Bhonsle. And it’s not so much lack of desire as opportunity that is to blame for their predicament. “They want to have sex but never seem to get the chance. They start feeling left out and suffering from an inferiority complex.”
In these days of easy sexual proximity and physical intimacy, women want to be pleased in bed and are finally finding their voice. “They may be in their third relationship but many modern women complain that they are yet to reach an orgasm with their partner,” says Dr Bhonsle. “They’ve understood that they are equally deserving of an orgasm – they don’t want to be like their mothers who never complained – and they are willing to seek treatment or consult an expert for advice if they feel either they or their partner needs it.”
But there is a downside. “Comparisons,” Dr Bhonsle points out. “Despite being educated, many girls tend to subconsciously compare the performance of one partner with another. Which isn’t how it should be.”
“Men aren’t replicas of each other to perform in the same manner. Each relationship is unique.”
Not so unique is the tendency of new-age married couples to let work get in the way of their sex lives. Their desire for high incomes and higher standards of living is diminishing their desire for each other. And sacrificed at the altar of money and ambition is parenthood. “Their careers are important to both of them. Women don’t want to give up their lucrative jobs to have babies because they feel that it would be that much harder for them to get back in the race. For men, the prospect of having to make do with a solo income is daunting.”
Add to this mix the not-so-social social network and you have a recipe for disastrous relationships. Dr Bhonsle says couples now have tiffs over their partners’ Facebook status, comments, friends, even their WhatsApp chats with members of the opposite sex. “The root cause, of course, is suspicion, possessiveness and doubt but these are misunderstandings caused by their partners’ interface on social media – an issue that never existed earlier.”
Relationship dynamics are also battling the effects of pornography. “Couples are more willing to try different positions, different gadgets now,” says Dr Bhonsle. But sometimes, things can get out of hand. “One young man wanted to engage in a threesome but didn’t dare broach the subject with his wife for fear of rejection and contempt. But he’s so fixated on the idea that he has now gone into depression. Another woman had got so used to using a vibrator when she was single that when she got married, her husband’s efforts to please her just weren’t enough.”
So what are modern-day couples to do? How do they hold on to their ever-fragile relationships? “Talk. Communicate your needs freely and openly. Don’t avoid tricky topics. Spend a lot of time with each other,” is the doctor’s advice.
Komal Soni wrote in detail about how sex has changed in Indian society over the ages. But it’s not always sex that can cause friction. Religion can be a very emotive issue , says SG Shrivastav.