Love, sex aur distance

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 07:33 IST | Paromita Vohra | Mumbai

Perhaps being able to talk to anyone anywhere brings more chances of finding conversational chemistry and liberation from the slack-jawed conversation stoppers 'Tell me about you' and 'What are you looking for here?'

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraThe pandemic puts lovers and those considering amorousness in a strange position. What if you recently matched with someone and had been planning to meet? And, even long distance loves, turning on the fulcrum of anticipation and longing, now lose the elasticity of precarious certainties.

Recently, the dating app Tinder made its paid feature Passport, free to all users. This is packed with more meanings than a pomegranate with antioxidants. Tinder is a location-based app, helping you match with people in a certain geographical radius around you with a view to meeting, hooking up or dating. Passport allows you to connect with someone in another location, even thousands of miles away—and this is a time when we have no idea when we will travel to other places again.

Other dating apps are incorporating more video (Bumble), hosting mixers (Coffee and Bagel), providing guides to phone sex (Grindr). In a way this maps older technologies—telephones, ICQ or chatrooms—onto new interfaces. It also opens up areas that have been restless under the surface of the sexual revolution.

What does it mean to connect with someone far away, not really knowing when and if you'll meet? Well, first of all, it means you have to talk. Or, as one Twitter user wrote: Pray for me. My back is broken from trying to carry these dull conversations with men…who pursue me with nothing to say. Talking stage is about to last for months. We all need to step up our convo game!

Perhaps being able to talk to anyone anywhere brings more chances of finding conversational chemistry and liberation from the slack-jawed conversation stoppers "Tell me about you" and "What are you looking for here?"

In India we don't have much practice at dating and talking to strangers—speaking outside our familiar sphere of reference. Well, we aren't even brought up to think of ourselves as individuals, with so much of adult life being pre-decided by family, with any desire to make our own choice, a source of drama or stigma. Online dating too, however, has become very outcome-oriented, impatient with the time taken to define one's chemistry with another.

Though the Internet has transformed sexual culture, loosening taboos on sex and sexuality, it has also been treading the water of ennui for a while, in a context where it is un-cool to have feelings or that most stigmatised word—expectations, of any kind. The early days of the Internet, where anonymity, technology and connection speeds meant more text conversations, less visuality and in every sense, functionality, provided a playful and adventurousness training in connecting with others, expressing oneself more freely and also opening up sexual, social and romantic boundaries.

As those conversation enabling interfaces are mapped onto the contemporary dating environment, currently a little stifled by algorithms and literal-mindedness, the pandemic's limitations may enable some synthesis. Uncertainty, vulnerability and the opening up of emotional boundaries could split apart the binary of 'no strings' versus 'serious' into the rainbow of feelings that intimacy involves—affection, friendship, infatuation, attraction, lust. And what if you want to do something about it?

Love has not been a good enough reason for things in times ruled by efficiency and pragmatics. Love's unpredictability and alchemy, its stubborn poetry and mystique are about to get a turn. Who knows how that will make the world go round?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at aromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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