Love and Friendship

Romantic desire…defies practicality, loves the forbidden

Raksha Bharadia makes some insightful observations and asks some startling questions about the nature of romantic and sexual desire, and its role in marriage
Romantic desire

In theory the equation is simple and flawless. Society, law and religion encourage marriage and families; marriage (today) is about love; married sex is a declaration of that love; sex stems from love and desire; thus desire, love (and intimacy) and sex (monogamous) are the smooth cogs of the matrimony wheel on which the locomotive of marriage (ought to) journeys frictionless all the way to Eden! One-man-one-woman-fifty-years-exclusive-consistent-desire-and-monogamous-se!

The land of happily ever after!

Yet gaping holes appear! Desire refuses to follow the neat path chartered out by the two involved and the body behaves as if it has a mind of its own.

Promising to do something next month is one thing, promising to feel one way after 30 years is something altogether different. No wonder Eden is easily reached and sustained only in the advertisements of jewellery, perfumes and homes!

Laura Kipnis author of Against Love says that we carry the weight of “modern love’s central anxiety,” namely, “the expectation that romance and sexual attraction can last a lifetime of coupled togetherness despite much hard evidence to the contrary.” For the first time in history, we don’t have sex to accrue a large family, nor is it exclusively a female marital duty. Sex, today, in a long-term relationship is rooted in desire.

Related reading: Are Indians ignorant about their bodies and intimacy?

And, desire, by its very nature, is insubordinate! It does not care about laws and rules, morality and mores, right or wrong, convenience and posterity. It refuses to cede control. Strangely in one way it is also a peek at what is ‘unmanageable’ within us, a feel of our instincts, and in some fundamental way, it is a statement of what we are deep within. These lines I read from the book, The pure and the Impure, is one I revisit often. “But what is the heart, madame? It’s worth less than people think. It’s quite accommodating, it accepts anything. You give it whatever you have, it’s not very particular. But the body… Ha! That’s something else again! It has a cultivated taste, as they say, it knows what it wants. A heart doesn’t choose, and one always ends up by loving.”

Desire defies practicality, when it has approval, it palls; when it is forbidden, it becomes unbearably exciting. It craves for what it doesn’t have, what it does, it doesn’t want!

Desire is erratic and whimsical, it refuses to follow straight lines, it seeks obsessively and when it lands at what it seeks, it loses interest. It aches with unfulfilled desire, once satiated it turns cruelly indifferent.

Desire does not follow convention; it conflicts with our understanding of right and wrong. We find ourselves attracted to the bad boys and to mean girls. We value people who are kind, dependable and generous but we get attracted to the bitches, to the Casanovas, to the ones we know who will try and find an exit the moment lovemaking finishes! Respect, which is essential to a democratic relationship, becomes an appalling burden in desire. We feel secure in safety, desire favours risk, we go to lengths to prove our endurance to our partners, desire gets enticed to novelty.

love nd friendship

Desire thrives on inequality, on excess; rationality and democracy in sex equates to boredom! It asks for subjugation, it offers surrender; it likes the game unfair and mean, even cruel and violent (at times, to a certain degree). It humiliates and in surrender finds ‘connection’, it begs to be subjugated and in aggression finds excitement. Remember books on woman’s fantasies, Fifty Shades of Grey? My Secret Garden? Desire likes the edge, it wants uncertainty and mystery, it is helpless not to. Milan Kundera in his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being said, “Physical love is unthinkable without violence.”

Desire is a fever that runs its course, one way or the other. It is that inescapable presence in our lives which refuses to sit neatly on top of love and marriage and all other systems prescribed and sanctioned by the society, state and law. Desire is our biggest blessing and our worst nightmares, at times at once!

Why Marilyn Monroe continues to haunt, charm and intrigue millions

Does being married guarantee romance and desire?

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