A ridiculous depiction of masturbation does more damage than good. It tells young women that exploring and discovering their bodies is odious and absurd.
When it comes to masturbation, the last week has been terrible for India. First, we learnt that a large number of Indians on Twitter do not know how to spell the word. Second, we realised that even in a progressive Bollywood movie on female friendships, masturbation is seen as an activity to be ashamed of, and to hide from your lover.
Since Friday, Veere Di Wedding – India’s version of the Sex and the City – has managed to create a stir with its outrageousness. Starring some of the biggest actresses from Bollywood – Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Swara Bhasker – the film shows women smoking joints, focusing on careers, saying no to marriages, enjoying one-night stands, and even discussing multiple orgasms. And all of that is great, considering how rarely one sees such independent women in the Hindi film industry. It also shows Swara Bhasker’s character masturbating, and enjoying it.
But that is where things start going wrong.
Many Twitter users criticised Bhasker for performing that scene, and bizarrely they all posted the same message on their profiles, with the word “masturbation” misspelt.
— Joy (@Joydas) June 2, 2018
Thankfully, Bhasker managed to score over her critics with a sassy response:
🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Looks like a certain IT cell sponsored the tickets- or definitely the tweets !!!! 🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♀️😆😆😆😆 https://t.co/KIUqMoOLRG
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) June 2, 2018
But the problem is not that Veere Di Wedding has a masturbation scene, but what follows after it.
Bhasker, trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage, decides to use her fingers and a sex toy to please herself. Her husband walks in on her just as she is orgasming. He threatens to tell the world her “shameful” secret, and begins blackmailing her. As a result, she goes on a bender, wallowing in self-pity and shame. When she finally summons the courage to tell her best friends that she masturbates, she refers to the activity as “half-cheating” on the husband. Her friends, who are all well-travelled, liberal women, laugh about it, but never bring up the most obvious question: What is wrong with masturbation?
Not only does the movie show sexual self-gratification as a weird and infrequent activity, it also depicts an educated, urban man and woman considering it as grounds for divorce.
While it is great that mainstream Bollywood movies have begun talking about female sexual desires, such a ridiculous depiction of one of the safest forms of sexual pleasures does more damage than good. It tells young women that exploring and discovering their bodies is odious and absurd. It tells them that there is only type of sex, and it involves a male partner.
If we lived in an ideal India, masturbation would be taught in schools as part of sex education. Young women would be encouraged to listen to their bodies. They would be taught the difference between a vagina and a clit.
To know more about what science says on this subject, click here.
The good news is that there are projects in India that are trying to remove the stigma surrounding female masturbation. For instance, Agents of Ishq, a Mumbai-based media company publishes everything, from personal essays and guides to surveys and memes, to encourage women to explore themselves. If only the Veere Di Wedding team had considered product placement for the vibrator.