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Different Personas In Bed

Perhaps we adopt sexual personas to make ourselves feel more confident, or to make our lovers feel more confident. Some people adopt different personas as a temporary holiday from their real lives.

We have all heard people say ‘But that’s my home personality/office personality/ online personality!’ when you express surprise that they have done something that seems very different from their usual behaviour. Which made us wonder could it be that people have different sexual personas also?
It’s not difficult to imagine that when you and your partner know you’re finally alone together that an electric current runs through you and turns your sexual persona on. When we express ourselves as sexual beings, we also have the room to take on personas that we may not actually adopt in other parts of our lives. You know what we mean. Perhaps some of us get more confident and dominating in bed, or perhaps we adopt mannerisms that are more bashful than we really are. Or we channel sexy people we admire. Perhaps we adopt sexual personas to make ourselves feel more confident, or to make our lovers feel more confident. Some people adopt different personas as a temporary holiday from their real lives.
We spoke to some folks about the sexual personas they adopt, and this is what they had to say about who they are in bed or think they will be.
Opposites only: “Outside the bedroom, my persona is of a leader: I’m always an organiser, the point person. When I’m in bed, I want to be the submissive, and I want her to control me. It turns me on like crazy, that someone would have the balls to do that to me,” says Punya, a Bangalore-based student who dates other women. “I know I'm so dominating and in control of what I'm doing with myself, even the way I walk, I would hit a person who looks at me too long. So, when someone can put me down, or put my wrists down and kiss me, that turns me on, what can I do?” She finds it confusing that the bedroom is the only place she allows herself to drop her commanding persona and adopt a more submissive one, but can’t seem to figure out why that may be.
Sanya, a 25-year-old journalist based in Bangalore, describes herself as a “roaring raging feminist”, but says that she likes “all kinds of anti-feminist things” done to her in bed. “It’s so hard to explain. My soul and body love being humiliated in bed by my [male] partner. I like him to drag and throw me around, to hurt me a little, all to show his power over me in bed, which is the exact opposite of what men and women should treat each other like, and the opposite of how I demand to be treated outside.”
Thirty-year-old Delhi-based lawyer Arjun notices his sexual persona changing depending on how he’s dealing with other things going on in life. “I find that when I’m feeling powerless over other things, like at work or with my friends, I tend to be more dominating and commanding in bed. It’s not something I do consciously, but I notice it in hindsight. Maybe it’s an automatic reaction to compensate for what I am not feeling, or a kind of wish fulfilment of the way I want to be.”
So there’s clearly something about sex that allows us to take on different personas from our usual ones, but the reason could be different for everyone. Some just want to express who they’d really like to be, while others use sex as a vent for feelings they can’t express in any other way. Some may even use sex to uncover new aspects of their own personalities, which means sex is a great way to both express and discover yourself.
Role-play: Some people adopt in-bed personas quite literally and obviously, like in different forms of role-play. Role-play is when sexual partners pretend or act like certain characters and enact those roles together in a sexual context, like a couple pretending that they’re two strangers meeting for the first time, or that they’re sworn enemies who’ve ended up locked in an elevator one cold night. You know, use your imagination. ;)
Manasvi, who enjoys role-playing with her girlfriend, likes pretending to be strangers. “It helps you lose a lot of inhibitions. When you’re anyway pretending to be someone you aren’t, there’s less pressure to come across as perfect, or cool, or anything. You don’t worry about making a fool of yourself, because you aren’t being yourself! Any goof-ups reflect on the character, not you, or that’s how it can end up feeling when you think about it, so it allows you to feel a lot more breezy and confident in this new role. But you actually obviously know your partner, so there’s the comfort of that too. It’s like getting the best of both worlds.”
One-night stand persona: While some people adopt different personas to add “spice” to an existing relationship, others adopt a different kind of persona during one-night stands, or where they know they won’t meet the person again. “I’ve engaged in some complete invention on one-night stands, especially when I was younger,” says Arjun, “I once hooked up with a Korean lady at a debate tournament. That whole night seemed like something out of a book or a movie: There was lots of alcohol, nicely dressed people, and she says to me, come to my room. I had no idea what the standards in her country are, but I felt the need to try harder, to adopt the persona of a much more confident person. Subsequently though, I realised it wasn't sustainable with a person for the second time, because you can’t keep up an act for that long. The cracks will begin to show.”
Some sexual personas, though, seem to be part of a more widespread social attitude. Sara, a Bangalore-based writer, feels people adopt deliberately uncaring attitudes on one-night stands these days, and that this seems to be the go-to persona people adopt on one-night stands. “There’s the perception that if you want to be with-it during a one-night stand, you have to be kind of coolly aloof and stand-offish towards your partner. You have to act like you don't care about them, as though you have to prove that you don’t want to be in a long-term relationship. It’s really strange. Just because you’re having meaningless sex, it doesn’t mean you have to treat the person like they’re meaningless too.”
Playing to the (imagined) gallery: Taskin, a gay man in his early 20s, says that he rarely adopts sexual personas, but can think back to one time when he did just to please another person. “I was younger and I had just moved to Bangalore. For some reason, I really wanted the “jock boy-nerd boy” story. So partly to fulfil that wish, I started going out with a football player. Just to fit that experience into the stereotypical ideas of masculine and feminine, submissive and dominating. He’s from a village in Tamil Nadu, I am from one too, and I was building that in my head. I started imagining things that would be attractive to this person, including being coy and submissive, because I thought it would manufacture more pleasure for him. We didn’t end up sleeping together that night [for complicated, unrelated reasons] and only flirted intensely, but this interaction is the one time I remember pretending to be something [sexually] that didn’t come naturally, even if it was for a brief flirtation and we didn’t end up having sex.”
Porn persona: Fortunately, or unfortunately, a lot of people recall taking their cues on sexual personas from porn. Of course, we often model many of our behaviours based on what we see on screen. Some of us may try to sigh and smile like our favourite Bollywood heroines, while others may try using lines they've seen their favourite stars use on screen. But when it comes to sex, a lot of people’s first point of reference is porn, and this can lead to some problems in real life.
“When I first started having sex,” says Arjun, “I would try for this hyper-confident, hyper-masculine persona. I would say things like “Oh yeah, you like that?”, just silly nonsense I saw in porn. But when I started thinking about why I would do or say these things, and the root causes and forces making me find those acts pleasing, I stopped doing it, because I realised it was rooted in just porn and patriarchy.”
Women report modelling their sexual personas based on porn too. “I always automatically start moaning and panting in ways that don’t feel natural,” says Ardra, a 26-year-old Bangalore-based media professional, “You know you're supposed to react that way because the women in porn are always moaning and screaming, and I worry my boyfriend will feel like he’s not up to the mark if I don’t react that way too.”
Literary figures: If it’s porn for some, apparently its books for others. Greeshma, a 25-year-old media professional from Calcutta, says, “I read a lot of romance novels, and I’ve sometimes noticed that after a particularly good one, I bring in some elements of the character’s persona into my sex life. Not always, but I’ve noticed it happen a few times. I might change my posture or my hand gestures, the kinds of words I say [during sex] and the tone or pitch of my voice. I just randomly try to channel the character in some way. I have no idea why I do it. Maybe I just love the characters so much I want them to be part of my real life. Maybe I love the characters because they’re sexy, and I’m always trying to have sexy sex too.”
No persona, no cry: And of course, there are some who don’t really feel like they adopt sexual personas at all. Kaia, a 26-year-old freelance consultant currently based in Guyana, says that she behaves outside the bedroom pretty much the way she does inside. “Anyone who knows me even a little would know that I’m a very sexual being. The way I talk, the things I say, the way I move my hands and body and express myself, I think I’m always very sexual and in tune with my body. So, I don’t have to adopt any sexual personas, I think my persona is very sexual to begin with!”
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