This was the first time I’d heard a Sri Lankan man openly address sexuality in a way that was not a come-on.
Eager to carry the discussion further, I told him about the time I got so mad at a man who wouldn’t stop following me that I yelled, “Just because I’m white does not mean I want sex! Then he explained—self-evidently enough—that men see movies in which white girls show off their bodies and seem to revel in promiscuity.
But he also gave a more surprising reason for men’s unabashed sexual aggression toward white girls: “Many women come here for sex.” It was not rare, he said, for older white women staying at his guesthouse to brazenly proposition him.
I had indeed noticed two or three middle-aged women traveling with (and paying the way for) younger Sri Lankan men.
Like many of my female friends, I’ve also had sex when I didn’t want to to get a persistent guy to stop pestering me. I was distracted by these thoughts on my walk home from dinner with Sarasi, hardly noticing the fruit bats swooping in and out of lush rain trees.
Although I found it stifling to imagine being deprived of erotic intimacy outside of marriage—not to mention a fun night out once in a while—the comparatively extreme sexual freedom of the U. Our conversation had unmoored my beliefs about sexuality.
During my first few weeks backpacking around Sri Lanka, I’d felt uncomplicated rage at the general pattern of male/female dynamics, where girls’ virginity is tested before marriage and couples rarely do more than hold hands before their wedding day.
But once we got into the stuffy, dark massage room, he motioned to my skirt and top and said, “Off.” I hesitated for a moment before pulling off my outer garments and lying down on the table.
e cannot be out after six or a devil will enter our body,” Sarasi told me as we hurried to finish our rice and curry.
It was almost dark and Sarasi’s secluded boarding house was a 30-minute bus ride from town.
Soon after leaving Kandy to travel around the hill country, I had an interesting conversation with a guesthouse owner named Sampath, a smiley bachelor with the sinewy body required to carry tourists’ packs on backcountry treks.
While I was reading in his garden one afternoon, a group of red-faced men in sarongs gathered nearby and belted out raucous renditions of folk songs.