(Names changed to protect identities)
Love is infinite. Yet we have set its limits. A crucial one being sexual monogamy. There may be counter cultures of polygamy, open relationships, etc. But for most people, romantic love remains bound by sexual fidelity. Where does one stand then, if love ceases to provide for one’s sexual needs? In Indian law, unilateral denial of conjugal rights can be grounds for divorce. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that denial of sex to spouse, without any valid grounds, amounts to mental cruelty.
It’s not a small matter – stifling your partner’s sexual needs. What about pre-marital sex? Is not agreeing to that enough to push someone to seek sex outside? There is also the Court ruling that criminalises using the false promise of marriage to start sexual relations with a woman, as rape. At what point does the need for sex become enough to overcome love? These were some questions that rushed through my head when I first heard this story. It was a trip to the city of my childhood, Kolkata, that gave me the opportunity to find some answers face to face.
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Not marriage, but sex?
Aman had asked himself these questions a few times too. He knew he was in love – had been for over 3 years. They had also been physically intimate. The relationship fell apart when she asked – ‘What next?’ He wasn’t ready for marriage and she was under a lot of pressure from home. The breakup was followed by some of the worst months of his life. It was not that he did not want to marry – just a question of when. “My family could not afford a wedding. I needed to be more stable at work, save something, and then move to taking a girl from another caste to my parents.”
A few months into the breakup and Aman knew he could not live without her. So he agreed to all her terms and conditions and they got back together. However, there was a catch – no sex till marriage. Now Aman’s situation had not changed much, so he started using delaying tactics to stall her. And all would have been well, but for the no-sex clause. “Initially I didn’t think much of it. As time went by, however, it became difficult. Especially when we moved in together. I thought she will melt sooner or later, but her resolve was steadfast. So I started spending a good part of my day moaning about my lack of sex.”
Related reading: How single men and women approach sex differently
Just do it, man!
Eventually, Aman’s male friends, tired of his complaining, stepped in.
“You do want to marry her?”
“Then just go get laid, man!”
“Wouldn’t that be…”
“No, it won’t. It is not fair if you are being deprived of sex for no fault of yours. So you get it outside the relationship. No one needs to know, and once you guys are married, it is all in the past.”
Seemed sound logic! The universe conspired for him when a friend’s wife came knocking. “I never planned for it. But we were all hanging out at their place, while the husband was out of town. Their house was like our party pad. One by one, everyone left, while I stayed behind. And things happened from there. He wasn’t a great friend, but I was still scared of this coming out in the open, as my girlfriend would hang out with us often. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop us for a few months,” recalls Aman.
Then they got married
A year ago, Aman and the love of his life tied the knot. It was a simple wedding, but who said fairy-tales can’t be unostentatious? There is enough love, and sex to go around now. What happened to that fling, I ask. “Well, her husband got suspicious and I too realised that I was swimming in dangerous waters with her. There were a few attempts at paid sex too. Then things improved at home, and I was able to finally get on with the wedding prep.” “Do you think your wife deserves to know?” I asked, at the risk of terminating the interview.
“Well, you know, I don’t feel guilty. I was put in a spot and I reacted to fulfil certain basic human needs. It’s not that I didn’t try talking to her, pleading. Now it’s all in the past and I see no sense in bringing it up. I’d much rather concentrate on our life ahead. On being a good husband and work on being a good father.” With that the father-to-be’s phone rang. A happy wife demanded to know when her husband would return.
As I exited the cafe, Kamala Das’ immutable poem ‘A Relationship’ whispered in my thoughts
Yes, he can, but never physically
Only with words that curl their limbs at
Touch of air and die with metallic sighs.
Why care I for their quick sterile sting, while
My body’s wisdom tells and tells again
That I shall find my rest, my sleep, my peace
And even death nowhere else but here in
My betrayer’s arms…