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The Indian girl's guide to casual sex

Recreational sex can get complicated; here are 6 ways you can get it right

The perception of women who enjoy recreational sex has been a topic that hasn’t garnered a lot of positive conversations, let alone acceptance, explains Shruti Shah, counsellor, psychologist and founder of The Holistic Mind Therapy. (Unsplash)

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“...I know you’d never be my boyfriend because you’re you and I’m me, but I was wondering if you’d ever consider having sex with me?” 

This is a line from an episode of Never Have I Ever (on Netflix) created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, and is the first of many problematic scenes where teenagers talk almost too casually about recreational sex.

The dialogue above is by the protagonist, 15-year-old Indian-American Devi played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, as she stands in front of love interest senior Paxton, ready with a monologue to convince him to sleep with her. Devi’s aim is to lose her v-card to the hottest guy in her high school before she graduates.

When Paxton replied, “yeah”, my jaw hit the floor.

Growing up, I never had a conversation about the ‘birds and the bees’ with anyone. Sex was supposedly something sacred, and to this day, I can’t even pinpoint when or how my young mind absorbed this. But absorb it did — till I turned 19. I was so sure that sex was something to be shared only with the one I love that when I found out my boyfriend of four years had slept with one of his classmates, it was more than my heart that broke. There was a crack in the mirror, in the image of the good Indian girl I was striving to be. 

While I believe each individual should find their own way of approaching casual sex, there was, for me, a sense of freedom and a journey of self-discovery within this. The only thing missing was a dialogue—a conversation without judgement—whether with a trusted friend, a family member or even with my gynaecologist.

Things have begun changing now, and while Never Have I Ever is a show set in California, India’s take on casual sex isn’t far behind. Surveys have shown that today, for instance, India has been the online dating app Tinder’s largest market in Asia, even as research conducted at different points over the last five years claims that women in India are ready to broaden their sexual horizons — with or without commitment.

“The perception of women who enjoy recreational sex has been a topic that hasn’t garnered a lot of positive conversations, let alone acceptance," explains Shruti Shah, counsellor, psychologist and founder of The Holistic Mind Therapy. “Even in films, these women are spoken about as ‘the broken woman’ and often don’t end up with the hero.”

While casual sex is meant to be messy and possibly complicated, here are 6 ways you can get it right:

Kiss & don’t tell, unless it’s to your gynaecologist 

Sharing your private life with only those who care about you will help you steer clear of unnecessary judgement on your life choices, which can often sow the seeds of guilt in your mind. This is especially because, as Indian women, we are often taught to keep our personal needs to ourselves.

You are not perfect, and that’s okay

“Your state of perfection is not linked with your virginity,” explains Shah. “Our society still has a need, or desire, to envision a husband’s first night with his pure (virgin) bride. Don’t let society guilt trip you into thinking that you are not supposed to be enjoying your body and self.”


Casual sex does not mean your partner can mistreat you. Some people feel that women looking for hookups have 'loose characters' and don’t deserve to be treated with respect or basic etiquette. Often, these women are referred to as ‘darlings’, the ones whom you don’t take home to meet your mothers.

Set the rules

Whether requesting a Covid test or an STD test before you meet, you should feel comfortable asking all the questions you need to ensure that you are entering a safe space, both mentally and physically. When reached out to for this story, many men between 20-35, admitted that they feel relieved when their partner puts a few rules or guidelines in place before meeting up.

Know when to say goodbye

In the best-case scenario, the spark will fade. And in the worst-case scenario, one of you will develop feelings for the other, and suddenly, things aren’t so casual anymore. Call it recreational, friends-with-benefit situation, hook-up, or a one-night stand, all of these, by definition, are transient. Knowing when and, more importantly, how to step out of this is integral to your and your partner’s mental health and well-being.

Be wild, but don’t always expect the Big-O!

One of my favourite fantasies revolved around three things: a brooding, lightly bearded man, a leather jacket (on him) and a semi-public space. Unfortunately, casual or otherwise, sex is unpredictable, which is also a part of its appeal. In a 2012 study published in the American Sociological Review, just 11 per cent of women reported having an orgasm during a hookup with a brand-new male partner. Now there’s a statistic I wish someone would have put in a casual sex guide when I lived out my leather jacket fantasy.

Unlike with Devi and Paxton, casual sex isn’t always going to be that easy of a conversation, and neither will the journey be without bumps and the occasional awkward conversation or two. As long as the tryst makes you feel positive, and both partners are responsible and having fun, you can even stray from these rules or make up new ones as you go along.

Richa Sheth is a freelance writer based in Pune. She explores complexities within human interactions and relationships.

    14.09.2022 | 02:00 PM IST

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