"I would never say that to a guy."
Many Desi women are forced to lie about dating and sex and hide their sexuality out of fear of being shamed by society.
Society teaches women to feel ashamed of their sexuality. They must be coy, gentle and naïve.
A woman should only have sex with a man she loves, and ideally, wait until marriage. Sex should not be ‘enjoyed’ by them as much as men.
Some men see women as erotic objects, used to fulfil their desires, suited to their needs only.
Many men are even celebrated for ‘sleeping around’ and face no repercussions.
If a Desi woman were to do this, she would be left with a damaged reputation and be the punchline to endless sexist jokes in a boys group chat.
A Woman’s Virginity and Body Count
Virginity for many is an outdated patriarchal concept. Yet this mystical, meaningless word controls a lot of young Desi women.
It makes women feel unclean and dirty for acknowledging their sexual drive and acting upon that.
The term ‘body count’ refers to the number of people an individual has penetrative sex with.
Therefore, a zero ‘body count’ is the typical expectation for Desi women.
Starting a relationship can be new and exciting, but there is always one conversation that every Desi girl dreads.
“How many bodies do you have?”
And there is no correct answer.
If a woman were, to be honest with her partner and say she has slept with 10 men, it would definitely result in a major reaction from the guy.
A Desi woman can not enjoy casual, safe and consensual sex, since that is not ‘wifey’ material.
Alternatively, if a woman were a ‘virgin’, some men would see this as a challenge. Who can sleep with her first?
This world can be a scary and unsafe place for a woman because she must do and say whatever it takes to be safe from judgement and abuse.
Desi Culture and Sex
The older generation of the South Asian Community tends to find the subject of sex uncomfortable.
Therefore, any kind of open discussion about sex is not easy or welcomed.
In the South Asian community, before marriage, a woman having sex holds negative connotations of impurity and degradation.
However, after marriage, sex is celebrated by the community for providing a family and grandchildren.
For a Desi woman who admits to having sex before marriage, it immediately triggers the opportunity for the gossip mill to work overtime.
News of this kind would have major repercussions for the woman from her family if they were to find out.
Honour, shame and everything else seen as immoral raises its ugly head.
Therefore, relationships and sex are mostly shrouded in secrecy within the Desi community.
Desi women certainly will not tell anyone apart from perhaps a close circle of friends who know and are probably doing the same.
Speaking about sexual desires and embracing them is natural. It should not be a taboo subject. Every woman should have the right to explore and experiment with her sexuality.
This subconscious belief that a Desi woman’s worth is bound to her hymen is outdated but it will take Desi society time before it sees this differently.
Sex education in the South Asian community is very scarce.
Most of the sex education for young Desi people is either from school, friends or the internet.
If the ‘talk’ does happen between a parent and their daughter, it will most likely end in tears and a door slam.
Sex is not viewed as a pleasurable act. It is seen traditionally, more as a ‘wife’s duty’ and to be subservient to her husband.
It is a mandated action that happens after marriage, primarily to have children.
Therefore, sex before marriage and having pleasure from it for a Desi woman are very progressive and 21st-century outlooks.
Desi women should have sex if they choose to, and they deserve to enjoy sex, as much as men.
Society rarely questions Desi men for watching porn or masturbating.
Yet, if a Desi woman were to admit she masturbates, society would label her as a ‘loose’ and ‘dirty’ woman; a femme fatale character.
Experiences of Women
DESIblitz spoke to five British Desi women about their stories of sex, lies and dating.
Amandeep, aged 19, explained that she lied in her previous relationships, out of fear of her previous partner:
“I have only had two partners, and my first relationship ended badly. He was very mean.
“And when we split, he would say horrible things to me like, ‘You’re dirty, no one will ever want you’ and I believed him.
“So when I got into my most recent relationship, I was nervous, I did not want to be vulnerable and open around him.
“He never had a relationship before me and never had sex, but I felt like I had to lie to him that I was a virgin because he was such a manly guy.”
She acknowledged that despite lying to protect herself she understands that honesty is vital in relationships:
“I now realise that I was wrong. I did not trust him, so that is why I lied.”
“Nevertheless I have learnt my lesson now, and will only get into relationships with men I fully trust, so I can tell them the truth and be open with them.”
Priya, aged 24, described her first memory of being slut-shamed:
“I remember being 16 and posting a selfie on Instagram. It was a harmless picture, literally just me smiling, and a boy wrote ‘slag’.
“I do not know what I did to deserve that.
“I have only had sex with one partner, and we were together for two years.
“Personally, I do not mind discussing the topic of sex and masturbation with my friends.
“For example, I am confident in saying I like sex, and I masturbate to my female friends, but I would never say that to a guy.
Despite being confident in her sexuality, Priya still has reservations:
“I can be shy when discussing these things because I am Indian, and I think it is due to my parents and how they have raised me.
“I do not want to be too open because I know that some men can become aggressive.
“Men always judge women for being proud of their sexuality. It is double standards, and it is ridiculous.
“Why can I not have casual sex? I do not want a relationship right now, and I only want some fun.
“But I do not have the courage to say this out loud, since I am scared of what people will say.”
Saima, aged 22, comes from a strict household and upbringing. When she started college, she decided to rebel:
“I was 17, college was so different from school. We were freer and there were lots of guys.
“I started to date. The first guy was just us messing around kissing and stuff. It did not last long.
“Then, I met an older guy. He was 21 and we started going out. He was all romantic and said he loved me.
“After a couple of months, he changed and pressured me for sex. He blamed me for being a horrible girlfriend.
“I gave in and sex for the first time was not very enjoyable. He boasted about me to his friends. This led to us breaking up.
“My desire to have sex did not stop. So, I dated three more guys but it was just for sexual experience.”
“I feel I know more about my sexuality now. But there is no way I would ever tell any new guy about my past.
“I’ve learned it’s best to act naively and let them take the lead, so they don’t suspect you.”
Kiranpal, aged 26, got married after dating several men. She found herself challenged in her marriage:
“I met my husband through a family friend. We hit it off. We ticked all the boxes for our families.
“Into six months of our marriage, we found ourselves talking one night about our lives before marriage.
“Without any prompt, he told me he dated three women before we got married. And was so happy he met me.
“This left me in a mild panic. What do I say? So, I felt I’ve got to be honest since he had been?
“I told him I dated five men before I met him and I felt the same.
“Five? Five men? He kept on saying and I saw him get worked up. We ended up in an argument over the past.
“Since then I’ve never spoken about my past ever again.”
Alisha, aged 21, was care-free but found telling the truth to her boyfriend made life difficult for her:
“From the age of 18, I started dating. My sexual experience grew through these dates.
“When I then met a guy who I fell for, I always felt we told each other everything.
“When I opened up to him about our sex life needing some change because it was what he always wanted and not what I did, he totally flipped.
“I got accused of being a slut, sex-starved bi**h and many other horrible things. He even said go and find it elsewhere.
“I always felt communication was important for sex. But this totally became the opposite. After a month, we split up.”
These five revelations by Desi women most likely resonate with many similar stories of other women.
Dating, sex and lies have an interconnection when it comes to relationships for Desi women. But for men, it’s completely a different story.
A Double Standard
It is a Friday night, the radiant lights of a club are bouncing off the walls.
One vodka lemonade, double and two tequila shots.
The sour, sharp taste trickles down their throat, the rush is like no other. The mysterious powers of this drink begin to flow through the bloodstream.
Everyone is more relaxed now. Dancing, drinking and laughing.
She is beautiful, and he is gorgeous.
They naturally find themselves floating to each other, and can no longer hear the music but each other’s heartbeat.
The rush is intense, and the feeling is sensational. They go somewhere quiet and share one moment, a moment of passion and pleasure.
As they leave the club, more and more people become aware of what they have done.
He is high fived and celebrated for being a man. She is judged and looked down upon for being ‘easy’.
This double standard is centuries old and still exists in some form or other. From employment, education, health to even sex.
Society determines what the characteristics of a ‘good woman’ are and if she does not comply with these she will face judgemental views imposed on her.
Therefore, many Desi women are always living a double life to deal with this double standard.
One which satisfies the needs of society and another which tries to meet their desires in secrecy. Hence, leading to lies within all types of relationships.
Desi Men and Relationships
Relationships are difficult.
Some young Desi people have seen their parents unhappy, staying in a strained marriage, avoiding one another.
Therefore the concept of giving and taking love can be difficult for some to understand and practice.
There is a subconscious expectation that men must be the alpha male, and they must dominate women.
An outspoken, bold woman would be shocking for some Desi men, as this is not what they see as ‘normal’.
Therefore, knowing that a woman has slept with more people or is more sexually experienced can be intimidating.
It might make a man feel like the ‘alpha’ in his male has been stripped away from him.
This is why some women lie about their past.
However, this is not how a relationship should work, since there must be honesty, respect and acceptance.
This cycle of lying and deception must break.
What do Desi Men Think?
DESIblitz asked four young Desi men to see how they would feel if their partner had slept with more people.
Umar*, aged 20, said these insecurities men might face in relationships stems from community pressure.
“I think the Desi culture makes it seem like men need to be the alphas in the relationships.
“That has a big impact on their mental health and their relationships because they can’t even tell their partner they are struggling.”
He admitted that being with a more experienced woman might make men his age feel uncomfortable.
“In our generation, it is hard to find someone without a body count, but if a girl has a high body count, I think it will always play in the back of my head.”
Harman*, aged 21, agreed with this statement:
“If a woman slept with 10 men, I’d be a bit uncomfortable, and I don’t think I could trust her to be loyal.”
However, Bal*, aged 22, believes the Desi people are quick to judge one another.
“It’s natural of humans to judge no matter what.”
He believes that men should evaluate their relationships and how they act towards their partners.
“I don’t think men need to act like these alpha males, there needs to be a balance, and that’s what my mother has taught me.
“Men should focus more on satisfying a woman mentally and sexually.”
On the other hand, Benito*, aged 19, believes honesty is what is most important in a relationship.
“If a woman told me she had slept with more people than me, I wouldn’t mind. That honesty makes a girl more interesting to me.
“A woman is scrutinised for sleeping with more men.
“So for her to express that to me, unapologetically, I would appreciate it.”
Slut-Shaming and Social Media
Society is intimidated by sexually liberated women, and to silence them, they are slut-shamed.
Hoe. Slut. Kanjari.
However, slut-shaming is so common, some have become desensitised by these hurtful, cruel words.
Many Desi women have experienced this abuse.
Moreover, when a woman begins to go through puberty, her body begins to develop.
There is immediately a magnifying glass hovering over her, analysing her every moment.
Above all, women and men are evaluated differently for engaging in the same sexual behaviours.
“That girl has been passed around.”
“Bro she belongs to the streets.”
Social media has encouraged this behaviour, and people see social media as an opportunity to slut-shame open women without receiving any repercussions.
This form of cyberbullying humiliates women for their sexuality and presumed sex life.
Consequently, slut-shaming can result in women having body image issues, to developing feelings of depression and anxiety.
To conclude, the power of a sensual woman is astronomical. But she is portrayed as threatening and intimidating.
However, in reality, she is simply comfortable in her skin. She knows what she wants.
Who a woman has slept with in the past should not make them unattractive or affect their reputation. In the same way, it does not affect a man’s reputation or attractiveness.
Women do not exist to pleasure men.
However, most women live in fear of what others will say, so they must lie or hide their realities.
This is particularly evident for Desi women.
Many Desi women end up lying about dating and sex to protect themselves from societal abuse and family backlash. A sad reality, which may never change.