100 issues, 8 years! Thank you, dear readers and contributors!
As we planned for this issue to put on our party hats and sing and dance, we also asked, is celebrating sexuality easier for some than for others? What makes it so and what do we need to make celebrating sexuality possible, safe and inclusive for everyone? How do we, all of us, nurture resilience, find joy, and keep celebrating sexuality?
Instead of a regular interview, we asked you, our lovely readers, how you (want to) celebrate sexuality. What emerged was a mosaic of responses that highlights intersecting identities and their influences upon celebrations of sexuality. Our respondents stated the importance of freedom, bodily autonomy, body image, and creative expressions. At the same time, they brought to attention heteropatriarchal norms and discourses of shame as well as issues of class, gender, beauty ideals, etc. that restrict access to opportunities and spaces to celebrate sexuality openly.
Along somewhat similar lines, Vani Viswanathan turns our attention to the supposed pinnacle of the celebration of sexuality – marriage. As a feminist working on sexuality and gender, Vani writes about the confusion and clarity that she navigates in her marital life when it comes to gendered conditioning and biases, the privileges (and respectability) offered by heterosexual marriage, and having to learn not only to reconcile her lived experiences with her feminist ideals but also to be kind to herself.
How do we create safe, inclusive and self-affirming spaces to celebrate sexuality? Ambica Naithani reflects on the contradictions she finds in her own behaviour while trying to accept and celebrate femininity in a largely masculinist world, and arrives at the happy conclusion that spaces and communities that provide support and freedom to articulate paradoxes are themselves a celebration. ElsaMarie D’Silva writes about the Red Dot Foundation’s Queer Hifazat programme for queer youth to create a safe space for shared vulnerability, exploration, questioning, dialogue, and solidarity.
Popular media and art, too, influence and inform our celebrations of sexuality. Srishti Gupta discusses the subtle but nuanced explorations of sexuality, and its cross-sections with class, gender, sex and desire in the Kannada-language film Nathicharami (2018). Srishti finds Nathicharami and its manner of celebrating female sexuality to be a quiet, almost meditative exercise in understated storytelling. In Brushstrokes, we have original artworks that illustrate the plurality in celebrations of sexuality. Mitali Das’ four art pieces – Dance of Three Sisters, Expectation, The Household and She – celebrate aspects of feminine sexuality, feminine desire and body, and sexual intimacy and eroticism. Nishita Kamdar while trying to grapple with her sexuality, turned to art for solace; what emerged is Scribbles: An Escape from the Mundane. In our Video section we present an award-winning animated short by Francis Papillon and Gregory Verreault that depicts the potential for celebrating sexuality through an unpredictable and quirky disruption of a traditional ritual. In our Did You Know Corner, we direct you to a Bitch Media article about ways of exploring sexual fantasies.
We have two new Hindi translations in our Navintam Lekh section. Anjali Hans, in her article, talks about how risking intimacy and being vulnerable can steer us through loss and love, and limitations and freedom. Neel takes us through the ways in which her understanding of femininity has evolved, to now feeling that her own femininity has “seeped into her skin like a precious commitment”. Cause for celebration, indeed! And there always is, no matter how hard it sometimes may seem. Being alive is itself a cause for celebration!
Our mid-month issue features the ever-delightful Shilpa Phadke taking us through the rewards and travails of being a sex positive parent to a tween who questions and makes Shilpa question everything! It’s a veritable dancing around each other, dancing through a range of books (lovely collection), multi-layered conversations, arguments, and even extremely effective (tween) threats!
Aathira Gopi writes about breaking out of the perpetual act of waiting for a partner to explore her sexuality. Aathira celebrates her sexuality by reclaiming agency and autonomy over her pleasure and desires, as well as by prioritising non-sexual intimacies and the romance of friendships.
The In Plainspeak team, to celebrate 100 issues of our magazine, took a trip down memory lane and curated five articles from our previous issues that highlight the multiplicities in how people choose to celebrate sexuality. From exploring our (maybe yukky) fantasies, to wedding songs that celebrate female sexuality, to expressing desire as an older woman, to the celebration of queerness in fanfiction, and to falling in love with a person with disability – celebration of sexuality may be fraught, but as these articles demonstrate, we can embrace and find joy in the ways that we may choose to explore and express our sexuality.
We also bring you two articles from our fellow feminist publications in our Blog Roll section. The first article, published in Feminism in India, discusses the difficult task of loving oneself and one’s body, especially when one is inundated with messages that privilege a certain type of body. The second article, curated from GenderIT.org, highlights the importance of storytelling as a queering practice that celebrates the plurality of experiences of sexuality, and makes visible stories that may be hidden or erased. In our Media Corner, we guide you to a list by Homegrown that curates 11 Indian Films That Explore Female Sexuality In Realistic Ways.
In anticipation of our 100th issue we asked our writers if writing for In Plainspeak has (further) contributed to their understanding of and thinking about sexuality and related issues. Here’s what they said.
We hope that you have as much fun reading this 100th issue as we had while putting it together. As we sign off, we once again express our gratitude to all of you for supporting us and celebrating sexuality with us by reading and writing for In Plainspeak!
Nurture resilience, find joy, stay safe!
Cover Image: TARSHI