After ten minutes of teeth-brushing, flossing, and changing into my least boring nightie — the black cotton knee-length with the lace neckline, definitely not bought at Forever 21 — we are in bed.
“How are you?” he asks, his usual way of starting.
“Fine.” I smile nervously, wondering if I am the least bit alluring. After nine years of marriage, I still don’t have any moves. What if I were to say, “I’m on fire for you!” or the opposite: “I have a headache”?
He kisses me, the peppermint on his breath reminding me that our dentist appointments are next week.
His hands rove over my back and then under my nightdress. I copy his movements, feeling for the waistband of his boxers and the fine hairs on his slim buttocks. He rolls on top of me, sucks each of my breasts, always the left, next the right. I like it when he does that, and I breathe deeply, getting caught up in the moment. His mouth travels over my belly and lingers a few moments lower down. I think about the bottle of lube I recently bought and that I haven’t yet overcome my shyness to tell Murtuza about.
“Ready?” he asks, cupping my right breast.
“Okay,” I reply.
I try to relax. My friend Anita showed me her copy of a selfhelp book called Mating in Captivity, and I imagine that Murtuza and I are a pair of orangutans at the zoo. Then I feel weird for getting aroused by imagining we are orangutans at the zoo.
After a few minutes, Murtuza grunts and rolls off me, panting.
“Want to try the toy?” He purchased the vibrator years ago. He’d read an article about how, after having a baby, it was good to spice things up in the bedroom. We’ve tried it a few times, and while the sensation is pleasant, it is uncomfortable to have Murtuza apply the device to my vulva and wait expectantly for me to climax.
“No, I’m satisfied. That was good, Murti.” I peck him on the cheek and get up to use the bathroom. When I return to bed, he lifts the covers and wraps his arms around me.
Early on, when Murtuza sporadically asked about my lack of orgasms, I reassured him that it was because we were still new. Then I said it was because I was pregnant, and then because I was a sleep-deprived new parent. And then he went out and brought home the vibrator and I finally admitted that I’d never had an orgasm, ever, not with anyone. This revelation soothed him somewhat, the problem clearly not about him but me. He’s never said so, but I suspect that he’s had much wilder sex with all the women he was with before me.
In my twenties, I read books about it. Attempted various positions. Insisted on oral sex. Spent a hundred dollars on toys. Now, I find it easier to accept things as they are, rather than perseverating on an unfixable problem. I can enjoy sex for what it is instead of looking for what’s missing.
After my confession, he encouraged me to try again. “You’re in your thirties now. Maybe it’ll be different.” Over the next couple of years I went along with his experiments: new books, new positions, new toys. I held a thin, golden thread of hope that maybe he was right and things could change.
Each effort was embarrassing, and the more we tried, the less I enjoyed myself, my bits the subject of his prodding and probing. “Look, I like it best when we do the regular stuff,” I insisted.
And so here we are, post-coitus, sleepy. The sex was fine, and he is always considerate to check if I want more, and I always say no, happy enough to curl up with him afterward. I sniff his sweat, a mix of his deodorant and something else warm and musky, and fall asleep.
Releasing in Canada and the US this September, Seven is Farzana Doctor’s fourth and most ambitious novel to date. The novel sensitively addresses women’s relationships, sexuality, infidelity, intergenerational violence, religion and healing sexual trauma within the context of the insular Dawoodi Bohra (sub-sect of Shia Islam) community. Seven is also the first novel of its kind to address female genital cutting in the Bohra community.
Seven is “invaluable” (Booklist) and “an intimate, gutsy feminist novel” (Foreword Reviews) that bravely tackles a difficult issue, one that is too rarely considered but is close to Farzana’s heart as she actively campaigns against FGM in her own community. Twitter: @farzanadoctor
Gokul Prabhu is a graduate of Ashoka University, India, with a Postgraduate Diploma in English and creative writing. He works as an administrator and teaching assistant for the Writing and Communication facility at 9dot9 Education, and assists in academic planning for communication, writing and critical thinking courses across several higher-ed institutes in India. Prabhu’s creative and academic work fluctuates between themes of sexuality and silence, and he hopes to be a healthy mix of writer, educator and journalist in the future. He occasionally scribbles book reviews and interviews authors for Scroll.in, an award-winning Indian digital news publication.