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Strangers in the night
May 24, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Strangers in the night
By Ritu Goyal Harish
 
A knowing glance, a covert agreement, the promise of a good time… One-night stands are a common reality in urban India, where adults seek ‘baggage-free’ companionship; where extra-marital sex is mere entertainment; and where easy and quick sexual gratification is key.
 
Natasha Deokar* woke up groggy-eyed, nursing the beginnings of a headache. When she saw the man’s body under the covers, she remembered the events of the night before. She had had one too many Martinis, and just as she’d decided to leave the club, she’d made eye contact with a guy standing across the bar looking at her, drink in his hand and a smile on his face. He’d nodded at her, and as she’d begun to smile to herself (“His audacity to think I’d respond!”), he’d walked up to her and introduced himself.
 
They’d ended up in the hotel room where she was staying on a work trip, and the sex was good. “At the club, we’d chatted about this and that. He was a real charmer and I went with the flow.” A little later, the 32-year-old unhappily married marketing professional smiles and admits with refreshing honesty, “No. Actually, I was horny that night and needed sex.”
 
Contrary to what we pretend to be on TV shows and in Bollywood movies where the ‘good’ girls are chaste and ‘pativrata’, in the real India, one-night stands (ONS) constitute a culture alive and kicking in pleasure in the underbelly of our cities, tucked away from judgment and censure even from close friends. Considered outrageous and immoral only when discussed with one’s mother (or mother-in-law), for some women the lure of a no-strings-attached sexual escapade that promises satisfaction is hard to resist.
 
An ONS is in essence a casual, single encounter with a stranger (colleagues from work and ‘friends’ are a strict No-No) for the sole purpose of sexual pleasure, and women are now exploring their sexuality like never before. Many find like-minded partners in clubs, bars, pubs, and airport lounges, besides parties. The Internet has opened up another world where finding a willing sex mate is not difficult.
 
Desmond Chris, a 27-year-old HR professional from Pune, likes to party every weekend and says he ends up with a random woman once a month. He recalls his most memorable experience with a woman he never met again, “I saw her at a nightclub. She was alone, and very hot. I thought to myself, if this happens, it’d be superb.” The sex was so good that she almost became a benchmark for him.
 
Delhi-based Mohita Sukumar* had ONS encounters with three different men, one of whom she met through his blog, and who turned out to be the most amazing lover she’d ever had in her life. “He was considerate, wellbuilt and strong. He just couldn’t get enough of me. It was fabulous; we did it twice in different positions over two hours,” she gushes, reminiscing over their first meeting.
 
The 31-year-old mother of two admits to being on a “hormonal overdrive” after separation from her husband: “I had sex on my mind all the time.” She met the same man for a second time after a few months and concedes she had a wonderful time yet again. “We were together for eight hours that day – my entire work day. In between orgasms (4, 5, 6? I stopped counting) we ate in bed, he smoked, I watched TV or even took phone calls from colleagues or family.
 
We indulged in role play, acting out a B-grade porn movie, as he peeled my sari off layer by layer,” Mohita narrates. Susan Lawrence*, 38, has had sexual encounters with men she has known briefly, though never strictly an ONS.
 
“One evening I was out drinking with this guy I barely knew at a fivestar hotel and he asked me if I’d done “it” in the restroom of a hotel. When I said “no”, he winked and said, “Well, it’s time you did!” What followed was an encounter that left me giddy with a high that even alcohol cannot give,” she giggles. As for the feeling ‘after’, “I was a tad embarrassed because I had to dress in front of this stranger – which was weird because I’d had no qualms undressing the night before!” recalls Natasha of her first ONS.
 
Two consenting individuals come together for the joy of sex. The interaction ends there and no one walks away with anything more than a feeling of gratification. Rarely are phone numbers exchanged or promises to meet or mate again made. “It is only sex. No feelings,” Desmond iterates the cardinal rule of the ONS. Men and women alike are privy to this. “There is no space for feelings (of guilt) or expectations,” says Bengaluru-based Ajinkya Sharma*, a VP in an MNC in his 40s, who travels on work often and “hooks up” with women on his trips. Married himself but guilt-free about his liaisons, he feels that married women are the best random partners. “They’re very open and go all out because they know they won’t be pursued later.”
 
Says Desmond who is single, “I like women a tad older, say, late 30s, and their marital status doesn’t bother me as long as they’re spirited.” Although finding a ‘sporting’ partner is not difficult, both men agree that women don’t initiate an encounter unless they’ve been drinking. “Women lure and give signals, but don’t walk up to you,” says Desmond. Natasha agrees: “In India we tend to label a woman who makes the first move as ‘fast’ or, worse, a ‘slut’.” Even when it’s an overt mating game, it’s better for the man to show interest first.
 
Natasha and Susan, both married, don’t buy the ‘it’s an extra-marital affair’ argument. While they admit to gaps in their marriages, they insist these encounters are for the joy of sex. “Not all women who have an ONS are lonely alcoholics seeking attention. Women are willing to have an ONS just as much for pleasure as the men,” insists Susan. Natasha even goes on to encourage all women to have an ONS at some point: “A commitment-free experience, it can be very liberating, as long as we are safe and keep the emotions out.” Often, though, sex fills in for an emotional need, and not all endings are happy. Despite the awesome sex, Mohita found herself feeling inexplicably hollow soon after, as if something was missing. For her, the ONS was merely a pit stop in the true journey of her heart.
 
ONS Demystified
 
WHO’S YOUR TYPE? Desmond likes attractive, confident, English-speaking women, while Natasha goes by her gut. Susan loves a man who can hold his own in a conversation.
 
LONGEST FOREPLAY: From making eye contact, hovering around and flirting subtly, to initiating a conversation and agreeing to have sex, an ONS is a game. Natasha calls conversation the ‘longest foreplay’.
 
SAY CHEERS! Most ONS encounters begin at the bar. Alcohol helps unwind both parties, build a connection in a short span of time and boosts the confidence of a woman unused to the game. Many others happen over the Internet on chat forums and social networks, where anonymity loosens inhibitions similarly.
 
YOUR PLACE OR MINE? Ajinkya usually brings the woman back to his own hotel room while Desmond checks into a hotel. Natasha prefers her own domain: “I feel safer at home.”
 
THE ACT: “Couples seek intimacy, strangers seek pleasure,” says Ajinkya. Giving pleasure is important. Receiving absolute pleasure is also essential, and an ONS is also an opportunity to experiment. “I’m kinkier with strangers. The anonymity is exciting,” says Susan.
 
“NO” MEANS TRY AGAIN: Refusal is part of the game. Ajinkya says, “Figure out why she’s refusing. Sometimes it’s not an outright ‘no’; it’s like “Not today” or “Not right now.” Desmond elaborates, “It is situational. If she is worth another effort, I would make another move.”
 
BE SAFE: ONS are spontaneous and encourage recklessness. Beware of the potential risks of unprotected sex with strangers. Carry protection and never leave it to the other person, advises Desmond.

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