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India states an estimate of 21 million of its girls are ‘unwanted’

The desire among parents in India to have sons instead of daughters has created 21 million “unwanted” girls, a government report estimates.

The finance ministry report found many couples kept on having children until they had a boy.

Authors called this a “subtler form” of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls.

Son preference was “a matter for Indian society to reflect upon”, they said.

The authors also found that 63 million women were “missing” from India’s population because the preference for sons led to to sex-selective abortions and more care was given to boys.

Tests to determine a foetus’s sex are illegal in India, but they still take place and can lead to sex-selective abortions.

Where are India’s millions of missing girls?

Some cultural reasons for son preference were listed, including:

  • Property passing on to sons, not daughters
  • Families of girls having to pay dowries to see their daughters married
  • Women moving to their husband’s house after getting married

The cultural preference for male children has even led one newspaper to list scientifically unfounded tips for conceiving boys, including facing west while sleeping, and having sex on certain days of the week.

The states most affected by son preference were Punjab and Haryana, while the least-affected was Meghalaya.

In Punjab and Haryana states there were 1,200 boys under the age of seven for every 1,000 girls of the same age, the authors of the Economic Survey found.

Henry Sapiecha

I Cannot Sleep With My Husband


It was 1996. We still made mix-tapes for lovers and friends, wore floral dresses and baggy second-hand corduroys, clomped into cafes in our Blundstone boots and wept in the cinema over The English Patient. Within two weeks of meeting the man who would become my husband, I welcomed him into my home and my messy, unmade bed. And I’m not talking about the passionate, all-encompassing sex of those first days, weeks and months together. I’m talking the hard yards. Sleeping together. Staying over. All night.

The first night he snored. I turned over and tried to ignore it. I was in the first flush of new love — I would have forgiven anything. The second night he spent with me, I nudged him gently and whispered. The third night, I pinched the bridge of his nose — not as hard as I would have liked to — and he woke in a panic, spluttering. I pretended I was fast asleep.

We tried everything after that: buckwheat pillows, essential oils, rain recordings, elevating the head of the bed, buying dust-mite mattress protectors, cutting out dairy, alcohol, caffeine and grains. He subjected himself to a sleep clinic at the hospital, wired up to monitors, and even bought a CPAP machine that made him sound like a cross between Darth Vader and a vacuum cleaner. The snoring was preferable.

Since then, we’ve discovered that he has inherited a genetic narrowing of the throat. The more exhausted he is, the more he snores. Thus, we are blissfully happy sleeping deeply together on trips and holidays, when we’re both rested and free from alarms and schedules. But in the daily grind of work, school runs and hurried evening meals, sleeping together — and actually getting some sleep — is a triumph of negotiation and goodwill.

I’ve thought a lot about sleep in my time. How much I love it, why I always want more, the way naps during the day can be more delicious than meltingly-dark organic chocolate. I know that going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (including weekends) can improve sleep quality, duration and even impact depression and weight loss. The latest research shows a stronger link between lack of sleep and obesity than any dietary factor.

My night-time fantasies are not your run-of-the-mill. I ruminate on how nice it would be to go to bed with the sunset, without electric lights or screens, and wake in the pre-dawn each morning, ready to greet the new day. To sleep longer in winter, and be livelier in the summer months, in rhythm with the seasonal dance of light and dark.

So what next? It’s difficult to give up the dream of the marital bed. In our culture, the symbolism of the parental retreat, of sacred privacy away from children and domestic routines, is as monolithic as our myth of romantic love that lasts a lifetime. In our house we now have many beds, some king-sized, others single, and we swap and change according to weather, mood, snoring level and tolerance.

The phenomenon of couples sleeping alone, away from children, family members and animals, is relatively recent. In pre-Victorian times, especially among rural dwellers, the whole family slept side by side, for safety and to conserve heat. My own mother, growing up in a 1940s Greek village, slept with her parents, siblings and grandparents on mats near the fire, in a loft-like room above the stable where the goats and sheep were housed for the night. Imagine the snoring!

Biphasic sleep in winter was also common before the 1800s, when the time after the ‘first sleep’ and before the ‘second sleep’ was typically used for prayer, religious study or contemplation by the upper classes, and for sex, drinking and talk by the lower echelons. There’s something compelling about an in-between time where dreams, thoughts and conversation would flow into each other in the candlelight.

I must admit, I miss the nightly routine my husband and I have perfected over the years. I miss the male largeness of his body next to mine, the big hands, the scent of just-shampooed hair. That precious time in the dark, between the day’s events and the emptiness of the night, when ideas and emotions we often dismiss are opened up, explored. I miss pressing the sole of my foot against his bony shin, splaying open my toes, as I drift further into sleep. Or the way he can tell me all the details of my dreams, gleaned from my sleep-talking, when we wake together to see the eastern light dusting our bedroom curtains with its shimmer.

But now I just wake a little earlier and visit him in the mornings. And in some ways, that can be even better.


Henry Sapiecha



Outlander: The sex scenes in this series – the continuing adventures of time-travelling nurse Claire Randall – have been praised for their rare female gaze: the main dude’s a virgin (well, ‘was’ a virgin), there’s no gratuitous nudity, and Claire’s sexually empowered, often making the first move.


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The Spectacular Now (2013): You won’t find a more honest depiction of first-time sex. No hysterical giggling, no over-anxious pawing – just quiet nervousness and steamy longing.


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The Affair: Unlike Hollywood’s female ‘O’-face fixation, this series portrays sex more realistically: “Why have I always got to do the orgasm face? There should be a male orgasm face. Why is it always the woman who’s orgasming? Let’s analyze the male orgasm,” said star Ruth Wilson.


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Blue Valentine (2010): Ryan Gosling famously went after the MPAA after they slapped the film with a box office-killing NC-17 rating due to a scene in which his character goes down on Michelle Williams’: “There’s plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it’s a man receiving it from a woman – and they’re R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it’s perceived as pornographic.” Isn’t he dreamy?


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Don’t Look Now (1973): There’s no denying the raw power of this film’s infamous sex scene; the emotional intimacy is ramped up by director Nicholas Roeg’s decision to intercut stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland’s roll in the sheets with scenes of domesticity as the couple get dressed to go out.


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Coming Home (1978): The sex scene, in which paraplegic veteran Luke (Jon Voight) shows conservative military wife Sally (Jane Fonda) the tenderness that leads to her first orgasm, is a stunner.


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Out Of Sight (1998): Remember George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez’s super romantic “interlude” in a hotel room on a snowy night?


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Pride & Prejudice (2005): Not even first base, but the final scene on the moors, when Lizzie kisses Darcy’s cold hand, is hot enough to melt the permafrost.


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Titanic (1997): The steamed-up window that launched a thousand fanfics.


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Black Swan (2010): In between the horrifying hangnail incident and the rest of Darren Aronofsky’s ballet-related horror schlock, there was a brief moment of steamy respite in Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman’s sex scene.


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Pleasantville (1998): In retrospect, Gary Ross’ Pleasantville feels a little heavy-handed, except for the scene in which Joan Allen’s Betty Parker masturbates to orgasm for the first time in the bath, and her black and white world suddenly explodes into colour.


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Y Tu Mamá También (2001): Alfonso Cuarón’s wonderful road movie has a number of ~moments~, but few compare with the film’s crescendo, a threesome between the much older Luisa (Maribel Verdú) and the barely legal Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna).


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The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Pt 1 (2011): The bit before the bed-breaking bonking – perfect depiction of foreplay at its dumb, slightly embarrassing best.


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9½ Weeks (1986): Includes everything from Basinger’s strip tease to ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ to the hottest midnight fridge raid of all time.


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Atonement (2007): Proof that sometimes the sexiest sex scenes happen fully clothed.


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Take This Waltz (2011): Michelle Williams’ character Margot has an (extended) sexual awakening when she finally gets it on with the dreamy Luke Kirby, not to mention a few extra men and women.


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Wayne’s World (1992): Damned if there’s not a better example of how FUN sex can be than when Wayne finally gets into bed with Cassandra in her cool loft apartment, socks and all.



Henry Sapiecha