Sex: A Punjabi Girl’s Journey From Shame To Self-Love


I remembered the first time I got fingered. His fingers entered me like a bull that saw red. I was in so much pain that I physically recoiled, but it didn’t matter. I was not wet, did not proceed to get wet and this not only left him bruised but angry. He could not understand why I couldn’t come for him, why I was not aroused and I didn’t either. But my body knew. Every part of me knew that it was not the right man, set of fingers and this refusal was frustrating to me because I wanted him to enjoy me.  As if that meant anything. He just scoffed and told me that maybe something was wrong with me and I kept that; I was the problem. 

I met my first boyfriend on a night where my vision was blurry and the music was too loud to distinguish bodies. We decided, between our haziness and slurred syllables, that we would date. I had never had a guy show interest in me like him so I told myself he would love me so I could. I waited 6 months but I wished I waited forever. We were drunk, convinced ourselves we loved each other and I went along with it. He fucked me in a motel room, came in seconds and fell asleep almost instantly. I laid there, numb and not knowing how to feel. Society brainwashes you into thinking that certain experiences have a way about them and if you don’t feel the exact way, you are doing it wrong. This felt wrong and I didn’t need a song, a book or a movie to tell me to feel that I shouldn’t be feeling like I was. He was wrong for falling asleep and not caring if I came and I was wrong for allowing myself to believe that this was what sex looked like. I cleaned up and probably took about 5 showers to try and wash the shame away; it didn’t help. I called my best friend and our conversation was laced with guilt and judgement. I was scared and unsure about what to do and in that minute, I needed something, a glimmer of anything instead of the nothing I was drowning in.  What if it was really bad? What if I’m pregnant? Am I still me? I was full of questions but felt empty and I needed something. I got nothing.

I didn’t know that I would continue to have unfulfilling sex with this boy for the next year and a half until I found out he was also having sex with lots of other girls. Had all the other girls been fucked the same way? That couldn’t be right.  Is he representative of all the sex I’m going to have for the rest of my life? In the back of mind, in a small corner, I hoped not but I had stopped hoping for anything at that point. 

After him, the shame grew. I hated myself because I had demands in bed and was constantly told that if I had sexual needs, I was not the type of girl that you could have a long term relationship with. Can you imagine that? Actually knowing what you want and giving yourself permission to enjoy sex which can serve as an act of self love, freedom and life, automatically deemed me the complete opposite? I had been beaten into submission by so many, by myself, I couldn’t even recognize who I was anymore. 

We are a sick group of people, hungry and looking for love in the wrong places. We hang onto every word, looking for a meaning, obsessed with reading between the lines to find something that doesn’t exist. Our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers married to pass on their wisdom down to younger generations. We bloom because they did, they chose to trust men they hardly knew, trust a system that was built to fail them, just so they could bring daughters and sons into the world that didn’t make the same mistakes, took different paths and maybe even carve their own. My mother always told me that I needed to find someone that loved me more than I loved him. Mom, how do I know what love is if I can’t even recognize it in myself?  My parents came to this country from the streets and waters they were familiar with, only to drown in their own insecurities and the struggles of a culture they hardly know. They never got a chance to recognize, to learn the way of this new world because they had to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. I grew up watching my parents toil to make a living, but never thought they actually loved each other. Maybe they loved each other because they shared me and my sister, love comes in different forms, degrees and cannot always be seen by the naked eye. I know now that my dad loved my mom but was too sick to let it cure him and my mom was too weak to give herself permission to let love run through her veins just as naturally as her blood. This isn’t a particularly uncommon or new way to love; and it was all I knew.

Fast forward to my adulthood and I am desperately looking for my own story. Unable to recognize anything that was healthy, somehow convincing myself that the love I craved, the beauty that I was searching for lay in someone else’s hands, legs, spine and heart. My body was begging for someone to touch it and make the broken parts feel whole, to fill the bullet holes that my soul was unable to recover from. I threw myself into people that did not deserve me and was left feeling unfulfilled, unhappy and ready to fall into another.

I still struggle daily to accept the messy bits, the inconvenient truths about myself that don’t fit neatly in a box, the type you don’t want to look at directly in the morning light. I hate that my orgasm wasn’t a priority for anyone, especially myself, for so long and I hate that I felt my body was programmed wrong if I wasn’t able to react the way someone else wanted me to.  Today is one more day I get to be further and further away from the people that took my idea of love and played with it, that didn’t understand that I would never come for them no matter how badly they wanted it. Today is one more day that I use to get closer to a place where none of that matters anymore. A day I cultivate the universe inside of myself and maybe some day find another universe that is finally worthy of me.

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