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‘How Big Is Your Cock?’: What Indian Men Discuss When They Talk About Sex

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The poet Eunice D’Souza once wrote, “Keep cats if you want to learn to cope with the otherness of lovers.” And it’s true that the lover, real or imaginary, is often as mysterious as the eyes of the cat – you never know what is going on inside. Yet, there’s a popular understanding that women talk enthusiastically about sex among themselves and men – equally enthusiastically – among themselves. What are those conversations like?

Let us part the silky curtains and listen to the conversations in the men’s zenana.

Naveen K, 17, Nasik

I wish I could talk about sex so I could learn from others’ experiences.

We are a group of three childhood friends, we can talk about anything.

My friend Sudhir was the first person I ever spoke about sex with. I was in the eighth standard, he was in ninth (I am in class 11 now). Back then, I’d discovered masturbation by accident. I was in shock when I discovered it, but since it was pleasurable I was happy. I went to my friend and told him, “I did something funny and this happened, do you know about it, have you done it?”

He said, “Yeah, it’s about sex, everything to do with your dick is about sex.”

Tarun is the other friend I feel comfortable talking with, but he’s too excited always. He keeps asking me every week, “Are you masturbating?” I don’t know why. He asks what’s your score, what’s your daily average, what’s your weekly average, and tells me his own stories (like when his grandparents were out and almost caught him masturbating on the sofa when they returned early).

Sometimes he’s irritating, but I wish I had more friends like Tarun. I feel restricted to talk with others, and being able to talk about it lets me vent. It would be good because we’d also learn from each other’s experiences. Now, I have to go to online forums about “teen relationships” and “sex”, or whatever topic I want to discuss, ask it, get feedback, learn from someone… but the context is not generally the same. Someone will reply from the US, the whole social and family structure is different from how it is here, so the answers generally don’t add up. I feel it’s not useful for me. I wish we could discuss these things because that would make us more open-minded about other topics as well. It would be a freer society where you don’t have to hold back.

That’s why I discuss these topics with my younger brother: he’s in fifth standard now. I told him about masturbation, that it’s a natural and pleasurable thing, and he told me what he already knows about sex and masturbation (he first heard about it in fourth standard). I’ll tell him more as he grows up and starts feeling these feelings.

Rohit V, 31, Bangalore

The first time I spoke about sex to men, I wanted to have sex with them.

The first time I spoke about sex to other men, I wanted to have sex with them. As a gay man, that time is your sexual awakening. It’s different now, when you’re talking to gay men that you want to hook up with… you’re asking, “how big is your cock”, “what position”, “do you like to fuck or get fucked?”

I don’t go beyond innuendoes with my straight male friends. I can tell some of my straight male friends “daddy gave it to me good” and it would be fine, they’d say “oh you got lucky” or something like that, but I wouldn’t go into more detail. It feels like a farce: I always wonder if I’m making the other person uncomfortable.

I prefer speaking to women and my closest gay friends about sex. With them, I discuss everything: the way he touched me, the way he ruffled my hair and grabbed me, whether I wanted him to stay or just go immediately…

I don’t talk to anyone about my [sexual] anxieties though. I want to talk to the men I sleep with about it because I’m sure they’ve also felt the anxieties I feel. But I don’t because that’s a dangerous move. With gay men, I feel the second you start talking as real people and become more than just bodies from a Grindr hookup, they distance themselves. Talking is what hints at commitment, it makes it more than just a hookup. But then again, you know… there are other gay men. All they want is to do is talk before they go to the bedroom. I guess there are all kinds.

Narayan N, 40, Bangalore

As we get older, there are fewer boxes to tick, so there’s nothing left to share.

As boys grow up and start having their first experiences, the conversation is similar to sharing newfound facts about sex in childhood: “You won’t believe what I did!” “how did it feel?” “this is how it is.” There’s a lot of discovery within the group based on each other’s experiences, and a groupthink, ki kisne pehle kya kiya. There’s obviously a lot of exaggeration, and it can make men really insecure.

There is a desire to share with your friends, but also the pressure of them making fun of you. Even if you’re worried about something, or if you want to talk about romance or an emotional connection, because of the macho pressure of performance, conquest is seen as a far greater thing than romance. So there’s a general pressure to talk up and enhance the sexual experiences more than other experiences, and we don’t talk about a lot of things we really want to.

When a boy has a girlfriend and goes out with her, he’ll come back and his friends will ask, “So what did you do, how far did you go?” If he responds saying they only held hands and watched a movie, they’ll mock him for not being a “real man,” and that also goads him into exaggerating or lying about what he did.

That’s why men speak about sex in generalities. We never commit to the kind of details that could make us vulnerable to ridicule in front of friends, or reveal our exaggerations. So we speak vaguely about “anal” or a new position.

As you get older, there are fewer boxes to tick in the checklist to sex. There are no new discoveries or conquests, so there’s nothing left to share with others. We don’t talk about it. Also, nobody wants their friends fantasising about their girlfriends or wives. The only time I’ve seen adult men talk about sex is during a break-up, that’s when they say nasty things like “she was never good in bed”, or “she didn’t know how to give head.”

Kirtan, 27, Trivandrum

The first time I had sex was the last time I ever spoke about it.

My very first time with a lady was very nerve-wracking. I had no idea how anything worked, and it was all different from what I was expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting, my only idea was from porn, but the reality shocked me. I suddenly found myself in a position where I was supposed to do everything and know what to do. And what bothered me most was, I wasn’t expecting it to be so wet. I didn’t have a clear idea of what the female genitalia looks like, and the first time totally threw me off. When I told my best friend about it, he said, “Oh my god, so you are gay.” I’m not gay and I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but it shocked me. That’s when I learnt why you should keep personal matters personal. Friends will only give useless advice.

Pratik Viswani, 30, Delhi

I find it so much easier to talk to women about sex.

I started speaking to girls-who-are-friends about sex because they spoke to me! Girls talk about sex in such detail, they’re so comfortable sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, but I definitely find it much easier to talk to them. Men just don’t feel comfortable talking about this with each other.

There are two scenarios. One is if I find out my significant other has said something to a mutual female friend about our sex life. If I knew the friend well enough I would try and find out what it is. I don’t know why women [you’re sleeping with] don’t just tell you directly when you ask how the sex is, they only tell their friends. In that case, it’s like an investigative mission. So I end up having the most directly useful discussions about sex with those female friends, if they tell me.

The other part is only women friends give really honest feedback. The female body is like a mysterious textbook with lots of chapters, and examination sab out of syllabus hi aata hain. If anything weird happens during sex, or if I try out a new move, I ask my friends ki, “I did this, would you also find it nice, how can I tell if she really enjoyed it,” and they give honest feedback, or suggest areas for improvement, or what they like which other girls also like.

Honestly, another part of the reason why I talk to my female friends about sex is to make them jealous. A lot of my girls-who-are-friends are actually girls who’d “friendzoned” me in the past, and I’m okay with that, I didn’t mind and we become friends. But that hangover is still there, and when they talk to me about the great sex they have with the boy they end up with, I sometimes feel they’re trying to make me jealous by talking about it. So I also do it to them, and discuss all the sex I am having.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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