The Castaways

The disturbing fetishes of men who visit brothels

Prostitutes know men who climb their dirty staircases are unworthy of anything more than dehumanised sex.

 |  The Castaways  |  7-minute read |   30-09-2015
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They were certain they didn't want to kiss these men who only paid for sex. In fact, they made sure they didn't engage in any of those things with men who stank, and abused, or told their sad stories, and to this, they would say that their hatred towards their wives was quite boring, and the men were free to hate them too. That done, they had no inclination to linger on. In the brothels, when they had begun to speak of men who came to them, the stories bordered on BDSM practices. Only, the consent was bought, and not agreed upon. Strange things happened, and they were nonchalant about it. Here, the women were in control.

For long, I have held the view that brothels aren't just places of sex, but spaces where fetishes can be fulfilled, and as such, they have become the repositories of kinks. In fact, one could view them as purgatories where men are purged of their fantasies to keep their sanity in place.

Once, when I had gone asking what they had to endure, they told me stories of men who liked to do things like dress the prostitutes in wedding clothes, and indulge in some kind of role play. It was all romantic, and they didn't mind the indulgence.

Like this man who would strip them naked and wear their clothes. Or another who would come asking to wash clothes of menstruating women. They laughed over these fantasises, and yet let men have their way because it would bring them money. Someone said a man was so masochistic that he would tie the prostitute to a fan and beat her up, and she endured it all because she had to earn, and go on.

Long ago, I had a written a piece on what prostitutes thought of men. It was a narrative of what these women who were outcastes thought of their customers, and they had always said they thought the men were "ch*tiyas". Men who climbed their dirty staircases, or picked up women from the streets here and took them to box-like rooms, were uninhibited by the morality question.

They knew they were not going to be judged, and that the judgment of prostitutes didn't matter. So they unleashed themselves on the prostitutes, or paid them so they could beat them up, or dominate them in other ways. The prostitutes are wise women. They know men have sick minds, and given a chance, they'd play more, and if they weren't careful, they would fall into the trap.

Not that that some haven't fallen already.

Like this pregnant young woman I met at a small microfinance unit in Kamathipura where she had come to deposit a small amount of money. She had married a man who worked in a nearby hotel, and hoped he would love her, but he told her to continue selling her body so they could make money, and she did. She was disappointed. But she knew that, at the end of the day, she was only looking for a few words of love, and they were enough for her to go on. Her story was tragic, but almost everyone had similar stories to tell. These women had come to understand men in a way we haven't, and weren't subject to the delusions of love, and "forever" romance.

We, who have learned from theory and literature and speak of the feminist movement in rooms full of intellectual men and women and almost always quote Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and swear by it as if it were the Bible of feminism. We are into labels. We like to debate in rooms that are islands of their own. We like to establish ourselves as saviours, and as fiery women who have understood it all. And yet, we have no capacity to look at things as they are. Perhaps, we think too much, and see little, and experience even less.

Woolf wrote "Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for."

And only after I heard the stories of what they must endure, and how they counter it by measuring it in terms of how much money is paid for their bodies, did I understand the context of Woolf's words. The prostitutes know they will serve the kinks only if the money is more than what they charge for an intercourse. Nothing is free here, and they are also not bound by the morality trap to not discuss it openly. Everyone was doing it for the money. Their personal choice had been suspended for trade. And, therefore, what they did was quite dignified.

What has gone on in brothels for so long, making them places of kink and fantasies, has been overshadowed by the liberal agenda of saving the women, and ending trafficking. But that's a lofty aim. The narratives are similar. They are all sad stories of betrayal. But there is the other narrative - of women in control. Of women not judging, and making money the ultimate pointer, or the reference.

In Delhi, while exploring a story on BDSM in an urban setting, I interacted with members of the Kinky Collective, which set up in 2011 with members who want to talk about their kinks and meet those who are into BDSM. It is almost an underground society, and operates via referrals. They fear the judgment of others, and don't want to be dismissed as those suffering with some pathological disorder. Many had partners or spouses who were not into BDSM, and found it difficult to express their fantasies. They indulged in such sessions with others to satisfy their urges, and felt this was their way of maintaining sanity.

Over the course of many months, I heard their stories, and their points of views, and how they held consent sacred, and how difficult it was for them to have open conversations about what they viewed as their sexuality. Here I met women and men who were well-educated and liberal people. In fact, a few are also activists, and proclaimed feminists. But they are in hiding. They have their networks and ensure their stories don't mention anything that would reveal their identities. They would speak of the desires and fetishes, and the need for exploring their dominant or submissive side, and articulate it in the most abstract and real terms. But they would always seek anonymity. Because the odds of offending the society's morality were too much to fight against.

These men and women have waged other battles, and spoken out against stereotypes. But some battles one can't fight. They are lost even before you can begin to fight them. I am not saying I don't understand their fear. It is a real fear, and everyone fears isolation and dismissal. It will be a long time before they will come out of the closet, unafraid of being judged. There's marriage, there's love, and other things at stake. There's no freedom, although they would like to think they have broken the barriers and realised their kinks, and have a way of fulfilling them through networks that are closely monitored.

But when I look at a notebook full of anecdotes of men asking for this and that, and the women in red-light districts saying they would do them for a higher price, I feel they are the true feminists - the eunuchs who don't put conditions when they speak of what kind of men come to them. They aren't delusional. They are tough. In control. They have been abused by men and infected by them, and known the ultimate betrayals. They have nothing to fear. And in this bitter truth, they have found their freedom, and it manifests itself when they smile. Cigarette butts have been stubbed into their bodies, they have been cut and scarred, and they endure it all not because they like to give or receive pain but because it is their profession, and they have children to take care of.

As one of them said to me long ago, "We carry the illusions of love, until we can't."

And then, she said she didn't know what "f*cking with love" means. She didn't care either. Sex was only sex. All the romance, the pain and pleasure, and consent theories, belonged to those that were "unfree" and thought too much about love, and sex as its expression. There is no physics or chemistry. It is only biology, another had said. And it better get us money.

Because it isn't for nothing that they go through this. Their consent is bought. They don't care what BDSM means, or if it is alternate sexuality. They weren't judging, they couldn't afford to. They knew men, and they said they were unworthy of anything more than dehumanised sex, and maybe they were participants but they would charge them for anything more, and, of course, they wouldn't ever let them kiss.

Writer

Chinki Sinha Chinki Sinha @chinkis

Rover in the driftless area of the outcastes. Writing is a way of deleting.

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