(written for Kalakranti, a celebration of Trikone’s first year in Chicago; Trikone is an organization supporting queer South Asians)
I’ve had sex with about fifty people. Fifty-two, if we’re going to be precise, and why not be precise, if we’re going to go there. Forty guys, a dozen girls. And then there were the sex parties and the groping half-dressed puppy piles, but let’s not go there, because if you count all those folks too, the number gets embarrassing.
I feel the need to tell you this in order to establish my queer, sex activist, credentials. Even though you can be queer without being sexually active, just like you can be straight and a virgin. I know that. I know you do too. But I have such a hard time remembering that I’m bisexual these days, remembering, even, that I’m sexual. Sometimes I need to remind myself that once upon a time, I had sex. I had a lot of sex. Now I have a two-year-old and an infant, and I tell people my sexual orientation is tired.
I know that you sitting there, looking at me, do not see the twenty-year-old girl with hair down to her ass and a hot body. The girl who went to college, fell in love with, and then had sex with, a six foot two white boy from the Midwest, a boy her parents wouldn’t approve of. They wouldn’t approve of their daugher having sex with anyone at all. Those parents told their daughter that if she had sex before marriage, the world would end. They believed it, too.
But she did have sex with that boy, and the world didn’t actually end. That girl went on, and had more sex: indoors, outdoors, in public, in private, in every position she could manage including a few that were injurious to her health. The first white boy was followed by another, and then, surprisingly, a white girl. She liked that. Then a few more white boys, and then some boys and girls who weren’t so white. She fucked a lot of people. Strangers on mountaintops in foreign countries; roommates at home, after a few bottles of champagne. She decided monogamy was not her thing, and by a few years into this glorious sextravaganza, this girl was dating several folks at the same time, juggling the craziness, and loving life.
Her parents were, of course, not thrilled. A few screaming fights ensued. But the girl kept having sex anyway, because she was stubborn that way, and because for some reason, she thought having sex, being able to have sex when she wanted to, with whom she wanted to, was important.
Her sexual escapades didn’t stop there. That girl wrote smut and posted it on the internet. She wrote sentences like these: "I wanted to get my hands on Janna’s breasts, on her belly and hips and ass. I wanted to grind my pubic bone against her clit; I wanted my fingers fucking her, in and out, fast and hard and sweet. I wanted her screaming." She used her real name, her parents found out, and then there was a whole new round of screaming. The girl refused to stop; she called herself a sex activist, and went to college campuses and gave readings of her work. Readings that went like this: "She rubbed my clit until I started squirming on the sheets again. Then she slid a finger into my hole — two. Three. No problem. Four was easy. I had taken four plenty of times. And when she slid her thumb in there, I spread my thighs wider, inviting her in."
Her poor parents.
You don’t see that girl when you see me up on this stage. That girl was twenty years and forty pounds ago. I have a partner now, and even though we’ve chosen not to marry, he happens to be a guy, and so people assume we’re married and call him my husband, and sometimes if I’m feeling political I correct them and sometimes I don’t bother. We’re still not monogamous, but most people don’t know that, because my other sweetie lives in California and I hardly ever see him. I don’t have time or energy to start up anything new with anyone local. From the outside, I look awfully straight and narrow.
We have two small kids and a beagle, and we’ve just left our city condo for a house in the suburbs, a house I spend all my free time renovating. Instead of getting sweaty in bed, I get sweaty in the garden, digging up weeds and putting in roses. If I’m awake in the middle of the night, it’s not because I’m naked with three other people, having an impromptu contest to see who can come the most often. (The poor boys always used to lose those.) No, I’m awake because the baby needs to be fed every three hours, and my breasts are aching and my nipples are sore and not in a sexy way. Not even a little bit.
There are days when I might have a flicker of a thought about sex, and how it might be nice to have some again someday, but then the baby pees and poops all over me, and these are not the fluids that I would like to have smeared all over my body. What I want, all I want, is a hot shower and five minutes alone to enjoy it. There are mornings when I would kill for a hot shower. I can’t even remember why I used to think sex was so important. Why I spent so many years of my life on it, in one way or another. Why I took so many risks, and made my parents so crazy.
My daughter’s name is Kavya. She’s two years old and already hell-bent on risking her life, running into tables, falling down stairs. I’ve spent the last two years trying to save her, to protect her. Remembering to make her wear her hat when it’s cold, remembering to take off her sweater when it’s hot. Telling her "no, be careful, don’t touch that, don’t eat that!" I tell her no, over and over and over again, and I can already see that this is going to turn into a habit. That someday Kavya is going to be seventeen and going off to college and meeting random boys and/or girls that I don’t know and I don’t trust, and I am going to have to bite my tongue to keep from saying "no, don’t, stop!"
Yes, I’m aware of the irony.
So I’m here to make you a deal, as I stand here in my mom jeans and flowered sweater, my hair up in a ponytail, which may not be sexy, but is damn useful for keeping hair out of your face and out of the baby’s grabby hands. I promise you this. When my kids are growing up, I will try to remember that while it is my job to protect them, it is also my job to let them take risks. To let them decide for themselves what constitutes safe, sane, and consensual behavior. I will try to remember that girl who had sex with strangers, on mountaintops, and who wrote about it on the internet. I will try to remember that sometimes sex can be desperately important.
And in return, I’ll ask you to remember, the next time you meet an almost 40 soccer mom in the suburbs, that somewhere under the flowered sweater and mom jeans, there is a sexual being, That even if she looks happily married, she might have a boyfriend in California. That not so long ago, she might have hooked up with a hot girl at a conference, just for a night. That her love life, her sex life, might be a little more complex than it appears. That she might have a history. Or if she doesn’t, she might at least wish that she had.
Remember that for her, when she can’t remember it for herself.