I am a 25-year-old cis woman and I recently had sex with another woman for the first time. It was new, it felt nice, but it just didn’t feel safe. Now one could say that’s a contradictory statement! How you could it feel nice if it didn’t feel safe? So let me take you back a little.
I have liked girls for as long as I can remember, but I never gave it much thought because it just didn’t feel as important as liking boys. The environments around me never even acknowledged such desires, let alone normalise it. So I also treated it like a barely existing part of my sexuality. Then suddenly there was this incident in my boarding school where two girls were caught having sex, and they were expelled. The whole incident was handled with a very homophobic approach where the rest of us (students) believed that this was wrong, and that if we were to engage in it, we might fail our boards!
Fast forward to college, coming to live in a big city, and for the first time being exposed to the possibility that these desires I have for women are actually okay and valid. That they exist, but maybe it was I who was trying to repress them. I was, for the first time, able to talk about my desires to another living person. It was a liberation I didn’t even know I needed. I felt free. I felt okay. I felt me. I felt confident. So I started talking more about sexuality and the fluidity of it, and tried to include my family in these conversations too. But one day, when my brother-in-law was over and heard me talking about different sexual orientations, he pointed his finger at me, looked at me from top to bottom and told my sister, “I am telling you she is a lesbian” and everybody started laughing. But I wasn’t. I felt humiliated. I am what this society considers ‘fat’ and not very ‘feminine’ in my body language, and that has become a stereotype for certain sexualities, right? Him looking at my body with such disdain, followed by the laughter, made me hate the idea of being lesbian. So I shut down.
I became sexually active, I had sex with men and I really liked it. No complaints! I still sometimes thought about girls, fantasised about them, but that’s what it was limited to. I was, after all, straight or at least wanted to be. I would have hated to prove my brother-in-law right after all! And then suddenly, I came across this article on bisexuality, which said that everyone is bi-curious. And I thought YES! I was bi-curious and it’s not a big deal because everyone is, right? Turns out, maybe not! I was shamed by a person who identified as bisexual and told that I don’t understand bisexuality, and I was actually just another ‘straight’ person trying to ‘act cool’. The feelings of shame and anger slid right into my belly. I shut down again.
But over the years this feeling got stronger and stronger and I knew I was more than “curious” about women. I kinda liked them. Did you notice the ‘kinda’? Well, the thing is, I really wanted to get it right this time. I didn’t want to put on any labels or get stereotyped into something. I just really wanted to explore my sexuality. But I was so scared. Scared of being stereotyped. Scared of offending someone. Scared of doing it wrong. Scared of being wrong about all of this. Scared of my own feelings.
So for the longest time, I didn’t do anything about it. But one night, it just happened with this girl. And it was nice. I liked it. But it was also very quiet. There was no communication. This was unexplored territory for both of us. The moments were so fragile that both of us were scared to break them by speaking. At the same time, I was uncomfortable because there was no verbal consent being asked for or given. We would just touch and see if the other person removed our hand or not. Now this is where it gets uncomfortable. It was the first time after years of pondering, now I had answers to so many questions! But why was I feeling shame and guilt? Why was I not moaning when I wanted to? Why was I not communicating?
Well the answer to these questions are all those incidents where there was no safe space to explore my sexuality. The continued shaming on a personal level as well as the constant invisibilisation of non-heterosexual relationships had made the very thought of exploring my sexuality, unsafe. I wish I had had the confidence to speak up. But I just could not.
It is important to understand that when one talks about safety and sexuality, if you are not feeling okay and safe about your own feelings, you might not be able to create a physical sense of safety for yourself. And this is not to put the onus on us. This society needs more conversations around sexuality, especially, with young people, so that we don’t have another person feeling shame or guilt for not fitting into heteronormative boxes of patriarchy.
Cover Image: Pixabay