Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"There is No Other Way...Than the Straight Way..."

Ayesha, Female, 28

I identify as a homosexual. I very recently finally accepted this to myself, and have only told 3-4 other people so far. Till my late teens I knew I only liked women and felt incredibly dirty and degenerate because of it. Then by an incredible stroke of luck I landed up in a radically feminist all-womens college in the US, which did wonders for me. In four years it transformed me from a cringing freak into a confident, self-loving woman. And I now believe in all people embracing their sexuality, because to deny it is pointless, and that is biology for you.

Layla, Female, 19

I feel we all have tendencies, but it depends on how much we nurture them. I don’t have a problem with homosexuals and am friends with many, but I like to make it clear to them that I don’t go that way. But lesbians def hotter than 2 men, gay guys just don’t do it for me, kinda make me sick.

Ambreen, Female, 28

im not really for it or against it ... i know a lot of people are homosexual ...i don't think they are any different from you or I ... i dont think i know the topic well enough... the people i know are not close friends or anything mostly associates...

Mariam, Female, 26

I’ve had varying degrees of closeness with different people who identify as homosexual….but I know them well enough.. they’re all men… I don’t know any gay women personally… but generally I think.. if it was a choice… why would anyone choose to subject themselves to the kind of crap that homosexuals go through leading the life that they lead…especially in a place like Pakistan….. doesn’t that tell you its not a choice? I don’t see anyone making such stupid choices…subjecting themselves to a lifelong sentence of being a pariah… laughed at and scorned at and saying you’ll be sent to hell and god knows what else….so just there…that’s a fundamental logical flaw for me in the whole argument of … "there is no other way…. than the straight way"…I think that’s crap and its everyones personal preference…..i’ve never had any experiences myself…. One of my friends almost kissed me once.. that’s probably the closest I’ve come to having a homosexual experience…I was definitely taken aback….but not freaked out…and this is another straight girl im talking about…. But it never happened… we never talked about it …we just let it go….

Fatima, Female, 25

I was very gay – I thought I would be disowned. I know so many people right now who can’t deal with their sexuality…it’s because they have never had the freedom of mind to go there. But yeah we need to educate our kids – especially if you’re going to leave your kids to servants…make sure your child is comfortable enough to point out what they need to... when they need to. We’re a nation of depressed young individuals…. The amount of denial we live in. And sexual denial is a big problem.

I always fancied girls…. When my boy cousins were looking up skirts I was more interested in looking up skirts. It was normal because no one noticed it – no one said anything…the moment it became noticeable I freaked out on myself – I told myself that I have to be straight…and I tried bringing it up with a couple of people – I was little when that happened. I remember watching tennis with everyone else, the only reason I was watching tennis was because the chick was jumping around. (Laughs) I think it’s a very natural thing – yea, perhaps I was more sexually aware at 11 than most 11 year olds – but that was because of my upbringing (I grew up watching porn with my cousins… and in a household where all my cousins – all of us were grabbed …molested….by the servants) – and we made fun of sex, I was well aware that sex is a part of life. I didn’t even know there were different forms of contraception till quite late… I just knew about one form… Yeah that’s how interested I was in dick, that I didn’t even know what a condom was (laughs).

Sumeira, Female, 25

It’s there – these are all things that are a part of life – accept it.

(Earlier she had mentioned that she was bisexual… so I asked here if it was something that was always there or if she felt it was something that developed. She said she felt it was something that developed.)

It depends from person to person, I suppose people who are homosexual or lesbian (this is not bisexual people) – they probably feel that way and have it in them, of course they have tried with a person of the opposite sex and it hasn’t really happened… you figure it out… people who are bisexual I suppose its first curiosity…whether you like it or not. That’s how it happened with me…it was curiosity. And if you like it – you like it. I’ve been with more than one person of the same sex. I don’t think I sway more towards one side – not really …because I was thinking about it a couple of days ago – I’ve slept with 7-8 people max… and it’s about even …either way. 4 on one side and 4 on the other. I’ve had two very long relationships, one with a guy and one with a woman.

Zobia, Female, 22

I think its ok to be homosexual or bisexual; in fact I think everyone has a certain degree of such tendencies in them. It’s a pity that they’re hated and looked down upon simply because of their sexuality. On the other hand I don’t respect gay people who fall into their stereotypes of being overly promiscuous. Another reason why sex education is important is to teach homosexual individuals how to have safe sex and why it’s important to have safe sex.

Saira, Female, 22

I think it’s perfectly natural.... and in fact when you trace back human history we were all bisexual.... I know it’s looked down up in Islam and whatever.... but with religion came all of this taboo... I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with it..... I think we all have a little bit of homosexuality in us.

Rabia Female, 23

This is too broad a question. In what context? Generally I cannot say I have anything against them, nor am I a ‘homophobe’ (and I am not jumping to that assumption in a defensive manner but simply making an educated guess on the relevance of the question). The religious perspective on this is too long of a discussion so I will refrain from attempting to summarize it here. And yes, for this particular question that is the perspective through which I’d like to share my opinion.

Farah, Female, 29

It’s a subject close to my heart because one of my gay friends back in Karachi recently committed suicide. I think there needs to be acceptance. Many people just don’t come out of the closet and have farcical marriages and lives.

Sam, Female, 28

Who a person is attracted to cannot be controlled. If a person feels naturally attracted to ppl of the same sex, you can't change that. So all these people who go on about how its 'unnatural' and wrong..i wanna ask them why their god made these people like this if it was so wrong.
I am curious about homosexual relationships and their dynamics because i don't know many ppl who are openly gay (i know some but not well enough to talk abt it).
If i had kids i would prefer if they were straight, maybe coz thats what i'm used to, but if they weren't i'd be ok with it.
Anyone who passes judgment on how wrong homosexuality is and how gay marriages shouldn't be allowed, should just learn to mind their own business. Your orientation has no impact on how good or bad a person you are.

Maliha, Female, 21

I’m okay with it. (I’m okay with most things). I’m a bit bothered by MSMs but honestly, its none of my business and so long as they’re happy I don’t think anyone has the right to prevent them from doing it any way they want. The same goes for lesbians - the only thing I am unsure about there is whether I’m bisexual enough to try it out with one :D

Mahreen, Female, 26

I’m bi myself, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s an individual choice. Whatever turns you on.

* * *

You know, reading these bits from my interviews, I gotta say, I'm surprised at how many bi/gay women volunteered to speak to me. I think it's fantastic that so many wanted to be heard. There's no denying that even in the most 'open minded' circles of the Pakistani elite, homosexuality is still a taboo subject. Sure, everyone knows it exists but many choose to live in denial. And often people that are seemingly liberal about everything are just not accepting of homosexuality. Take Layla for example,

"But lesbians def hotter than 2 men, gay guys just don’t do it for me, kinda make me sick."

I'm sure that particular point of view,as hypocritical as it may seem, resonates with a lot of the 'liberal' desi crowd. And not just desi either, I see that point of view here in the West all the time. Of course, lesbians are far more acceptable,

a)because guys like it, and a lot of girls just like whatever makes them seem sexier. Sometimes its not even a conscious decision, that's how deeply embedded our need to please men is - on a global scale. Lets be honest... the mainstream woman is all about trying to fit into the mould of what a man would want. But that's another story, for another time....

b) because the media tells us its 'hot'... now I'm the worst person to give pop culture references because I try to keep my poor brain sheltered from most of that drivel. And YET even i can list you several examples...The 'Lesbians' from American Pie, Katy (ugh) Perry's ridiculous song about kissing girls that bastardized, cheapened and watered down the real act of a lesbian kiss, Madonna and Britney fucking Spears. I shan't go on. But the point of my tirade is; this oversexualized, processed and prepackaged version of two women being together, that we're being force-fed through the media is really just another way to cater to the male fantasy. Its not 'two women being together' at all. Its two women trying to please men. (Sorry male readers, its nothing personal)

And often when our society takes a 'real' look at homosexuality, when it isn't about Katy Perry kissing a girl and liking it, they are disgusted by the raw 'same-sex attraction' that they see. Its not airbrushed or made prettier by popular culture, its a real way of life - and that real way of life is unacceptable....deemed 'unnatural'. We are so afraid of difference and things not within our comfort zone. We teach our kids the very same same thing. So if they do grow up feeling 'different' they are left in the same position as Ayesha,

"I identify as a homosexual. I very recently finally accepted this to myself, and have only told 3-4 other people so far. Till my late teens I knew I only liked women and felt incredibly dirty and degenerate because of it."

Lucky for her she ended up at that feminist college in the States, otherwise she'd be sentenced to a whole life of self hatred. And what kind of way to live is that? No one deserves to go through life in such a miserable state. Especially for something they can't control. Its a basic human need to want to feel included and accepted. For those of us that are holier-than-thou, who are we to deny any human, such a basic necessity of life?

As a result of this mentality, people have trouble coming to terms with their own sexuality, as Fatima so rightly puts it,

"We’re a nation of depressed young individuals…. The amount of denial we live in. And sexual denial is a big problem."

Sounds like she went through that herself too for a brief period;

"It was normal because no one noticed it – no one said anything…the moment it became noticeable I freaked out on myself – I told myself that I have to be straight…"

Imagine constantly battling yourself on such a profound level, telling yourself that your very existence is wrong...unacceptable, unnatural...Imagine what that does to a person's soul...sure those who come out the other end alive are stronger for it. But unfortunately, not everyone can take that kind of self-battery...

That's a sad reality in every part of the world, but I imagine that being gay in a conservative society like Pakistan is a little more difficult than in the West where at least you can find people and places to accept you for who you are. During my stay in Karachi (where I began interviewing people for this project), I came across a really nice guy at a party. Some other obnoxious guy was making fun of gay people, and I was in the midst of giving him a piece of my mind...and this guy (the nice one) walked up to our argument and introduced himself, shook hands with both me and the obnoxious one, and proceeded to say "I'm gay...whats wrong with gay people?" The asshole I was talking to at the time had his jaw drop to the floor because of the sheer awkwardness of the situation....a real live gay guy..oh my! Meanwhile I was nearly on the floor cuz I was laughing so hard...

So that shut him up for the rest of the party. And I had made a great contact to interview...we talked the rest of the night, I had never come across such an openly gay individual in Pakistan. That takes balls. I was really impressed at how he'd managed to be so liberated and proud of his sexual identity. What I was most thrilled about was how keen he was to do the interview with me. But then life happened and I was moving back to Toronto. By the time I got in touch with my friend who I knew him through ... it was too late....I heard the worst imaginable news...He had hung himself. Just like that. This liberated guy, who lived openly with his partner...in a judgemental city like Karachi... could take life no more. Clearly, the constant scrutiny and lack of acceptance had finally taken its toll.

Living like that can really destroy you from the inside out...that's why we cannot let this continue to happen. If our society could just hate a little less, and accept a little more...what a wonderful place 'twould be...

One of my interviewees had to live through this sad situation with a close friend. I can't imagine what that must feel like, hearing that about someone I had just met once really shook me up.

Farah:"It’s a subject close to my heart because one of my gay friends back in Karachi recently committed suicide."

Learn to live and let live I say. Why are so many people even bothered about who other consenting adults sleep with?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From now on, I Swing Both Ways....

...I mean I'm accepting interviews from both Indians AND Pakistanis.... what did u think I meant? Tut tut....I'm sure my husband's heart skipped a beat when he read the title - sorry honey, thats not happening :P

I've been hearing from some wonderful Indians...and lets face it, our cultures are so similar (especially Muslim Indians)... that I think its time to spread the mango branches a bit further. So from now on, whether you're Indian or Pakistani - if you're frustrated with the way your country deals with sexuality... and you're lookin' for an outlet...come pour your little desi heart out at Nice Mangos :)

My next interviewee is a Muslim Indian, and since we've been talking about homosexuality lately, I thought this'd be a good time to introduce her. She's bi, bold, brave and honest. Gotta love a woman like that.

Mahreen, 26, Female

At what age (approximately) and how did you come to know about sexual intercourse?

Probably when I was about 12. After I had my first orgasm, I became very curious and started to read all the dodgy material in my uncle’s library. Intercourse entered the lexicon soon after.

Is Pakistan sexually repressed as a nation?

I can’t say. I know India is, but probably less than it was 20 years ago. But even now, while sexual titillation is common in movies and the like, virginity is still prized among most sections of society. You see a lot of prudishness as well, people willing to talk about things but never doing it.

Have you ever had/Do you enjoy having sex?

I love sex, in all its varied forms. Ever since I first got a taste of it as a teenager and overcame the guilt, I’ve embraced it.

On premarital sex:

I think premarital sex is fine. I can’t imagine marrying someone without being sure if there was sexual compatibility. I first had sex with a girl when I was 16, and with a guy at 18.

On Arranged Marriage:

Whatever works for you. I doubt I’d ever have an arranged marriage. The friends I know who have are a mixed bag – some are sexually fulfilled, others are deeply frustrated.

Have you had more than one sexual partner in life?

Yes, I have. Certainly more than one.

Do you think sex is something that should be explored and experimented with or should one always stick with what they know?

I think sex should be explored with whatever boundaries work for each person. Personally, I don’t like piercings, but I’m very much open to sex toys, S&M (mild) and most other roleplay.

On Sex & Equality:

It depends so much on your partners. Some guys are just selfish and lose interest once they come. Others make sure they see you over the crest as well. But even in a lesbian relationship, you can have skewed equations, with one partner very dominant.

What do you think nature and the physical differences between men and women have to do with gender roles in society?

They do have a big role, but I’d look at upbringing too. Especially in the case of desi women, who are often over-protected or made to feel subservient.

Have you ever experienced a multiple orgasm?

Yes, I have. Several times, both by myself and with partners. Usually from a combination of oral sex and fingering that stimulates the G-spot.

Have you ever found or had your g-spot found?

Yes, I have. And having it rubbed and teased certainly works for me. I found it myself first and now try and make sure my partners can locate it too.

Do you know anyone who has sex but has not yet experienced an orgasm? What are your thoughts on that?

I know of several women, yes. In most cases, it has to do with severe inhibitions rooted in childhood, or partners who just can’t be bothered.

Do you think about sex everyday? How often?

I’d say I think about it several times a day.

Do you think sex plays a major role in your life?

Of course it does. Both thinking about it, and trying to do something about those thoughts.

On Masturbation:

Love it. Every woman should indulge, as often as they can. Best way to figure out your body.

Would you morally, ethically or in any way, have a problem with marrying someone who had had sex with someone before you?

Not at all. Experience is a virtue in my book. Better that than an inept beginner.

On Pornography:

I’m a fan. I don’t watch too much of it, but I certainly am not one of the porn-haters.

To what extent, in comparison with the rest of the world, do you think people practice bestiality (sex with animals) in this country?

In India, especially in rural areas, I’d say it’s fairly common. Have also heard of a couple of people (girls) who tried things with their dogs.

As far as sex lives are concerned, do you ever wonder what other people in this country are doing and what do u think they are doing?

Judging by the population, people are having a lot of sex. Another matter whether they enjoy it freely.

What are your thoughts on homosexuality?

I’m bi myself, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s an individual choice. Whatever turns you on.

What are your thoughts on sex change operations and the people that feel they need one?

Again, it’s an individual choice. If someone feels they need that to feel better about themselves, why not?

* * *

I think Mahreen brings up an important point when she mentions that even in a lesbian relationship the power balance can be skewed. I've read enough biased ultrafeminist texts in gender classes (at Uni) that imply only homosexual relationships can achieve equality in the bedroom. I really don't think that's the case. In my opinion, sex isn't something that you can have absolute equality in - whether you're gay or straight. Its a kind of dance, the way I see it. Because of the dynamics and whats involved, one partner has to 'lead'...sure you can switch up the roles and keep balance that way, but to have complete equality during the act...I think its impossible...theres always someone doing the fucking, and someone getting fucked. And you don't have to take that statement literally...there are a lot of ways to interpret it ;)

Next time - more on what the other interviewees had to say about Homosexuality.

* * *

Oh and for those of you on Twitter who participated in my art giveaway contest, thank you! you're all awesome. Congrats to the two lovely ladies who won @Mahnoorie and @Bhaichod.... <3 I shall mail those prints out soon!

Follow me on Twitter if you'd like to participate in future Art giveaways - @nicemangos -- mangos... not mangoes.