Where has the sex gone?

There's a kind of hush in the bedroom. The birds aren't chirping enough, and the bees have lost their buzz. The naked truth laid all-bare is that there's little action happening between the sheets. There's a libido crisis in the lives of many a married Indian couple.

Action deficit!
Blame our urban lifestyles for driving the sex away. "Work and home-related stress, lack of time and privacy, and absence of work-life balance, chores, children and commutes all eat away at the desire component vital to sexual relations," says eminent sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari.

Caught up in the hectic whirligig of life in Mumbai, 39-year-old Rashi, a mother of two, can't remember how long ago it was that she last had sex with her husband. "Probably, when I conceived my second child!," she jokes, and adds, "It's not that we are over sex or we don't get aroused, but the two of us are so bushed when we finally hit the sack close to midnight that the hormones just won't oblige. A classic situation of the spirit being willing but the flesh too weak to take part."

"Apart from being squeezed for time, and tiredness, an alarming surge in cases of depression and anxiety is another reason for sex being relegated to the backburner," says psychologist and traumatologist Seema Hingorrany.

"I see at least one case every day where the man or woman confesses that they've lost all interest in sex, or complain that they hardly have it. During the counselling sessions that follow, I invariably find that one of them is suffering from depression or anxiety, which could stem from loneliness and the empty nest syndrome to a lack of selfworth or financial losses. Also, I see many mothers' lives these days solely centred around their kids, so much so that somewhere along the way, they forget to seek pleasure for themselves," she says.

The marriage spot!
Television actor, stand-up c o m e d i a n and now entrepreneur, Chennaib a s e d Craig Gallyot, who recently wed his girlfriend of six years VJ Pooja, says, "During our courtship days, we could hardly keep our hands off each other, and we could get down to it anywhere and everywhere, from bedroom and bathroom and once even behind a sari that was being put up to dry!"

"But one-and-a-half-years into marriage," he laments, "and you realise that someone's just come down with this huge club and smashed your balls with things like 'roof-over-head responsibility', 'good husband', 'responsible fatherhood','winning the bread'... it feels like sheer castration! And then when you've to worry about who's going to put the clothes in the machine and who's going to clear the t ab l e, believe me, sex can and does often wait."

Other pastures to graze!
If the action in the bedroom has all but dried up, it's also true that the venue of action has shifted elsewhere. Both men and women are seeking their pleasures outside marriage.

"Men are indiscreet and when they have a fling or a one-night-stand, the woman gets wind of it, but the women do it far more cleverly and skillfully, blending it seamlessly into the regular pattern of their lives, making it tough for anyone to catch them with their hands in the cookie jar. What can't be denied that is no one's taking this ebb in marital sex lying down; they're doing something about it," says advertising guru Prahlad Kakar.

Concurring with that observation, Seema says, "Extra-marital affairs are definitely on the rise. You have attractions and temptations in the work set-up, and when you get back home, you tend to make comparisons."

The gadget intrusion
In her late 20s, Piyali and her husband are the archetypal yuppie DINK couple. And in their case, it isn't stress that's getting in the way of an active sex life. It's the 24x7 dependence on gadgets and gizmos. "Call it Murphy's Law, but just at the moment we're all primed up to get the bed shaking, his Blackberry will beep, and my husband just has to get it!"

And if it's not the gadgets, there's the idiot box temptation. "Football scores far higher than sex with my partner! There's some football match or the other almost every night...and he gets his kicks alright! It's football on top and no woman on top for him," says software engineer Tuhina, tongue-in-cheek.

Talking of the influence of TV, Seema shares, "I've a client who has lost interest in sex because she's obsessed with wanting her marriage to be like Imran Khan and Avantika's. Though I know squat about Imran and Avantika's married life, I tell my client that everything shouldn't be taken at face value, and it's important they work on their relationship issues instead of being taken in by superficial glamour of celebrity life."

The prescription
If passion has gone out of fashion in the bedroom, it's time we got all physical about it!

"Men will do well to not use their partners as sleeping pills. Often, once the man reaches climax and the wife's only half-way there, our man's already off to slumberland," says Dr Kothari.

The Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey Sexual health expert Dr Kevan Wylie said in a survey conducted a couple of years ago that more Indians would like to experience an orgasm every time they've sex, though only 46 per cent managed to actually do so.

"If you want to have an orgasm, it's important that you allow yourself to surrender to the good feelings you are experiencing. Relaxation is crucial - so try to reduce stress and spend time cuddling and touching with your partner. And you need to have a protected and uninterrupted time together, keep the rest of the family at bay and make sure you don't bring your work worries with you into the bedroom."

Prahlad suggests play acting. "Making love should, whenever possible, be a pre-meditated act. During role-play, one can become the lady of the manor and the other the milk boy, or the man can do the Tarzan to the woman's Jane act. It spices up your sex life, which as years go by, can become a lame, tame, something-to-be-gotten-over-with affair."

But what works best, according to Prahlad, is indulging in full-on fantasies. "Fantasising about someone, real or virtual, can render the counsellor redundant," he says.

Foreplay as a build-up to the real thing works wonders, says Dr Kothari, who insists most Indian men fail miserably in this department. He also suggests that couples talk about sex, discuss their likes and dislikes, and identify their erogenous zones and pleasure spots. "Talk, and you'll never need to fake anything be it pleasure or having an orgasm."

Then of course there is the agony aunt wisdom. Flowers; chocolates; music; long drives; unscheduled holidays; a dance in the rain; post-it notes, and more sentimental mush.

But like Craig jokes, "I can't see why I need to spend money just to perk up my sex life with my legally wedded wife!"

"Men are mostly too busy comparing their sizes to even worry about the action that they're missing out on. It's all about size and not the sizzle," laughs Prahlad. Ah, men will be men! And the women are, well, much smarter!

Sex and the country!
27% get it on once a month, or once in two months and 18% never! 57% prefer giving man the top position! 62% like to do it in the night and in the privacy of their bedrooms... talk of being adventurous! 84% of those who experience orgasm feel at ease with themselves sexually Italians, Mexicans, Spanish and South Africans are most likely to climax, with 66% managing to hit the spot each time! But it's the Brazilians who derive the most fun, with 65% usually feeling the earth move when they make love... Lucky them!