Renowned Mumbai-based sexologist Dr Rajan Bhonsle tells us that there are reasons millennials are redefining relationships and sex too.
How would you define a millennial relationship in India?
Earlier in relationships, inevitably the man used to be a dominating partner while the woman used to play a submissive role. That has completely changed in millennial relationships, where both of them are pretty proactive, successful and supporting the family equally. So, none of them are dominant or submissive per se. Both are dominant in their own way, and that sometimes becomes a challenge for men who have grown up in male-dominated households.
Do you think the man of the 21st century is getting equipped to be in a more submissive role than he was in before?
No, men and women are equal in a millennial relationship today. Earlier, the man used to be dominant and the woman, submissive. Now, there isn’t a role reversal. Man is never expected to be in a submissive role. Women are becoming more proactive now, and in a true sense they are equal partners now. Millennials are redefining relationships.
Are more millennials going into open relationships?
Open relationship is a scenario when you are in a committed relationship with someone, and you are trying out other relationships or encounters alongside too, with your partner’s full knowledge and your partner has no objection to it. Some people may be claiming that they want to be in an open relationship, but the moment they are seeing their partner is unable to accept it and give them full liberty, they are not at all okay with it.
A married man may have an affair with another woman without the knowledge of his wife, but that is not open relationship.
If the wife gives him the liberty to go and sleep around with others, and does so herself too, without any objection from both sides, that is an open relationship. The two partners should discuss with each other about this too.
However, in reality many people may talk about it but they are unable to accept it since they are often jealous and possessive about their partners, and more often than not, they break down. People may secretly have affairs outside their long-term relationship or marriage, but they do not admit to it in the open or let their partners know about it.
Do you see a drop in the sexual desires or libido of the present generation?
There isn’t a drop in desire but a drop in frequency of sex. There is no drop in their sexual desires or libidos but their lives have become so complex and complicated that they are unable to find the time, energy and enthusiasm to engage in intercourse. So, the frequency of intercourse has gone down drastically.
I have instances of couples coming to me and admit that they do not get sufficient time, they engage in intercourse only once a month or so.
They say they are perfectly attracted to each other and they have no complaints about each other. They have their own work, ambitions and lifestyles and they both travel a lot, so these results in constraints with time. When they meet each other, they are so very tired and they do not have the energy or enthusiasm to engage in intercourse. They do not have any issues with their sexuality, but time and lack of energy are detriments.
So, job stress and lack of time plays a significant role in lack of intimacy among the millennial couples…
Yes, that is a vital point. Also, when they are away from their partner, they have easy access to porn, so naturally they are self pleasuring. Often we are habituated to self pleasuring, we find it easily accessible and doable too in the privacy of our homes. In partner sex, you need to be together, you need to be feeling it at the same time, you need to engage into foreplay, you need to see that the other partner gets aroused equally, you need to see that they are enjoying the entire process and they are experiencing explosive orgasm at the end of it. The heightened level of self-pleasuring is something I have seen in both men and women, on the other hand they fall short when it comes to partner sex.
Do you think for some millennials there is still a family pressure to stay a virgin and it has an impact on sex life later?
That doesn’t work anymore, absolutely not. The present generation in the age range 21-30 now do not care about what their parents or siblings will think or expect when it comes to their sexual status. I’ve seen middle class and lower middle class girls who are living life on their own terms independently and even youngsters are earning a good pay pack and living on their own.They no longer want to be dependent on their parents.
Porn addiction is a battle the present generation is fighting. Do you think over consumption of porn, or excessive masturbation is a reason for millennials having less sex or having lesser libido?
It is because of the fact that they have a higher libido that the millennial people are addicted to porn and engaging in excessive masturbation. Because they are self-pleasuring at such a high rate, they lack the energy and enthusiasm to engage in partner sex. They are anyway having an outlet in self-pleasuring.
Pornography and addiction to pornography are undoubtedly causing a lot of harm to the real relationships. It is proven beyond doubt in various research and studies too.
When you are indulging in pornography, which is easily available to you, easily accessible to you, you are on your own, you are NOT being judged by your sexual partner or anyone else regarding your performance.
You are doing it in your own time, your own manner and your own space. You can enjoy porn, completely unsupervised.
In partner sex, you have to see to it whether your partner is in the mood, whether your partner is aroused by the foreplay, then getting to the point where you have to satisfy your partner. Even though they do not say these things out loud, they take it to heart. So, they resort to self pleasuring, more often than not. Engaging in partner sex, and unable to perform and satisfy your partner, you are devaluated by your partner. This is why the tendency to engage in partner sex becomes less and less once you are addicted to porn.
Do you think porn is leading to unrealistic expectations?
Those may lead to not only unrealistic expectations but perverted sexual desires as well. Even when you see the porn stars, the way their bodies are, the way they move and moan and groan, in real life a person is never going to react that way. Even the porn stars are acting out in front of a camera under the instructions of a director and they need to look a certain way, act a certain way and express in certain ways which are fixed previously. In their own real life too, they do not perform that way in bed. Now, if you are going to have those kinds of expectations from your partner or spouse in bed, obviously you are going to end up disappointed. Porn heightens your expectations to an unrealistic level and then you end up being disappointed with your real-life relationship.
Do you think mental and psychological issues, including depression play a role in low sexual desire?
Of course, mental health plays a major role. If you are anxious, if you are worried, if you are depressed, if you are mentally preoccupied because of work stress etc. it is going to affect your sexual performance in a significant way.
There is a complete medical term for it. We call it psychogenic sexual dysfunction and it causes almost 80% of the sexual dysfunctions.
A large number of people, regardless of their social class or financial background are suffering from depression and it is affecting their sexual performance as well.
What are the possible treatments for low sexual desire?
First of all, you have to remember that low sexual desire is a symptom and not a medical disease in general. Several factors may be in play behind low sexual desire. We have to first identify the cause behind low sexual desire, what has caused it and we treat it specifically from person to person, there is no standard procedure for everyone. One’s low sexual desire may be caused due to physical causes, emotional causes or even due to situational causes. In each of these causes, there are subdivisions; it could be neurogenic, vasculogenic and so on. Everyone who comes to us with low sexual desire or libidowe have to find the cause behind it and treat that underlying cause itself.
Do you provide some medication also to increase sexual desire among people who are suffering from low libido?
Yes, medications are provided too, but our main target is to find the root cause behind low libido or sexual desire and eliminate it.
In India, many people are happily single or traumatized from their past relationships. Many are happy being “friends with benefits” with someone, without the emotional attachment or commitment. Do you think these instances are gradually becoming more common?
Yes, you’re right. In the age of getting married, people may even get into serious relationships with each other but the culmination of the relationship is not in marriage, even though they end up staying together for a long time. Avoidance or postponing marriage and ultimately not going through with it at all, is the common trend these days.
Earlier, when a guy had a breakup, they immediately used to find someone else to date and ultimately, get married to that person. These days, when a person has a breakup, more often than not, they might end up not getting into any other serious relationship for a long time. To the same phenomenon of breakup, how the previous generation responded and how the present generation responds, is so very different.
Earlier people use to stay virgin till marriage but now sex is normal in any relationship…
Yes, the scenario is definitely changing, even more so in the urban population. Those who have been in a relationship, they do not hesitate to get into a sexual relationship at all. Very early in the relationship, they start making out and getting physical. That wasn’t common in the earlier generations where holding hands or intimate hugging used to set the upper limit for them. But the present generation is engaging into sex pretty fast in a relationship.
Are the millennials more aware about protection and pills?
Yes, today’s youth are well aware of the complications that an unplanned pregnancy can bring and are equipped with condoms and birth control pills, whichever they prefer. They are pretty aware of it and all the information is available on Google, contrary to their previous generations. Whenever any question comes to your mind, it is available right at your fingertips on your smartphone.
The rate of unexpected pregnancy is much less than what it was 10 years back.
Is the pregnancy rate less in case of normal pregnancies also?
Yes, in today’s millennial relationships, both the man and the woman go out and work. They are both highly educated and both are earning a handsome salary and they most certainly do not want to let go of that early just for having a baby at a certain age.
Some are not opting for children at all…
Yes yes, definitely. In today’s world, many married couples are happy living their married life and enjoying a good sex life as well. Many couples enjoy a good time with each other and they do not want to have a child.
Is lifestyle changes leading to early menopause?
No, this is a misconception. Earlier, a woman used to hit menopause at the age of 45, they are invariably reaching the same at the age of 54-55, not before that. This is what I have observed in most cases. The upper age limit has increased for menstruation, on the contrary. I’ve seen women who are menstruating normally even at the age of 50-52.
Is this a good thing, this increase in upper age limit for menstruation?
There is nothing good or bad about it, these are mere observations. The long-term implications of any change can be observed only after a long period of time. We cannot make any serious conclusion from these observations right now.
Here’s a sum up of Dr Bhonsle’s interview
- A millennial relationship is based on equality and men are accepting that women will play equal decision-making roles.
- Both partners earn well, are busy and travel frequently leaving less time for intercourse.
- There isn’t a drop in sexual desire but there is drop in frequency
- They aren’t too keen also because they self pleasure with porn and they don’t want to get into the pressure to perform.
- Some millennials are experimenting with open relationships and in long-term live in relationships too they are not ending up marrying.
- A breakup is not always followed up by another relationship but many choose to stay single for long.
- In urban areas sex is common between partners and not many wait for marriage to lose their virginity.
- Millennials are well aware of protection and pills so there is a drastic drop in the rate of unwanted pregnancy.