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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.

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.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.” Several times, men on the street grabbed my waist or put their arm around my shoulder.As soon as I yelled at them to go away, they recoiled in alarm, as if they couldn’t believe a white girl would be offended by an uninvited caress from a stranger.It was Sampath and his friends chewing betel leaf and passing around a bottle of arrack, Sri Lanka’s dangerously smooth coconut liquor.As Sampath served me tea the next morning, he said, “I wanted to invite you to join us yesterday, but I know my friends try to hug you and kiss you. Men here, they see a white girl, they think bad things.” He scrunched up his nose.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.