Friday, April 11, 2014

Women, Sex and Other Issues

What's the most important entity and identity for a girl living in India according to the society?

Education? Financial success ? Independence? Talent and skill? 

Nah.

It's her Honour.

Honour and virginity are perhaps the most hyped ideas that the nation lives by. One of the chief reasons a rape victim is looked down upon is because she's 'impure'. Most people don't seem to think that it's a violation of her right, that it's the very helplessness that she's left with; that a man can take undue advantage of her proving his so-called masculinity in the most cruel way possible that hurt her more than the act of rape itself. But no, a woman has been raped and the society goes clicking its tongue on the fact that the most important image of the woman has been snatched upon by a wayward fox. It's not her Freedom and right but her virginity and honour. 

The importance the society attaches to sex is wholly on a negative side unless it is post-marriage. Everyone is happy when there is an heir in the making in the family. Did that baby magically happen? Did an angel bring the child from the sky and drop it within the woman's womb or at the hospital like the little girl in The Cosby Show believes? Of course not. We are all adults and yet we fail to acknowledge what is the most natural path of life. So, why is it that a woman post marriage is lauded for her baby-making abilities but shunned and scorned upon if she is a person involved in a relationship involving premarital sex or is a rape victim? How is the very same baby impure or unchaste? Fertility and motherhood are two factors that should never be contained within the realms of pseudo-morality. 

Sexuality and virginity has long been confused with morality. We have enough and more Indian movies that prove that point. Heroines who commit suicide because they are no longer 'pure' post rape or thrown out of the village limits for having lost their virginity before marriage are the front-running examples. A woman who is open about her sexuality is demoralized and called characterless while the shy, goody-goody woman clothed from top to bottom is the ideal image of an Indian girl. 

I love Superstar Rajinikanth beyond words but to merely hear him depict how a woman needs to be in the movie Padayappa still makes me cringe. Media, TV serials depict the ideal bahu as the woman contained within the house, producing the family heir while the woman who is open to her sexuality, who wears modern clothes or consumes alcohol, wears heavy make-up is generally the villain to the otherwise mellifluous life of the lead woman in the soap opera.Sexist portrayals of women are far too many to count, starting from small advertisements to statements made by famous personalities.  Many of our 'leaders' believe that chowmein, tight clothes, mobile phones, staying out after 7.00PM causes rape. 'Boys will be boys and make mistakes' is the most recent one that flashed by in the news. I can't even begin to explain how disgusting it all sounds.

Images are from the internet
Women are being judged for every single choice of theirs. We still live in a country where white bed sheets are laid out for the wedding night in many a households to check the purity of the bride newly welcomed into the groom's house just the day before. The 'modesty' and the character of a woman is measured by her virginity, her number of boyfriends etc. 

I have boy-friends who have told me that they will ogle all that they want at busty actresses clad in half-nudity but they themselves only want 'homely' girls for wives. Though it is a matter of opinion, aren't we all at the end of the day looking at women as prized objects to be safeguarded? Women are always being looked upon as property being handed over from one family to the other. If she is open about her sexuality, a woman who is too much into literature or talks too much, she might not be the right fit for the family.

As an Indian girl I don't have the luxury of taking a walk down the road to the beach at 2.00 AM, unaccompanied, well.. because it'll be my 'loss' at the end of the day. If in the process of enjoying a good walk at the wee hours of the morning someone does get raped, even the girl's family and extended relatives will chide the girl. 'Why did you "allow" her to go out at that time?', they will ask. Who allowed your son to go clubbing at 1:00AM in the morning? That is never a question that's asked, sadly. 

 Forgive my digression. It's just that there are too many things that we women are being unwillingly attached to that it takes a while to understand them all. It is no secret how many goddesses we have in India. Every single one of them are celebrated upon and worshiped, yet the woman is abused and called a slut and a whore for her choices. Why? Even today menstruating women are considered impure in many households. It's a sickening picture. A sign of fertility has been tossed upon to be looked at as disgusting. Bravo! Hypocrisy knows no bounds here. 

The instances, incidents and happenings are innumerable.It's high time we learn not to judge a woman open about her choices. It's high time we didn't assume that the highest quality in a woman is her virginity. It is not. When a woman weeps when raped it is not because she's been penetrated but because she was rendered helpless at the point. Rape is an act of power and not sex. A woman is to be understood and approached on her skills, her abilities, her talents and independence and not her sexual choices. And just because someone has slept with another once doesn't mean she's welcoming all of the multitudes of men out there. This judgmental attitude is the biggest malice this nation has. 

If a woman engages in premarital sex, it's her choice. Leave choices as choices and not as foundations to build your useless hypocritical opinions and slut-shaming name-callings. Live your life and not someone else's. 
Peace out! 

Image from the internet. It doesn't belong to me. 


~Hemu 

21 comments:

  1. Really worth reading, terrific post Hema!

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    1. Thank you so much Kav!
      Much love! :)

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  2. Every point mentioned is worth its weight in gold.

    Sadly society shall never treat both boys and girls and men and women with the same view!

    That in essence is the fundamental cause for all issues in this country! Unless you teach small boys and girls to respect each other where will grown up 'adults' learn to behave?

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    1. Yes Mahesh, unless the generations of the present imbibe this thought in kids, there is absolutely no hope of seeing any light. Even seemingly broad-minded people are narrow-minded when it comes to their own family and home.

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  3. I agree with almost everything you said here. We look at rape as the loss of dignity..but have we ever pondered over what the word "dignity" even means? Rape is a "non-consensual act of sex". We are so obsessed with the 'act of sex' bit that we forget that a woman's dignity does not reside in her vagina! Dignity, in the most basic sense of the term, is a certain degree of control over one's situation. It is the right to say no to things you don't want. The act of sex is not what causes the loss of dignity. It is the fact that it was non-consensual. The fact that a person was stripped of any control over what was done to them.. THAT is what causes the loss of dignity.
    (Won't it be so much better if each one of us just looked at the obvious??)

    I do agree that a woman, who is very much into literature, is not considered "marriage material". I have had so many people use the word "feminist" as an insult to me.. and because I don't even know just where to begin to counter that, I have stopped trying to convince them otherwise.

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  4. Hi,
    That was very thoughtful and provoking,
    Some issues discussed are to be agreed.
    But it was very one sided and I believe it was out of hatred towards someone.
    A woman, who is too much into literature, can always be a perfect fit for family.
    A woman, with pre-mature sex will always be accepted as part of a beautiful (Indian) family.
    But she should tell him that before someone else tells him, so that it could not be misunderstood.
    She should also tell him that she loves him. She would, if she really strong to face and surpass all this pre-mature sex and stuff.
    “A perfect Couple is all about how much the couple have understood each other and how they adjust for each other’s happiness.”
    If you can decode and understand the magic of this secret sentence, you can make a beautiful life with whoever you are.
    Just be genuine to yourself and life will heal itself.
    So, don’t worry. It’s just your mind set. Come out of it.
    Don’t put your happiness in to someone’s pocket.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,
      I'm glad you agree on the literature bit and most parts of the article. I can assure you that there is no hatred hidden in this. I have merely expressed what I experience as a woman, what I observe as a woman in this society. The point of emphasis in this piece is not how things work between a couple but how Indian society views a woman being open to her sexuality. Though it is one of the many things addressed here you've gotten me totally wrong where it is of much concern and understanding. I am talking about Indian society which encompasses everyone as a whole and not just the man I am/was/will be in a relationship with. Please do read the article again.
      Cheers!

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  5. I agree with you.

    Indian society is and has always been hypocritical about a lot of things. A lot of guys do smoke,drink and have premarital sex and point judgemental fingers at women who do the same. I personally do not believe in judging people based on such parameters. It's because of over-emphasis on virginity that vaginal tightening creams like 18 again thrive in India.

    Superstitious fools (the ones that don't understand how sex determination works) praise a woman for giving birth to a boy but will ostracize her for giving birth to a girl. I agree that guys ogle a busty actress/model but want a 'homely' girl as a wife..there's worse : There are non-virgin guys who would demand a virgin wife (brazen hypocrisy).

    People (especially women) say that being open about sex is against Indian 'culture' when India is the home to both the Khajuraho and the Kama-sutra. The epic 'Mahabarata' has five brothers sharing the same wife (oh,the irony). Much to their chagrin, I point it out. I don't pander to the masses.


    Let me ask you a few questions :

    1.You say that rape victims are seen as 'impure' and that no one would want to marry them. True, victim blaming does happen in India. Would you marry a man falsely accused of rape?

    There has been a spurt in false rape/dowry harassment complaints since the Delhi incident nearly two years ago.

    2. Don't a lot women (including you) point judgemental fingers at guys who are open about a lot of stuff?

    I chose to be anonymous because I'm sick and tired of being accused of misogyny by a few women and their lackeys. Just a couple of questions from a guy's point of view.

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    1. Hello Anon,
      Great to see that we agree on a certain train of thoughts. I'm glad we are on the same lines as far as the treatment meted out to girls is concerned.

      As for your questions, yes,if a man has been FALSELY accused of rape and if I like him, I shall have no qualms marrying him. It is indeed sad that there has been a lot of false dowry cases that have been registered in the recent past, which entails that the man and his family can be jailed prior to investigation, non-bailable and guilty unless proved otherwise. Yes, it sucks. I cannot disagree with this.

      Secondly, I don't know about the other girls, but I do not pass judgment on people. It's a conscious development in my case, for the last 7-8 years. I appreciate a boy being open, or anyone being open for that matter because that way we'll have to deal with lesser bullshit. However, there lies a line beyond which lies predominant obscenity and nothing to do with being open. I wouldn't probably permit a stranger to talk that way to me. But pure judgment,yes. A lot of girls I know do so. Even that has to be eradicated and that shall happen when mothers teach their daughters that men are not from Mars and when we as a society progress towards being more broad-minded.

      I know how you feel, so don't bother. Some boys called me a misandrist. Right now, I couldn't care less. Should you feel the need to elaborate on any of your viewpoints away from being anonymous here, do mail me.

      Great to know your opinion here.

      Cheers!
      Hemu

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  6. I respect the individual freedom of every man and woman but I must say something :

    It is hilarious how some prudes (read: Indian women) especially the ones born and brought up in Tamil Nadu judge men for things like swearing, cracking adult jokes and watching porn

    AND

    cry when they get judged based on their attire and virginity.


    Don't you agree, Miss Hemu?

    It's truly the Mount Everest of hypocrisy. _/\_

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I respect the individual opinions of people and their perception of things but I must say something too: the sweeping generalization (or your attempt to tag me as a hypocrite) you have endorsed of Indian women (particularly Tamilnadu women) with your assumption of their sexual lives and what they assume of men in instances surrounding a sexual encounter is truly horrifying and condemnable.

      Your seemingly judgmental attitude towards this issue and undetermined anger at the ideas of this article are very intriguing. I hope you have better arguments, ones that we can actually deliberate upon in the coming conversations. Your baseless statement seems surpass Mount Everest even, on that front. Congrats and peace out!

      Hemu

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    2. Let me be more specific about two things:

      #1. Yes, you ARE a hypocrite. You change from conservative (and narrow-minded) to liberal as and when it suits you.

      #2. You're not alone. The MAJORITY of women born and brought up in Tamil Nadu are pseudo-conservatives and prudes. This has nothing to do with 'oppression of women' or 'conservative' Tamil culture. Women here are the least oppressed. And the more they project themselves as 'conservative', the more hilarious they look.

      It's as hilarious as seeing burqa clad women who are drunk or heavily pregnant nuns or even brahmins who eat beef on the sly and start barking if a muslim eats it openly.

      PS : Not all of them do this. This is an example. Majority of girls born and brought up in this state are pretty much like this.

      The girls born and raised in other states (Yes, even the prudes) are bearable and reasonable as they don't attempt to impose their sense of morality (which they themselves don't follow anyway) or any sort of character assassination.

      ---------------------------------------------------------------

      About this post, it's good. I do appreciate open mindedness. However, this particular post from this particular woman is ironic to say the least.

      It's like this :

      A beautiful poster advertising the DMK.
      However, the poster is in chaste Hindi.

      And if you do not know what I'm talking about, it's the DMK and the DK who vehemently opposed Hindi.

      I guess this comment might also be 'horrifying' and 'condemnable' as it's brutally honest.

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    3. Hello again!

      This is no north India-south India divide issue but it is what you wish to project on to of all the ideas presented. Your comments may be brutally honest but that doesn't make it brutally right. You're free to express your ideas but you will be called out if I don't agree with your ideas with my arguments. Instead of addressing the issue, you decide to assume my 'character' and well, I'll give it to you because it means nothing to me. Your stereotype of women from Tamilnadu arises from your experiences with them and dare I assume they have not been good? Character assassination of women happen everywhere: across India and across the world. The extents of what 'character' in itself means is still largely in place for sexual chastity and social constructs of how a woman should be imposed by a largely patriarchal society. That is what needs to change.

      I did not say the Tamizh culture is oppressive. But I am not going to disagree and say that patriarchy has come into place and yes, moderated and affected the lives of all women. Your analogies are honestly what are hilarious to me. Should you caste judgments and juxtapositions about women in burqa drinking as hilarious, as ironical situations...Well, why is it ironical? That is the exact social construct I aim to address. You've clearly not grasped that.

      I would have taken this time and more to explain this to you had you been talking about the 'open-mindedness' of the post but that is not your intent. You are trying to express your ideas about South Indian women some place irrespective of whether it addresses the ideas expressed and your kind intention to 'explain' things to me because I may not know what you're talking about, is yes: condemnable.

      You talk like you are someone who knows me in person but I have no way to think through your judgment given your anonymity and honestly, I don't care. If you have opinions about the ideas expressed in the post and not the rants of your mind, I'm still open to discussing that. Also, you finally called me a hypocrite without implying it subtly, that is progress.

      Hemu

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    4. First of all, I'm sorry for my late answer. I lost my grandma.

      While it is largely true that Non-South Indian women are less judgemental than their South Indian counterparts, I wish to point out that this was originally about women raised in TN. There's a certain regressive mindset here that you don't find in ANY other state. I spoke to some of my friends about what we discussed here. They say that there IS patriarchy in TN but is not so open as in the North.

      A burqa-clad woman drinking is fine but the same woman telling other people not to drink is a joke. The 'burqah-clad' part was to emphasise the holier-than-thou look of the woman. Another example: If a nun chides other women for having premarital sex and she herself was unmarried and pregnant, would you take her seriously?

      Generalizations exist to serve a purpose. The purpose is to assist a person in navigating this life in the most efficient possible manner. This is how our brain works... it finds repeated patterns in our daily lives and files it away as a generalization for future use.. the same way people say that majority of Indian men have a patriarchal mindset and judge women. Both our generalizations are largely true. It's just that my generalization is not a very politically correct one.

      Some issues exclusive only to TN which reflect the regressive mindset here:

      1. A guy who talks to his female classmate can get thrashed by the goons his college hires. A chairperson of a group of colleges once said "Unge pullainge apdiye irupange!" which literally means your kids will be as you left them..but what he meant was "Your daughter will be a virgin!". This does not happen in Bangalore, Hyderabad or Mumbai. Pretty regressive for a metro.

      2. There's a ban on emergency contraceptives. Not many people talk about it but this is a bigger issue and a dangerous one too especially for rape victims. I got into a casual relationship (yes, we did have sex) with a woman I met in Mysore during my job's training period 2.5 years ago. We both also got transferred to Chennai and decided it was wise to store a couple of iPills just in case of an emergency because condoms CAN slip/tear.

      They weren't banned because of some reason like 'it causes strokes', 'moral concerns' were cited. If you don't believe me, try buying one in Chennai. It's possible to get these only if you know the pharmacist well and he/she stocks them illegally.
      __________________________________________________________

      A girl raised in such a place is very likely to turn out to be judgemental unless she is someone who strongly questions everything. I'm ashamed to say this but there are some men in my own family who have very regressive thinking and the only reason I didn't become like them is because I question all societal norms even if they call me a bigot.

      A girl who used to sit on a high horse and cast moral aspersions on guys at the drop of a hat is now talking about individual freedom. THAT is progress.

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    5. I am sorry for your loss and my condolences go to your family.

      But I am not willing to talk about why your opinion that TN in more repressively patriarchal than the North with you anymore because you have clearly formed an opinion so concrete (and misinformed with biases) that you are not willing to entertain another thought. I did not say that there are no depressing incidents here (I personally am against and have written and signed petitions against the I-pill ban and disagree with the rules in TN colleges) but you, my friend, are seeing it only over here. Your assumption that people brought up in such an environment will turn out to be judgmental is the most judgmental statement I have personally come across. Kudos to you on breaking free of the chauvinistic mindset of patriarchy (no, really) but there are still things that are out of your grasp and I don't really have the time to explain all that to you.

      Also, I used to sit on a high horse? Well, if you know me so well, or know me at all, of my past or my present life, you are more than welcome to talk to me up front about it. There is no need to stay under an anonymous mask IF you know me. I am not going to entertain your personal biases anymore nor try to break them, because it is not my job to. Good luck!

      For all the progresses you didn't understand and for the thankful few that you did,

      Hemu

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  7. What is wrong in a virgin man wanting a virgin wife?
    I have asked this question to a lot of feminists and not many actually even have a straight forward answer.

    If a girl can ask for a man who earns 15+ lakhs a year I think a man can also have his demands. I am sure no man wants to be told by his wife something like 'my ex could fuck me better'.

    You wanna know why menstruating women are considered impure? A lot of girls complain about this but there are reasons for this.

    Lack of proper sex education and women dont talk to their sons about things like these. I wont deny that indian 'culture' is patriarchal but women who dont discuss this with their sons are fueling an already dangerous fire. Most boys are actually grossed out when they first learn about periods from their friends or from biology textbooks. It starts to become less of a taboo if women are open about this to their sons at least by the time they are 10.

    I found some graffiti near a women's college that read "I {MENSTRUATE}, deal with it". I wonder if the same audacious vandal would some day be open enough to send her son(s) to buy sanitary pads.


    " A woman who is open about her sexuality is demoralized and called characterless while the shy, goody-goody woman clothed from top to bottom is the ideal image of an Indian girl. " : Very true. I would rather respect the former than the latter because with her what you see is what you get. The latter has fantasies and fetishes too but just hides them all.

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    1. Hello Mr. Jagan,

      Thank you for expressing your views. In my view, men should be feminists. Your tone about 'feminists' sounds accusatory to me, correct me if I am wrong. I am one with immense pride. More men need to be feminists because it relieves them of toxic masculinity and the stigma attached to it. That aside, let me address your answer: a virgin man wanting a virgin wife is not wrong. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. What you CANNOT do is ask me about it on a first date (or on the millionth) with the intention to be privy to such a private detail. If any man asked me that with an intention to ascertain if I would be a good partner to him, I'll walk out the door the very next second. A girl 'asking' for a stable financial background is a matter of money and property, what a man asks for when he asks such a question to a woman is on the same scale which is why it is deplorable. Virginity is not a commodity, a woman is not an object or property. This is a marriage, not a transaction.

      Menstruating women are considered impure because of patriarchy. Period (Pun intended). There are women who talk to their sons and send them out to purchase sanitary napkins. I would agree that more women should do it. Here's the catch- it's not just the woman's job, assuming it's a heterosexual couple you are talking about. Let the husband bring it up. You, as man, take the responsibility for your boy along with your spouse. Had I been the 'audacious vandal', I would have no qualms sending my son out to buy tampons and I bet any woman who writes 'I menstruate, deal with it' will do. We are not afraid, we are not uncomfortable. Most men, on the other hand, are. We have to collectively move towards changing that situation because what you are saying here is 'women need to be blamed for men's thought that menstruation a gross phenomenon, which in itself came into effect because of men who found menstruation gross'. Do you see what's happening?

      Thank you for your comments. I do, however, disagree with your approach to the whole problem, you would have to get out of the mindset of treating women as some sort of perfect commodity to get a clearer picture. I don't think you realise you are doing it.

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    2. I wasnt accusing you of anything here. I'm neither a masculinist nor a feminist. It is not about being a good partner or a bad one.

      You can say that men have very delicate egos if you like but the truth behind:
      ' I am sure no man wants to be told by his wife something like 'my ex could fuck me better' ' is about being compared to an ex's sexual performance. I dont think any man wants to be insulted by his wife for not being able to satisfy her in bed.

      Well, isnt a man's salary also a privy detail?

      Isnt this also patriarchy: A girl 'asking' for a stable financial background is a matter of money and property.

      It is giving the rigid gender role to a man as the breadwinner. You dont see unemployed men getting married to employed women but the other way round is possible.

      Except for the love marriages in India the rest are indeed transactions. Asking for a stable financial background is one thing but quantifying men based on the amount of salary is another. The arranged marriage system in India is a perfect haven for gold diggers.

      There are women who talk to their sons and send them out to purchase sanitary napkins in India? Maybe among the most chilled out families and they probably dont even constitute 1%. I was not blaming women for this and as you said it is not just the woman's job but it is ALSO the woman's job. If a man tells this to his son, he might just end up thinking women are gross. The mother should be involved. That way the boy is reminded that women menstruate and his mom is a woman too. Another issue is that the female reproduction system is way more complicated than the male reproductive system. Except in the scenario where the boy's father is a doctor the mother can explain stuff like this better.


      I do not know about 'menstruating women are considered impure because of patriarchy', maybe you are right. I was thoroughly grossed out when I first heard about it and I dont consider myself a male chauvinist. I did not consider women impure but hearing about the process almost made me puke. I might have been ignorant as a kid because I even got scared the first time I saw a vagina. In my case I think it is more of a lack of sex ed.

      I am treating women as a commodity? Ok, if you say so.

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    3. Hello again Jegan,

      I think there are some parts where you are right and those are the instances where I have already agreed with you. Sexual and reproductive education are integral aspects that need to be taught to both boys and girls (speaking in the binary, of course) by both parents involved. I believe we are both talking about the same thing but laying emphasis at different instances. I agree on the front of sex-ed for the kids,too, no questions asked ('puking' when learning about women's reproductive health would only be understandable if you were a child when you get to know of it, and in how it was taught to you though).

      Moving forward, did I say that it's alright for a woman to ask a man of his salary details? If I am not mistaken, I said it's equally deplorable. I don't believe in gender conforming rules of the society. I think it is absolutely alright for men to be homemakers and women be the breadwinner of the family in a heterosexual relationship. Now, would I be comfortable with the idea? It depends. I believe that both people in a marriage should contribute to the economic state of the household, so I might not be comfortable with the idea; I am not condemning it either. I think all egos are fragile. I wouldn't really like my partner professing to an ex's sexual prowess over mine. So, what do you suppose we do then? Thing is, male egos are fragile and that IS patriarchy. Do you see that?

      And yes, I would still reiterate that 'menstruating women are considered impure because of patriarchy'. India has an authoritative, patriarchal society. Men's ignorance of how the female body works grossed them out and they made it 'dirty'. Matriarchal societies would not have this problem, it's more celebratory than anything else. And yes, marriages in India were mostly transactions and it still continues to be so, but with a more educated spin. I don't want them to be transactions. It was an evident transaction in the past, women were treated as commodities 'given away' by their fathers.

      So, one thing I find troublesome about what you are saying- you just seem to have equated why men should have the right to a virgin wife if they please (that is your choice, I won't interfere) to women marrying men for money. You have in short, drawn comparisons to virginity in women and money-- that is commodification of women (I have a problem with that equation), which is what I pointed out. If you had said 'women are being gold diggers and men are marrying for dowry', that seems alright. And so yeah, I say that you are subconsciously still looking at women as property in a small part and I don't think you are aware of it. I am merely pointing it out.

      I don't doubt your intentions to be malign because you seem like you see your past and want to amend it for a better society. but what still is happening is a complete lack of understanding of the issue. Statements like 'I have asked many feminists this question' points towards your reluctance to call yourself a feminist. Even though you don't consider yourself a male chauvinist, I think you are still trying to get out of the grasps of patriarchy and you are probably learning more everyday towards betterment. And I don't say this from a high horse but from having many such conversations with a lot of men who have trouble accepting certain aspects of what they believe in still firmly rooted in patriarchy.You may want to acknowledge that take it forward. I am glad you have acknowledged the things you already have though and I wish you figure out the rest too.

      Thanks and cheers,
      Hemu

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