I have been masturbating since the 90s but had heterosexual sex in 2014. Let’s call him The Man. ‘Listen virgin...having sex during your period eases cramps,’ was one of the sexiest things he said to me. Now we are in an agonising long-distance relationship. Sexual pleasure is expensive and involves buying a plane ticket and securing a visa.There are three stages to sexual awakening: masturbation, mainstream two-person sex, and kink. I was pre-pubescent when I cleared stage 1. But stage 2 and 3 happened when I was 27 and living abroad. So what exactly transpired in this almost two decade-long period?For the most part, I was getting an education though not really getting educated. I say this because it’s only recently that I came across the sex surveys that India Today has been doing since 2003.In 2003, 34% Indian women said sex was unimportant and 75% did not masturbate.I was 15 at the time and active on the “apna haath jagannath” scene. All that I knew about ‘sex’ was the car scene from Titanic. Bollywood songs taught me that pyar ka dard was meetha; my school taught me about the reproductive organs, sperms and eggs but nothing about the act itself or the paraphernalia around it. Sexless in the CityThere was an unspoken rule that sex was meant to happen after marriage. My parents never gave me the sex talk so I don’t know how I internalised this idea. Maybe it was Ram Teri Ganga Maili or the ‘bhool’ that happened when mastana roop and deewana pyar were in the same room. I also had an unreal fear of pregnancy despite condom and mala D ads on TV. No one taught you how to buy them or use them.In 2005, premarital sex came into the picture. 1 in 4 single women out of the 2035 surveyed were sexually active. It was the same year that Tamil actress Khushboo got slapped with a lawsuit for saying that if women wanted to have sex before marriage they should, as long as they were protected against unwanted pregnancy and STDs.This time, I was preparing for 12th boards. I had got my first ‘boyfriend’ courtesy physics coaching and my first mobile phone. He was a decent boy. We were chatty on SMS but the minute he and I were face to face, my gonads wouldn’t react. Lagaan main jaisa sookha pada tha. I wasn’t curious to even experiment with a kiss. The most physical contact we had was him pulling my cheeks—the one on my face.Things changed from 2005-08. I entered college. I had a new boyfriend and my first kiss. I became more daring as the kiss happened at my place when no one was around. He never tried anything else. The relationship lasted for six months during which we hung out twice at PVR Priya.Around this time I also discovered my interest in women. She and I were in the same college. Two years were spent in just looking at her. Since I didn’t know about section 377, I was neither ashamed nor scared about my sexual feelings towards a woman. I had found books and films that helped me come to terms with what I was going through, and give it a history and context. She didn’t reciprocate my feelings so this went no further than Petrarchian adoration from my end.Come 2009 and 62% couples had tried a position they had seen in a porn clip. By this time, Savita Bhabhi had debuted in India. Back then, Savita was unpaid and episodic. I would ardently wait for the new episodes, watch it when no one was home, do my business, clear the browsing history and move on.My First Same-Sex RelationshipFrom 2010 to 2012, I had my first same-sex relationship. This time, the clothes came off and body parts were penetrated and probed.Having sex with a woman was easy because there was no risk of pregnancy so I could avoid the contraception conundrum. However, when this relationship ended, I was confused for months—did I even fancy men? This was worsened by Pitaji wanting me to ‘start thinking about marriage’. I hadn’t even seen a penis. How could I be legally obliged to have sex with one?The Man came into my life in 2013. With smouldering good looks, an astounding background, and no promises of a happy ever after, he encouraged, offended and aroused me at the same time. Neither of us wanted a relationship because of our geographic location. But it was hard to not succumb to the attraction. Sometime in 2014, when 3 out 10 15-year-old students were already having sex, I sent him my first boob picture—a little hesitant about how my body would be perceived. Meanwhile, pitaji was trying hard to find me a husband, even if it meant putting me up on wedding websites.The Man and IAnother day, I will tell you why I didn’t ask pitaji to back off. For now, suffice to say that I left home and moved to the UK to avoid succumbing to the pressures of being a good daughter. In December 2014, The Man and I had sex. Bollywood lied to me. Pyar ka dard was bloody painful the first time around. There were no candles, satin sheets or romantic music; just two naked bodies, an awareness of our perfections, acceptance of our flaws and hunger for each other. This time, I knew about contraceptives, I knew what a gynaecologist’s office looked like and as per UK law, I also got a mandatory smear test (it’s required every three years, sex or no sex).Having sex in a foreign land was not intentional but it helped me relax my cultural mores a bit. Buying a condom is not a big deal in India but I think we are still a little away from normalising sex for women.(Shyama Laxman has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London and now she writes sales pitches. Dreams come true or so they say.) We'll get through this! 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