We did a workshop with a group of 25 young men – aged 20-25 – from Lucknow as part of The YP Foundations’s month-long masculinities program.
Because we’re incorrigible Agent of Ishq, our part of the workshop #MardonWaliWorkshop tried to unpack what the young men felt about love, sex, relationships, society and a man’s place vis-a-vis these things.
All the men told us they identified as heterosexual, including one who had had sex with men and women.
Here are some of the things they told us on the first day.
1. WHAT CONFUSES YOU ABOUT GIRLS?
Their answers all boiled down to the same thing – they found it hard to read between the lines. ” Girls talk in a circular way.” “They don’t give you concrete responses.” “They always have mixed feelings” Also a strong undercurrent of doubt laced their thoughts – is she interested in someone else?
2. WHAT IS THE SCARIEST THING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS?
The majority feared – betrayal/unfaithfulness. A smaller number just feared relationships ending and the loneliness and dejection that follow.
3. WHAT SCARES YOU ABOUT SEX?
Many feared disease in general, mostly expressed as AIDS, others specified, disease from unsafe sex. Some feared unwanted pregnancy. Many feared the consequences of other people coming to know about it. A couple feared betrayal yet again.
4. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT SEX?
Only 50% had ever had sex. The remaining men thought it provided release and refreshment or satisfaction and enjoyment. One person felt kissing was the best part. And only one again that it was an important source of bonding in a relationship.
5. HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE?
Because everywhere we go, we hear that true love happens only once and all else is false, we do ask this question everywhere we go. The consensus here too was clear – true love only once. Everything else is ‘only’ physical or lesser or false, revealing a clear hierarchy. Only one person said it can happen unlimited number of times and one had no insight into the matter.
6. WHAT IS LOVE ANYWAY?
One or two people said they had never been in love. The others had various theories – some of these hinged on relationships that lasted a long time, which could be counted on. Others believed it was a romantic, organic emotion that just comes unbidden while one broke it down as an acrostic in Hindi (see graphic) as made up of Liking, Hanging Out, Romancing and Absorption, Committed Relationship.
7. WHO SHOULD MAKE THE FIRST MOVE?
A question that plagues all heterosexual society – who should make the first move in a relationship. There was no clear consensus but there was much sharing of the pressure this moment puts on people – the vulnerability of making an overture. Some felt boys should do it, as that’s the social expectation. Many felt women should as they are so hard to read. Some presented the riddle of whoever feels the liking first should act on it first.
8. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH REJECTION?
The difficulties of handling rejection formed a bulk of our conversations. The responses ranged from the stoic – it’s hard to bear but must be borne – to the traumatised – feeling like you should never try again and feeling a sense of lack in oneself. A small number were philosophical, saying, you just move on to the next possibility.
9. WHAT IS HARDER TO BEAR – JOY OR SORROW?
Now this may seem like a no-brainer; a ridiculous question to ask. But it emerged from the sense in the conversation that it was better not to have extreme emotions in order to protect oneself from false hope, heartbreak and emotional difficulty in general. The answers were exactly 50-50. Half found happiness for it was bound to be fleeting.
10. WILL YOU CHOOSE AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE OR A LOVE MARRIAGE?
It was 30-30-40. 30% felt they would have a love marriage. 30% preferred or expected that it would be arranged. But the majority wanted the best of both worlds – love but arranged, arranged followed by love, reflecting a desire to sample changing social mores while retaining the protections of tradition.
11. SO WHAT OR WHO IS AN IDEAL GUY – AND ACCORDING TO WHOM?
A perfect man is caring, helpful, kind, sincere, gentlemanly, chivalrous said many. Clever and strategic said others. Stoic and stern from outside but emotional from inside said some. These ideas came from society and social interactions and sometimes from finding role models in everyday life. One persons said Google, but then that’s the answer to where you got most standard answers. For everything else, there’s Agents of Ishq 😉
Workshop facilitators – From Agents of Ishq – Paromita Vohra, Hansa Thapliyal; from The YP Foundation- Manak Matiyani.