Bad Girls Month: Why Bad Girls Are Sexy, and Item Songs are Good

Well, my Bad Girls posts have so far gotten very little traffic. Let’s see if I can sprinkle some sex on top and get some eyeballs turning my way!

Years and years ago, before I went to college, I took a 6 week self-defense class. It didn’t turn me into a ninja or anything, but it gave me some common sense knowledge of how to defend myself and a few simple moves. I recommend every woman take one! Not men, WOMEN. Because women are trained to be passive and accepting and not defend themselves and you need a 6 week class to kind of shake you out of that and start you thinking offensively. And also to understand how trusting your instincts and being passive and accepting can sometimes be a good thing. One of the most interesting/important things I learned was that, when you are about to be raped, crying or throwing up might actually be helpful. Interviews with rapists talked about how seeing a woman cry (or throw up) could kill their sex drive and make them unable to perform. It shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox, but it can be one of them.

What does this have to do with Bad Girls and sexiness? In Indian film, “good girls” aren’t supposed to enjoy sex. It’s possible to make that sexy, to show a woman being reluctant and won over, but it’s not natural or easy. The natural instinct is what I learned in self-defense class, if a woman is crying or even just visibly unhappy, the sex drive in a man dies. But a Bad Girl, she doesn’t cry. And that’s sexy.

Obviously this is sexy because Shashi, but the Shashi has to overcome the almost crying Raakhee because that is NOT sexy

Having sex with a Good Girl just looks like a lot of work. First you have to slooooooooooooooowly wear her down to being willing to accept sex. Then, you have to slooooooooooowly undress her millions of layers, with her fighting you all the way (her mouth says “yes” but her restraining hands say “no”). Then you have to actually have sex, with no clear communication possible! Does she like what you are doing? Your only clue is going to be irrepressible physical response, because she won’t be talking. And I am getting this from the sexy idealized version in movies, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to break through that reserve in real life, and be sure you actually have consent and not just tolerance, and also manage to learn to enjoy sex with a cringing motionless half-clothed unsmiling woman.

This is all Kareena’s idea, but when it gets down to it, there’s Abhishek doing all the work while she hides her face and tries to keep her clothes on

Most films don’t actually show us that sex scene, but we have loads of films that imply it through song. There’s a whole genre of “is that rape? Or flirtation?” song. You know, he grabs her hand, she feigns trying to escape (or is she really trying to escape? Unclear). Or even the female narrative, about “he was so naughty, I ran and he chased me, I tried to escape and he broke my water pitcher”. As a viewer, I have to do this whole mental gymnastics to make it “okay”. Like “maybe she secretly WANTED him to break her water pitcher!”

Very sexy song, about being found alone in the field with a guy who breaks your wrist

And then there is the “bad girl”, like a breath of fresh air. She’s out there breaking her own water pitchers. Or, like, offering her water pitcher to you to be broken. And TELLING you that she wants you to break her water pitcher. No mental gymnastics, no mysteries, just clear honest open communication. Nothing sexier than that.

That’s what a lot of “item songs” are. Which is also why the occasional drum beats against “item songs” disturb me. Because I feel like it’s not so much people thinking they objectify women, as thinking they sexualize women. More often than not, the thing that is sexiest about an item song is that it involves a woman going out there and loudly singing “I want sex! I like sex! Let’s have sex!” If that makes people uncomfortable, that says to me that they don’t like thinking about woman enjoying sex, they want to shove them into the “good girl” box where they don’t like it at all.

Alternative Madhuri song, “I am so lonely and desperate for you to get here so I can have sex”

In India, a “good girl” hates sex until she gets her “first night” over with. And then of course she loves it, because Indian husbands are just that good. The only acceptable “I like sex!” song is one that is in the privacy of your own bedroom, post marriage. More importantly, the only person they want to have sex with is their husband.

Acceptable sexy!

The “bad girl” likes sex even without being married, without needing to be in love with you, and without you being the One and Only for the rest of her life. That’s what makes her bad, she has a normal human sex drive. The EVIL of it!!!!

See, Madhuri just wants someone to come through her door, doesn’t care who

This isn’t totally limited to women. We can turn to the Ramayana to see the big picture of this all. Raavan desired Sita and offered her sex, Ram offered her a marriage for the good of society and abstinance for years at a time. And on the other hand, Raavan’s sister Surekha desired Lakshman, not for marriage but for sexytimes, and he cut off her nose. Good People, male and female, see sex as a continuation of marriage and marriage as a continuation of social duty. Bad People see sex as just sex.

See, Jaya’s character thinks she is Sanjeev’s wife, that’s why it is okay for her to desire him.

Really, sexiness is just an extension of the biggest Bad thing a woman can do, putting her needs above the greater needs of society. Whether that is disrespecting her parents, pulling off petty crimes, being rude in public, being westernized instead of Indian, it’s all Bad for Society. And the need for sex should always come second to being with the man that your family and society requires you to be with.

You know what makes this super sexy? She’s cheating on her husband so this is sex just because it’s fun, not because marriage says you have to

Which brings me back to why the Bad Girl is so dang sexy. It’s hard to have sex with a woman who is told that it is a sin to enjoy herself. But it’s also hard to feel sexy when you feel like you are only having sex because it is what society is telling you to do. Having sex with a Bad Girl, or even being attracted to a Bad Girl on the movie screen, is a moment of coloring outside the lines, feeling something just because you feel it and not because the larder social responsibilities demand you feel it. Being attracted to Rekha is rebellion, being attracted to Jaya is just what you are supposed to do.

15 thoughts on “Bad Girls Month: Why Bad Girls Are Sexy, and Item Songs are Good

  1. I like this post a lot and I think we can add another kind of bad girl to the mix which is Nora Fatehi being an unapologetic nache girl as a job, not because she wants sex but because she’s in full control of her own body and boundaries and uses her body to support herself financially and has bodyguards to draw the line for her when men try to breach those boundaries. Which is also very bad and maybe the real reason people freaked out over that item song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! the “Bad Girl” who says “I know you want sex with me because that is a normal human urge and I don’t judge you for it”.

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  2. From a “dance as art form” perspective, item songs seem to be where we are getting more of the original or difficult or challenging choreography nowadays (outside of dance films).
    Plus if we are getting true dancers (nora) and good dancers (katrina, shraddha) taking up the mantle, then i don’t want to see this art form also leave the Indian cinema screen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s also where we are getting the most interesting filming of songs work. The way the songs are cut together, even the clever lyrics, so much better than the lazy montage love songs.

      On Tue, Mar 10, 2020 at 9:25 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Ravana’s sister is Surpanakha, not Surekha.

    As I read your pronouncements on “Indian culture’s” expectations of women’s sexuality, I’m thinking you must not be familiar with Carnatic music. There is a whole class of songs within it (called “varnams”) which are all basically a woman expressing her desire to have sex with her beloved. The lyrics can get pretty explicit, too. Of course it is all explained away as that the “beloved” is god, and the desire is the desire of the human soul to be united with the divine, blah blah. But what they really are is a woman wanting sex with her lover. And then there are a tremendous number of songs featuring Krishna (that’s where that breaking the pitcher comes from , and that is actually quite a Freudian image, if you think about it), all of which are about a woman wanting to have sex with Krishna. Heck, I even know a very famous Telugu song from the 1930’s or 1940’s era, whose main chorus goes, “Why are you in such a hurry for me to open the door, Krishna? I’ll open it as soon as I get an opportunity”, and whose second verse is, “My husband hasn’t fallen asleep yet, maybe he’s suspecting me. As soon as he’s asleep, I’ll let you in.”

    And all the love duets of Telugu films, at least, talk about the hero and heroine wanting to have sex. During the late 1960’s and 1970’s there was a huge controversy because of the “double meaning” song lyrics, which were corrupting youth and society. I was so innocent back then that I never knew what the “double” meaning was, even when people were citing specific lyrics as examples. I guess I just didn’t know the code. For instance, a song would have the hero sing, “I want to be with you tonight”, which I just took to mean they were going to meet and chat, but much, much later, I learned that “being with someone” had a very different meaning as well. Then they went to a period where the song lyrics had only a single (salacious) meaning, and in the present day, the lyrics hardly make any sense, so they’re pretty useless to convey anything, but then the hero’s and heroine’s moves in their dance are explicit enough to make the meaning clear.

    So I don’t know where you’re getting this “good girl” stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. I am defining a “good girl” as one who is pure and innocent and ideal. The most extreme version of “good” so I can define “bad”. Your examples show that there are sexually active and sexually enjoying woman in film, but I’m not sure if any of them are necessarily considered “good girls”, the ideal Indian woman.

      On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 11:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Of course they’re all “good girls”, they’re the heroines! ๐Ÿ™‚ By definition they are good and ideal. The definition of the ideal wife by Manu, has various traits, one of which is “in bed she is like Rambha (the most seductive of all the apsaras). So yes, people recognized that good sex is a part of a good marriage.

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      • I must admit, though, that I don’t fully understand your definition of “bad” girls. All the examples you give are basically just independent or free thinking women, they’re not “bad” in the sense of doing bad things, like the villain does.

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  4. Also, I think you’re misinterpreting what the “reluctance” on the wedding night is about. This is just a form of foreplay that is explained quite fully in the Kama Sutra. Both the man and the woman know very well that the other desires them (unless in those particular cases where the woman really doesn’t want to have sex, and then she says so).

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    • Does she really say she doesn’t want to have sex? I mean, is that acceptable? The whole idea of making a foreplay game out of a woman being afraid of sex seems odd to me, and feels like it is sexualizing a woman’s lack of consent in order to make that acceptable.

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      • Sure she does. What about Mouna Ragam? Or more often, she says she will have sex, but as a duty, since that’s all the husband wants — completely putting him off. See, for example, Aishwarya in the wedding night scene in HDDCS.

        The foreplay isn’t about the woman being “afraid” of sex, but being coy and a little resistant, to excite the man further.

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  5. I am never attracted to Jaya. One could argue I’m a married straight woman so thus I couldn’t be attracted to anyone, except that I think Rekha is hot. This is such a great post, thank you for writing it. Reading it I got stuck on one paragraph:

    …the biggest Bad thing a woman can do, putting her needs above the greater needs of society. Whether that is disrespecting her parents, pulling off petty crimes, being rude in public, being westernized instead of Indian, itโ€™s all Bad for Society. And the need for sex should always come second to being with the man that your family and society requires you to be with.

    It is so hard for my western mind to fully understand and comprehend this, I think that is one of the reasons I’m obsessed with Hindi films. I just can’t fathom making a decision that you know will cause you misery for your WHOLE LIFE, because your parent’s want you to. And in most of the movies the parents come around and everyone is happy, but that is a MOVIE, so I get that it isn’t like that in reality, and it blows my mind. I keep waiting for the point in time where I just absorb the culture and understand, but I’m not there yet.

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    • Exactly! This is an argument I have heard from people in real life, “how can I love someone I just met more than the parents who raised me”. But, that’s not the choice! The choice is “how can I love the parents who raised me more than I love my own self”. Or trust your own self, or want good things for your own self, and so on.

      And of course the parenting philosophy that has such faith in your own importance and wisdom that you will force a marriage on someone who isn’t into it. What kind of confidence is that?

      On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 6:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I never even thought of it from the parent perspective, well not totally. I thought of them wanting to find stability for their daughter / practical slave for their son and family. Obviously the use of the word slave is an exaggeration to everyone who grew up in the culture, but I think it is how my selfish Western self would feel. But my selfish western self would never consider choosing a wife for my sons, HOWEVER, I don’t have to live with whom ever they choose.

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        • Okay, there’s another fascinating thing! The traditional Indian household structure would have the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law the people with the closest bond in the whole house. Because you work together all day every day until the mother-in-law dies. But in movies, now we are seeing the same push of “I should be able to pick out my daughter-in-law” in situations where the son is an NRI or otherwise living away from home and never planning to return. So the reality of spending your life with the other woman is gone, but the sense that the mother has a greater right to choose her son’s wife than anyone remains.

          On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 8:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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