Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Cumming on the Sex See Saw?




I'd like to refer back to Nadia from the last post briefly, she lives her life entangled within a web of sexual politics (like many other Pakistani women) - and it’s apparent in so much of her conversation. Clearly, she's proud about not feeling anything when her husband touches her. From what she’s been taught, that’s how a woman should be. She even shows surprise at the fact that there are women out there who enjoy sex. At first…. When I mentioned the topic of my book…she couldn’t even say the word 'sex':

“I think this book is really necessary…I don’t think it will get to the poor people, but if it ever did I would be the first one to read it. If it was in Urdu…there are so many problems with 'that' in our society.” (although i'm not sure how often a respectable woman would even say the word, the Urdu language certainly doesn't make it a very accessible and commonly used word)

However, It is very ‘progressive’ of her to accept a book about sex, let alone think it’s necessary…at the same time, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that she refers to sex as ‘that’. It’s obvious that she’s been raised to believe it’s something dirty for men to enjoy…and women to put up with…

Later in the conversation she makes it clear that there's a double standard in their marriage. If her husband flirts with other women, she just has to be there at the right place at the right time…in order to prevent anything from happening. That’s just the way things are.. and she has to accept it. He’s a man after all. Although I’m glad she questioned him about what he would do if she were to flirt with someone else…his answer clearly does not display equality within their marriage. But…he is definitely more understanding than most Pakistani men….after all, she was divorced…not a virgin and had a child from a previous marriage….and he still decided to pursue her…marry her and accept her child as his own. If only such acts of selflessness carried over into their sex life… she might not be so proud to feel nothing. :(

Their ‘love story’ as she describes it sounds ever so dramatic…him being kidnapped by his own family…and staging a rejection letter from her…then…love conquering all and them being together….unfortunately not so happily ever after. The pressure to reproduce and bear sons is all she seems to think about. With each pregnancy she becomes more frail…but such pressure combined with a lack of knowledge about contraceptives…and also a lack of willingness to speak about sex…leaves her and her husband in a miserable financial state. And after two abortions and having to give away one child…I’m sure her physical and emotional state isn’t great either.

We started our discussion in a very positive manner…she seemed eager to contribute to the cause of this book….but I’m guessing that after speaking to her husband…(who is obviously the dominant one in the relationship)…she wants nothing to do with it. She doesn’t want to learn too much about how to prevent unplanned pregnancies…she finds homosexuality absolutely disgusting…. The more we talk about it … the less cooperative and responsive she is. Sex….is that kind of subject… it will shut off many, many people. *le sigh*

in such a situation…an orgasm…seems quite an impossibility. :(

Her dislike for homosexuality…she’s not being bigoted…she’s just afraid of what she doesn’t know. She barely accepts heterosexuality…sex is a scary thing when you don’t know anything about it. I sincerely hope…she finds a more permanent solution to her ongoing unplanned pregnancies.

The politics of pleasure…the games we play….the things society makes us do….

***

Before I dive back into the interviews, I'd like to mention that we have another volunteer interviewee! Woot! Of course this participant is female as well - where are the male voices? Seriously, This is the second reader to participate, but neither are male. Grow a pair :P Thanks Farah for stepping up!

(I'm going to start with her answers including the ones we've already been through with the other participants, that way we'll be all caught up.)

***

Farah, Female, 29

I can’t remember what age [I came to know about sex], but I think it came to me in trickles in the way that a lot of realizations dawn on children. I remember having desires that I couldn’t put a name to, but didn’t really feel the need to. I remember hushed conversations with my best friend where we would share information that we were accumulating slowly like secret service spies, about menstruation and sex. We would try and get our hands on films like Pretty Woman and look for clues within. I remember finding my Uncle’s Playboy magazines at the back of his bedroom cupboard in Karachi. Subsequently, for the next few days, every time we were home alone, my cousin and I would leaf through the magazines excitedly. One day, they disappeared.

I don’t remember anything from these magazines, except one cartoon. It was of a woman, who had lifted up her dress to show her vagina to her son, who had, presumably, fainted and was lying on the ground comatose. Her husband had walked in, wide-eyed, and the speech bubble above the wife’s head said, ‘What? He asked me where he came from?’

I suspect that this is the only thing I remember because it was the only thing I understood.

I was recounted information in bits and pieces. Some interesting tidbits I remember being told include the fact that I would be initiated into sex just before my wedding night, where I would be given a video instructing me on all aspects of love-making. I remember being dismayed when I was told that it would hurt.

On Premarital Sex: I was against it for a long long time, because of the notions that I was brought up with. I now feel that it was ludicrous, and can often feel a sort of contempt or irritation with those who feel that way. The first time I had sex, I cried as if my heart were breaking – and I guess those tears came from a feeling of profound guilt. Somewhere inside I believe I was letting my family and God down. It took some time for the guilt to lift and I’m grateful for the fact that I had the opportunity to do so, as I could have very well had an alternative life of being married to my first love at the age of 22 – I carried on a very virginal relationship with him for 2 years.

On sexual repression in Pakistan: It’s a complicated question.

What do you mean by sexually repressed? And who are you comparing to? After visiting France, I began to see the UK as sexually repressed. Within Pakistan itself, there is so much divergence.

Pakistani society’s attitudes towards relationships and sex is restrictive. There are so many interdictions: against sex before marriage, showing excessive skin (even hair, in some cases), homosexuality, fraternizing with non-related members of the opposite gender, relationships with the opposite gender outside of marriage … not to mention the interdictions that exist in the western world, against, for example, masturbation, polygamy, and nudity.

What I’m trying to say is yes, I do think Pakistan is sexually repressed, but moreover, I think we as a planet are sexually repressed in some ways. I’m not saying we should all be going around sleeping with each other, but just that ignoring or denying the fact that sex is a basic human need can lead to terrible consequences.

On arranged marriage: I’m not married – but I don’t think arranged marriages have a negative effect on sexuality just from the fact of their being arranged. Arranged marriages often bring together two like-minded people and results in fireworks in the bedroom. At the same time, many that opt for such a marriage may be religious and have fixed views about what sex is and should be, and it is these factors – religion and indoctrination – that have an effect on sexuality rather than the way in which you go about meeting your husband.

On sex and equality: How can it be completely equal? I hope to one day discover this possibility, but for the moment I think sex, like many acts involving two people, is one of give and take and with the right balance it can be more or less equal.

I know women who haven't ever experienced an orgasm. I think it can often times be a psychological thing but I think for women, its not really all about the orgasm so it doesn’t matter. A more interesting question would be, ‘Have you or anyone you know ever faked an orgasm?’ Again, yes to both. I’m more conservative [in bed] than I’d like to be and I think it’s due to a lack of confidence.

I don’t think about it [sex] everyday. It depends on the context, the outside influences, the time of month even.

*

Ayesha, Female, 28

I will obviously come to this topic from my feminist and homosexual bias. For me the act of heterosexual intercourse, ie. Penetration, is basically an act of violence. To me it does not seem shared, the visual image is very much of the male impaling the female. Gruesome imagery aside, I have to admit if an emotional connection exists then that changes everything by changing the referential dimension. Also I recently read some feminist writing on how intercourse is by no means necessary for female orgasm. I can say from personal experience that women can easily achieve orgasm from methods other than penetration, in fact these methods are actually more efficient in pleasuring a woman.

I believe all gender roles are socially constructed. Yes men and women are physically different but the roles assigned to them and the rights and obligations given to each are completely arbitrary, evolved and structures over previous generations to serve the interest of the dominant classes.

Most of the married women I know have probably never had an orgasm. It takes at least a few years for most women around me to have an orgasm with their husbands. I think it’s an incredibly sad state of affairs and just reflects Pakistani male mentality in all its glaring selfishness and intolerance of difference and novelty.

*

Layla, Female, 19

Not all the time, but most of the times it is (an equal act). I feel like it’s a race you know to get to the finish line, whoever gets there first is obviously the winner, which is often unfair but you can make up for it in different ways ( like oral or hand jobs etc).
I do not think that nature has much to do with our gender roles. I’m going to try and explain this how I understand it best. Women are given a great deal of respect in Islam, and hence have to cover themselves be modest etc etc, but at the same time men have to be modest too. I just feel the message we were given was just misinterpreted and because women were to be given extra care and consideration, especially because we give life. Hence women were considered to be weaker and not able to perform many of the tasks men could they are supposed to stay home cook clean etc. And it became sort of a pattern, and so a girl was born and was given tea sets Barbie’s , make up while boys are given action figures, bats and balls etc. These are all pressures placed on gender by society. And well with time and age and exposure women realized they aren’t restricted to just that and hence we can see the difference in most parts of the world.

*

Ambreen, Female, 28

I definitely don’t think sex is an ‘equal’ act all the time ... I think sometimes I’m not into it as much as I could be... but my partner always enjoys it ... so it’s not always equal…

*

Mariam, Female, 26

I consider myself a very sort of forward thinking… assertive individual…and woman… I know that even somebody like me .. I feel pressure to a) keep my man satisfied and occasional guilt for not wanting sex enough. It is a pressure on me and my mind and I feel a certain amount of compulsion to deliver…so to say…for his sake. If it was completely equal – he would also sometimes feel the guilt – which he doesn’t and most men in my experience don’t. There is this notion which may be true…that women don’t really ‘dig’ sex as much as men. And if they are ever digging it … they don’t take it too seriously…. They’re just going with the flow… or whatever… “she’s the one who will go along with it most of the time and I’m the one who’s sort of … actively demanding it” So even if the woman demands it sometimes… it’s not taken too seriously – there’s no guilt factor really for men. If women don’t go along with it... they will feel some amount of guilt… but will go along with it most of the time. If men won’t go along with it (rare as it may be) they won’t really feel any guilt…towards the fact that they’re not fulfilling their partner….or not fulfilling their ‘duties’ as a partner…

I do think that nature sets up a foundation…on which gender roles are built….but it’s a fairly flexible foundation. The kind of person that we turn into is attributed to the society we’re raised in or the opinions we’re exposed to. So I don’t think nature pre-determines it…really…

I know of someone who has never ever experienced an orgasm…. I think it’s a classic case of not having enough experience…and having certain social norms pressed upon you…where the woman will not do anything beyond certain limits to go looking for that orgasm and the husbands pleasure comes above all else. Certain ideas…. Being self-conscious… the husband being the alpha-male…I feel terribly sorry…sure I’ve talked to her about it….she’s only been married a year and sexually active since then…maybe I guess give it more time…so far she’s just going with the flow…Our advice to her was…give it a try yourself and see if it works out…then maybe you can guide your significant other …she kind of took it as a joke I think…with a laugh here and a shy smile there… I don’t think it’ll actually happen.

As for myself…I’ve never experienced an orgasm from penetrative sex…. It remains a big mystery to me… I mean I’ve been told that only a small percentage of women actually do achieve orgasm from penetration … it’s sucks though… to not be a part of that small percentage…I do feel a little irritated by that. It’s not even a question anymore… I don’t even try to have an orgasm through penetrative sex anymore…because I know my body…. And it’s a no pretty much - straight up. Things are the way they are because we have certain biological issues …that I don’t think we can do anything about…like in the sense that we have some major size issues….I’m too small and he’s too big…which makes the process much more tedious and painful than it’s supposed to be…I’ve spoken to doctors about it…. If you do it more often….you can make a fractional difference eventually…but it’s not something that you can really fix. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though….Because with our ‘size’ issue…..when you know what’s coming….it’s hard to get excited about something you know is going to be painful….or decently pleasant at best…..I guess that’s why I’m not actively thinking about it. But obviously ….there are other ways to go about things…. It’s something I’ve just come to accept…. It’s not too much of a problem for me…it’s probably more of a problem for my partner. It sucks feeling like you’re the only person in the world with this problem… because I’m constantly hearing about how it’s supposed to be really good… and then I think a long term relationship will not last if this part of the relationship is not up to par…..but at this point…. I don’t think that’s true…. Let’s see…the thought does tend to cross my mind every now and then…. About how it’s going to be ten years from now…. between us…

Not having the greatest ‘sex-life’ does affect my relationship because every now and then one of us will lash out. Things might not be said….but there are always undercurrents…..about why someone’s ‘pissy’ that day…in that way… sex really affects my life…. Because everybody has this notion of how it’s supposed to be … and if its not matching up…It gets frustrating….people get scared. I mean, if I cant have an orgasm through penetration….I wouldn’t say my sex life as a whole is bad…but it does become a little…sort of … mundane…a little pointless…I do feel pressure…. I feel pressure to enjoy everything else…to make up for my lack of enjoyment in other areas….pressure is never good for when you’re wanting to orgasm in any case….

*

Fatima, Female, 25

Because of this word called ego – it (sex) can’t be an equal act. Regardless of homo or heterosexuality. My last relationship was with someone I could fuck-over in terms of sex… anytime... Because I could do it for her but she couldn’t do it for me. Someone always ends up having more power…

I have met people who haven’t ever had orgasms – and it all comes down to comfort once again…if you’re feeling extremely guilty throughout sex, you wont cum. If you’re worrying about being caught…you’re not going to be having an orgasm. That’s another thing – we’re all very sexually active and yet we sneak around like the worlds worst soap opera on Hollywood TV!

Unless you’ve got lots n lots of money and you can go to a 5 star hotel….you’ve got to watch your back - You can’t check into seedy motels here in Pakistan – you will be fucked over by the police, by your family … you will be fucked royally up the arse. So the fact that people have to go around screwing each other... completely hide and do it and hide to such an extent that they are constantly worried about things…I’ve had my mother chase me when I was younger, looking for me – yeah she would have caught me with my pants down had she gone any further than that. If I had got caught – I would have been in some serious trouble. So I don’t think I could have been thinking of an orgasm while worrying.

But I’ve met a lot of people who have had a lot of really bad experiences with sex and hence can’t get over those experiences because they’re not allowed to talk about it. If you’re not allowed to talk about shit – how do you get over it? Seriously…it’s all about keeping up your reputation…playing these roles that society asks us to play…especially women in Pakistan. They’re not supposed to like sex… or want sex…talking about it is just as bad. If you get caught screwing around… you’re considered a whore…it’s not the same for men.

*

Sumeira, Female, 25

Sex is NEVER an equal act between 2 people no matter how hard you try. I’ve had two major relationships in my life. I think I was too young to know about love when I got married. But yeah the other person – I loved her and still do… but when it came to us having sex, there is a one-up.
There are ego-trips involved…it’s about control…who needs it more….and who can do it better.


I know lots of people who have had sex but not experienced an orgasm – I tried to help them … but …yeah there are a lot of people but some eventually have an orgasm….women – women here are not open to it, if they’re with their boyfriends…they don’t have sex – they wait till they’re married. A couple of my friends, they’re married, but you know it takes a while for you to get comfortable with someone – you know really get into it. She’s never had sex before and he’s never had sex before…they waited it out, in fact I know two couples like that. I suppose it takes a while to get into it. There are women who have been having sex for a long time and have never had an orgasm - but that’s just how it is... you can’t do anything about it.

*

Zobia, Female, 22

Sex is not always an equal act for many couples. This is simply because achieving the male orgasm is a much more straightforward task. However it should be an equal act….particularly in our community women who seek that kind of pleasure are seen in a very negative light, to them sex is all about what a man wants or needs.

The gender roles we adhere to owe a lot to our socialisation and the norms we are made to follow. Having children and such differences however, do make it difficult for woman to lead equal lives to men, as the system of the progressive world is made for men, by men and is completely patriarchal in its nature.

*

Saira, Female, 22

Its generally for the male to be pleasured ... that’s how it is in society and its portrayed in the media.... because women are still men’s toys and they get to use us in every way possible..... I don’t think it has anything to do with nature.... or what god intended.... it’s just a social construction. It’s just the way males have created our society from the start and we just follow that.

*

Rabia, Female, 23

Just sharing my virgin opinion here (on what it should be/ I’d like it to be): the completely ‘equal’ act gives off an impression of a calculated act. Sex for me, should be more than that; in the moment, spontaneity is key and that may well mean a shifting role in terms of ‘dominance’ from what partner to another, from one experience to another.

I don’t think I think about sex everyday considering I engage in no such activity. But I would say it comes up often around me. Whether that is a conversation with a friend, an article or something on television (no, not porn) – I do find myself thinking about the kinds of things I would do for my husband
.

***

Now those are some seriously heavy issues to digest.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, I have just visited your site and the info you have covered has been of great interest to me.

    Shop Towel

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!



    Web Design

    ReplyDelete