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Editorial: Dating and Sexuality

Searching for and then finding and connecting with others, dating, and then possibly, romancing them, are activities and experiences that do not occur in isolation – they are inter-connected with the rest of our lives, with what’s going on in other areas, and with what’s happening in the external environment, nowadays being a case in point, with physical distancing leading people to sometimes build an even stronger social closeness via online technology. We bring the whole of ourselves to the dating encounter. An encounter, however long or short it may be, may not end with the end of the meeting – there may be the delicious promise of more, the uncertainty of maybe, or the bleak finality of no more. Shikha Aleya brings us to see all of this and to realise that though there may be no more, it does not mean that we are any the less for it.   

Abha Khetarpal in an interview with Shikha Aleya tells us how, when she took to online platforms, she could not leave her wheelchair out of her dating profile, but believed in her intelligence, sense of humour and other positive qualities, and that they were far more visible than her disability.  Online platforms didn’t offer just Abha a means to end her social isolation; they are offering all of us a way to do that now given the physical distancing required to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. As Siddharth Narrain writes, technology, be it through social media, dating apps, or video conferencing, is offering people a means to make a social connection despite so-called ‘social distancing’ and to find some measure of self-validation. 

What happens to self-validation Aishwarya Singh asks, in a polyamorous relationship when a date and casual hooking up lead to your partner’s falling in love with someone else

Elsa Marie D’Silva reviews The Last Summer, a film about a group of high-school graduates in the US and their individual quests for relationships and identity.

Even if some people may have the freedom to go dating in India, they may not have the freedom to choose their own wedding partner and decide on the kind of wedding they would like. Aanchal Bhatnagar writes about the emotional and cognitive dissonances and ruptures that many brides experience as their wedding day approaches. 

Sutanuka Bhattacharya writes about being in a relationship that never began on a romantic or sexual note but that has become an ongoing journey of love and learning with her partner who identifies as a transman. 

In Hindi, we have a translation of Surbhi Dewan’s article about women private detectives in New Delhi, who as part of their surveillance duties are called to spy upon all sorts of relationships.

Dating calls to mind some measure of finding the other person attractive in some way, attractive enough to want to see where things will go. But what if we are meeting the person for the first time as a potential mate thrown up by a parent or a matrimonial-alliance site? How do we go about assessing the other person’s ‘fit’ with us? See what the Eligible Bachelorette does. Dating also calls to mind some measure of seduction. Robot Hugs illustrates the consequences of successful seduction from unexpected quarters!   

Desire motivates a person to seek and build a relationship or a romance, but are we all equally free to follow our own desires? Or are we caged, censured, maligned and even judged on the basis of our caste, class, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, body type and so on? In the mid-month issue we have an article by Disha KR where she writes about Surekha, a Dalit woman expressing her desires and rebelling against the shackles of the patriarchal caste system to marry the man she chose as her life partner and to take charge of her life.

In the Hindi section, we have a translation of an article talking about the hurdles a 17-year-old girl with Asperger Syndrome faces in exploring her desires and sexuality, and a translation of another article about the lack of comprehensive sexuality education for young people in India and how they struggle to come to terms with their desires, and overcome feelings of guilt and shame.

The blogroll section has three articles. The first offers practical guidance on dating and relationships by people with mental illness to others like themselves who want to find love, and emphasises that mentally ill people deserve to be able to enjoy love, dating and relationships just like any one else.

The second article shows how as our realities are changing, so are our patterns of interacting and connecting with others. Being currently in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing is becoming part of people’s lives all over the world. Dating apps are offering a release from boredom and the possibility of connection and people are reconceptualising notions of sex, romance and intimacy while adapting to make space for their desires.

As useful as dating apps may be, they also come with a dark side. The third article is about how using Grindr, the dating app, took a toll on the author’s mental health, leaving him feeling exhausted at having to be ‘perfect’ all the time. How do we fulfill our desires when we wish to experience deep love along with deeply satisfying sexual pleasure? Can we have both? Or is this expectation in the times of getting swiped left or right, too much to ask for? Is self-love the answer to it all?

Do we all have the choice of not only exploring but also enjoying and reveling in our desires? Or are we constantly negotiating with our surroundings to keep alive even a spark of desire? It is perhaps both and many more permutations and combinations that we have to sometimes work with, work against or work around to be able to fully understand and to be able to live our truest desires.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay smiling!

Cover Image: Pixabay

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