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LONELY IN A CROWD

A woman reveals her a-sex drive over a conversation in the nude

Asexuality. This word has complex meanings, open to interpretation. But to avoid that discussion, the asexuality described here is when a human is not attracted enough to anyone sexually — none of the three genders. Not necessarily because the person is immune to sexual advances, but gets sexual gratification indirectly: there’s a conduit, in this case technology.

Here’s the scenario. I’m the witness, who as a matter of social project, sketches people in the nude. Here nudity is a ticket to enter into this ‘private space for public nudity’ that has no fixed agenda and is open to possibilities. Over the years, having had conversations in the nude with some 200 people, the witness — that’s me — has come to this conclusion: nudity is a great process of unlearning and one of the most profound and potent forms of self-assertion. It’s like saying, ‘This is who I’m. Deal with it or f*** off.’ I don’t f*** off.

This is one such encounter. A woman, tall, radiant, big eyes set on a conical face. She’s talkative, engaging, reactive and has a penchant to take things personally. She describes herself as ‘middle-aged’ though she is only in her mid-thirties, had a short fling with marriage, is happily divorced now. She stays alone in Delhi, is a socialite. More often than not, she is surrounded by friends, both men and women. They seem to be interested in her, her enigma makes her sexually alluring, but she hasn’t had a sexual dalliance with anyone for the last seven years. And the men who know her enough think she’s, perhaps, a lesbian. The women in her life think she’s either confused or afraid to confront her reality.

She talks to me sitting in the nude in my living room, while I frantically sketch her form, for she’s restless and doesn’t strike a pose, let alone hold it for a while. “My reality is that I don’t know what my reality is,” she seems almost apologetic. Like many of her friends, she’s exploring, which is admirable. She’s independent enough not to fall in the trap of normative existence, flaunting a mate for social consumption.

Her mother seems to understand, more than anyone else. Mother identifies with her, in some measure, for she made good of a difficult marriage, she doesn’t complain anymore, and in her daughter, she sees the logic of breaking free. “My mother knows me,” she says.

She beats about the bush for long saying, “This is not want I want to say.” Sprawled in a broad, low arm chair, she pulls her hair back from her sweaty forehead, leans forward towards me, her hands clasped together, looks into my eyes and says, “No one can fool himself or herself. I know, I’m different.”

“We all are individuals, each one of us. Stressing on the fact that I’m different from the rest is overdose of self-adulation,” I tell her. There’s a thing, description. There’s a thing, analysis. And there’s a thing, arriving at a conclusion. Here bareness is about bareness. Just that. “Don’t tell me you’re different. Tell me your story.”

“I was preparing you for me,” she snaps back.

“Do you think I’m now prepared for you?” I say in a level tone.

She doesn’t know how to begin. She explains that technology has transformed the way we travel, socialise. Distance is not a barrier, immediate is hidden, life itself. It’s almost an academic diatribe. Technology is all pervasive, like a mutated gene, has recast us in a different shell. “I’m, perhaps, more receptive to these changes than many of my peers,” she elucidates.

She searches for a better way to describe her mutation. It was like coming out. There was some resistance. She bares her body; there is some reluctance in her to bare her mind. But there was a need to say it all, as well.

“I have begun to realise, it’s a been year since, that no one — man or woman — can satisfy me sexually enough that’ll prod me to take the trouble of approaching them. I just don’t feel like it,” she says. She’s sombre and thoughtful. Which, she explains, doesn’t mean she’s not intense in her desire, it does mean that no one she’s come across has actualised her desires into love play. But when she’s alone, she loves what she can do to herself, the ways she engages with herself sexually, it’s not masturbation per se.

With the aid of technology, when she’s connects to strangers, notionally they make love, while witnessing strangers make love to their partners, or talking to them about her innate desires. She likes live videos, watching is more fulfilling than participating. She loses interest when the stranger becomes familiar. Lately, she likes the sound of it. People making love. “I like to fill my emptiness with the sound of things others to do to themselves. I’m aroused and content,” she tries to make sense.

But is there a need to be logical about these things, or anything? “In your case, you’re fairly independent, I won’t use the word free. There’s no issue of heartbreak, expectations, adjustment or ennui,” I think aloud. But the question remains that this state of being, this sexual indulgence with self with the aid of technology, could just be a fad. Or is it something more stable? We all have our pet myths to makes sense of our lives.

“Who can tell that? Who can predict the future? Who can guarantee a marriage?” she asks, rather bemused. Nowadays, people are at least honest enough to acknowledge their reality. Everything changes over a lifetime, even sexual orientation. “Why should I barter my present joy for future uncertainty?” she asks.

She is walking to and fro, in front of me, wearing her nudity. I have to capture her on the move in my sketchbook. There is a long silence. There are occasions when silence is heard loudly. She utters some gibberish.

“Did you say something?”

“I’m talking to me,” she replies and resumes.

Silence engulfs the room again. After a while, that seems like hours, she declares, “Now I’m talking to you.”

“There are times when I’m lonely. Very lonely. That’s because I’m alone in my inner reaches. But I also realise that people can be lonely in a marriage. People can be lonely in a crowd. And I have learnt the hard way, loneliness is not about lack of company, but lack of engagement with others and with one’s own self. I reckon, everyone sometimes feels trapped in their body, and the life they choose to lead. I’m no exception. And we are supposed to keep going. And devise ways to deal with life that can become such a drag. I have found mine. Technology came to my rescue. The artificial gives me a real thrill. I’m not alone, perhaps a minuscule minority, but the number of people like me are on the rise.” She draws a distinction between love and sex, to her the two are very different.

We all have our encounters with technology that is sexually tantalising. The pornography industry is worth many billions of dollars and growing at a pace like never before. Porn is accessible to all age groups. But that doesn’t mean that the real human touch would cease to allure people. “This is not judging you, but it’s rather an extreme life that you’re leading,” I react.

She gasps for air. “I love my friends, l love people, I’m not that kind of gadget person, locked up in my room playing video-games. I like to be outdoors. I like my daily walks. I travel far and wide. I binge with friends. I get stoned. I like to surround myself with people. But I fail to get intimate with them, collectively or individually. I have tried it all,” tears brim her eyes. “I’m not anti-social. Perhaps, I’m asexual. My libido is locked when folks are in close proximity, I’m prolific when I’m alone yet connected via technology. I have many lovers who I have never met, will never meet, for the magic will vanish, I know, when they’re around.”

Art can be a fetish. She shares her sketches with her on-line lovers.