What do we think of when we think of ‘play’? Fun, pleasure, spontaneity, being child-like and ‘in the flow’ … But, perhaps, in our capitalist world, we think of play as the antithesis to productivity. Coupled with the tendency to approach sexuality with seriousness, play often remains absent in discussions of sexuality. Sexuality shares the elements of fun, pleasure and spontaneity that are found in play, and approaching our sexual explorations and expressions with a playful attitude allows us to overcome the notions of shame and guilt that are often connected to sexuality, as well as to be vulnerable, to connect to people authentically, and overall, to lead more fulfilling lives. If we are in safe, inclusive and self-affirming spaces, it allows us to simply have fun.
Shweta Krishnan, looking at play through an anthropological framework, asks what happens when one takes away the reproductive functionality of sexuality and instead inserts play and playfulness. Drawing from Charles Darwin’s playful observations of orchids and their pollinators, from explorations of children’s play in Japanese anime movies and from old Hindi movies, Shweta takes us on a journey to “decouple sexuality from purpose” and find joy in play and purposelessness.
In a conversation with Shikha Aleya, Manak Matiyani, the Executive Director of The YP Foundation, draws our attention to how, as adults, we forget to be playful because of social conditioning and that by being playful, we can not only build meaningful and intimate relationships but also normalise sexuality and discussions around it. Moreover, by adopting a playful lens, we can “have fun in the way we do our work and politics”.
Play, in the context of sexuality, also means to have the space and privilege to explore our relationship with ourselves, with our bodies, our desires and fantasies. Srishti Gupta reviews the Indian television series Four More Shots! to explore the various ways in which the four female protagonists explore their sexualities, fantasies and sexual expressions through play and how, to a certain extent, the series reflects the fantasies and desires of (urban, upper-class and upper-caste) Indian women.
But play is not always light-hearted. For Asmi, writing from her experiences in BDSM communities, play is a spiritual act where one surrenders themselves to pain, vulnerability, pleasure, desire and intimacy within a safe and consensual environment. Play, then, becomes a deeply personal journey of self-awareness and self-exploration. Aishwarya Shrivastav, in the poem titled I will meet you post quarantine, imagines play with a partner after a year of separation due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
In Brushstrokes, Priya Dali’s The First Move, first published in Gaysi in collaboration with Tinder, captures the playful beginnings of initiating conversation with a match on online dating apps. In the Video section, Agents of Ishq, in Mission Orgasm, explores the galaxies of pleasure with the aid of a simulation game. In our Did you Know Corner, we link an article by Kira M. Newman, published in Greater Good Magazine, that discusses how playfulness can be beneficial for relationships.
We hope that this issue of In Plainspeak reminds us that each of us has the ability to play, to allow ourselves to be child-like, and to immerse ourselves in all that play denotes – fun, humour, laughter, silliness, vulnerability, comfort, pleasure and more!
Be it on stage or at work or in our personal lives, we each of us ‘play a role’. In our mid-month issue, as we approach the end of 2021 hoping for better times ahead, Pramada Menon offers us a series of reflections on why we are here, what is it that we want to do, and what we want to change, in terms of the work we do.
Further exploring play with respect to sexuality, Wesley D’Souza examines the term in a literal yet fascinating manner, writing about how through theatre and playing different roles he came to act like himself.
In our Blog Roll section, we have curated two pieces. One is a personal and instructive peek into the experiences of BDSM, and the other is an exciting report about a novel way of facilitating autonomous, anonymous, public, live, group sexting.
The Corner has an article that unveils the relatively unknown but fascinating world of tentacle porn, offering interesting insights into fantasy, morality and sexuality.
And that’s it from us in our last issue of this year. May 2021 glide smoothly into 2022 for everyone! Stay well, stay safe!
Cover Image: Unsplash