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The Privilege Of Pleasure: Are Indian Women Getting The Space To Explore Their Bodies?

When I think about female pleasure, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Lust Stories episode featuring Kiara Advani. Her character uses a sex toy internally and somehow the remote ends up in the grandmother’s hand who mistakes it for a TV remote. She experiences an orgasm, something that she had never experienced before, in front of the entire family. Her orgasm was liberating but at the same time, it had its consequences. She was shamed and her mother-in-law demanded a divorce.

India Today

She did not do anything wrong. She took her pleasure in her hands and if anything, that was a wise move. But when you look at how the events unfolded, you can only think of how wild it is. Kiara wanted to experience that orgasm in the privacy of her room but thanks to how desi families function, she didn’t get that privacy. One thing led to another and she had to come out to the living room to take care of things. This raises an important point of how people, but especially women do not have that privacy where they can explore their bodies.

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For 20-year-old Sania, she has the same issue. She is currently in college and stays with her grandparents. While she is happy that she is no longer living around her parents and they cannot barge into her room at any time, she talks about how she does not get the time to be alone and unwind because she has to take care of her grandparents. “There are times when I am back from college and they are sleeping. I have used this time frame for self-pleasure. But I always have this thought that what if they wake up and call me to their room for something?” she laments.

Sania’s problem isn’t just hers. Women are expected to step up and take charge of things at home. This can range from chores in the kitchen, helping others out, running errands, or even caretaking. As a woman, you just do not get time for yourself. People expect you to always be around. You never have a private moment. You are always expected to be ready to serve others as and when they want it.

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Cinema Escapist

When I talked to 24-year-old Ashmita, her story was something that we could all relate to. Ashmita moved back to her hometown because her office went fully remote and she thought that moving back home and saving up on rent was a financially wise decision. She tells me of this one time when she wanted to pleasure herself while she was sexting her boyfriend. She decided to lock her room. When she finished everything and opened the door, her mother walked in a few minutes later. With a deadpan face, she asked her, “Kya kar rahi thi itni der room band kar ke?”

For Ashmita who has always stayed away from home, the question sounded intrusive. She adds, “It feels like I am not entitled to my privacy in my own house. I must have just shut the door for 15 minutes because I did not want to raise suspicion. But it didn’t work out.”


Indian families have never really understood the concept of privacy when it comes to their kids. They feel that their kids are crossing boundaries when they ask for privacy. Unlike Hollywood films which show that teens can lock their rooms, this is never the case in Indian films or reality. We just cannot lock the doors of our rooms without our parents constantly banging the door. If you happen to close the door without locking it, it isn’t surprising to see your parents barge in and walk out leaving the door open. When I was working from home, the only time I could close the door was when I was on a video call with my colleagues. I am almost 26, in case you are wondering.

Ankita, 25, is a working professional who has moved out of her house and lives in a shared accommodation with her friends. She knows what she wants. She knows that she cannot orgasm from penetration alone and she wants something more. As a result, she got a bullet vibrator. She thought it was small and compact so storing it would not be a problem. She tells me that she had to get the package delivered to her office because no one’s at home during the day. “Thank god, the packaging was discreet.” But the biggest problem was unpacking it. At the office and neither at her flat, she didn’t have the privacy to open the package and see it.


Ankita tells me that she reached home and hid the package in the bathroom. It was only in the dead of the night that she went to the bathroom and tried to silently open the package. She adds, “I have a sex toy but I don’t have the privacy to use it on my own body.” She uses it with her partner when they get a hotel room. Turns out, privacy comes at a premium.


Ankita can get a hotel room because she is away from her parents and she is financially stable. But for a lot of women like Ankita who want to take their pleasure seriously, privacy feels like a unicorn. Space and privacy are luxurious commodities when it comes to women, simply because we have never had a taste of them.

I reached out to almost 10 women to listen to what they had to say, but only these three obliged. However, they had one condition. They did not want me to add their full names. Someone asked me to change their name as well. They were afraid of people reading this and knowing about them and their “secrets”. They were worried that if someone from their family read it, this tiny sliver of freedom that they have would also be snatched from them. In their defence, they aren’t being paranoid. It is a reality for many women around us. Society loves to police women and tell them what to do with their bodies.


The way our country treats conversations around a woman’s sexuality and her pleasure by always shoving it under the carpet is unhealthy. We are repressing something absolutely normal. The idea of women having agency over their bodies is something that scares men and that is why women never get the privacy to explore their bodies. The way we talk about pleasure can help things change. But we still have a long way to go.

17 Nov 2023

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