Monday, July 12, 2010

Speak!!




Ayesha, Female, 28

Absolutely. We’re repressed externally as well as internally. I think we lie to ourselves and others so we can claim a moral high ground, even though our private lives may involve all kinds of supposedly ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour.

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Layla, Female, 19

Well I feel the fact that our country labels itself to be the Islamic Republic of Pakistan speaks for its self. In general yes, I feel we are to an extent sexually repressed, but I also feel it is all a cover up. Growing up amongst the fastest and most “modern” crowd in my country, going to parties etc, there was absolutely no sign of sexual repression, in fact over the years girls clothes got sexier and well maybe like 4 years ago if we saw a couple kissing at a party it was a big deal, now its just like whatever. So I guess it really depends on where you live and which family you are born in to. And while we are lead to believe that sex is wrong etc etc, everything goes on behind closed doors and everyone knows it.

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Ambreen, Female, 28

I don’t know if we’re repressed... but its just something we don’t really talk about.... repressed is something that seems like something you’re not supposed to do.... for example my parents don’t know how to talk about it ... when I was getting my married my mom didn’t know what to say....I bought lubricant and they were packing my clothes......she came across it ... my mom asked what it was ... and when told by someone else she started blushing ... it was an embarrassing situation for her.... I wasn’t embarrassed but she shoved it away in the suitcase...

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Mariam, Female, 26

I think we’re definitely sexually repressed as a nation…it’s fairly black and white…culturally because our culture is very intertwined with our religion…and its not something that we as a nation are anywhere close to getting away from. I think we have been and will be suppressed for a long time to come.

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Fatima, Female, 25

where else would you go around and find that the advertisements on the billboards have been spray painted to make the woman burqa clad and that was 8 years ago -

it's not to say that people don't have sex and yes the 2 percent of the society who no one dares question, do so relatively freely -

the others sometimes get away with it - one of the most common and inexpensive plastic surgery procedures performed in hospitals is a hymen reconstruction - so that the girl can be an eternal virgin on her wedding night and her promiscuous husband will never know of her past

our society is very double natured and on the front of things it is against premarital, extramarital and gay sex - but it's ok for boys to be boys and have their girlfriends, its just the girls who are thought of as whores for having boyfriends! our "zinnah" laws reflect this as well - look at the hudood ordinance!!!

as for being openly gay beyond your circle of trust - acceptability is zero and condemnation is apparent!

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Sumeira, Female, 25

I don’t know if we’re repressed as a nation I do whatever I want. I don’t care about the rest of the nation; I fuck who I want, when I want, how I want…but yeah I guess, obviously we’re repressed as a nation, obviously we’re repressed because we are too afraid to come out with who we are. People want to stick to the norms of society, and normal is “Man – woman have a baby…marriage – NO sex without marriage…”

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Zobia, Female, 22

Well, the women in our nation are definitely sexually repressed that’s for sure; ironically our culture teaches them that having a sexual appetite is entirely undignified and almost immoral. However, there are prostitutes and such that cater to the needs of many men…the prostitutes are shunned out of society and bad mouthed, those men who are usually married and frequent customers are hardly ever spoken of. I suppose if I looked at it as a nation and compared it to the rest of the world we are repressed sexually. Our Islamic culture emphasizes that sex remain a private, quiet and personal affair; one that is carried out systematically (mainly in the missionary position) to reproduce once we are married. Perhaps such a code of conduct is taught so we can differentiate from the culture of the Hindus which embraces literature such as the Kama Sutra.

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Saira, Female, 22

Yes I think we are sexually repressed as a nation, especially women. I think its all because of the patriarchal ideology in our country. Not only is the issue of sex and all that taboo ... but its not considered a good thing for WOMEN to discuss it and question it. I’m sure that the men in the villages can think about it and not feel that it’s sinful.... and we are made to believe that it is.

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Rabia, 23

Like many “Islamic” countries, people are prevented from expressing their sexuality in Pakistan and like many “Islamic” countries, it has done far from control society’s behavior. People will do what they have to and restricting them will only have the opposite effect.


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Okay….so it seems pretty unanimous amongst the Pakistani female interviewees. Most have stated plainly and clearly that we are sexually repressed as a nation. Ambreen seems to be the only one who’s questioning it at all. Although she mentions that her mother couldn’t speak to her even till the day of her wedding. It’s an interesting scenario…the level of discomfort with the subject is exemplified by this situation. I have a story to tell in contrast to this (don't roll your eyes :P I know, I know... i tell a lot of stories)

I was a strange, inquisitive child (no surprises there). At around the age of twelve, I was beginning to hear people say that oral sex was forbidden in Islam. I still haven’t got a concrete answer from anyone really. It depends on who you ask and what their interpretation of the religion is. Anyhow, I decided to ask my mother whether this was true or not. I’m sure I caught her off guard and she wanted to shove the question in a suitcase just like Ambreen’s mom shoved her lubricant out of sight…

My mom took a moment to take it all in and then answered as best she could. She told me she thought so but at the same time was pretty sure that even ultra religious folks did it. We both chuckled at the thought…and I was glad I could speak to her freely. Don’t get me wrong though, she’s still very shy…after being married myself for a few years I decided to tease her and mention that she had never actually had the ‘sex talk’ with me…so just to bug her, I suggested that she do it now. She told me to shut up and go away. That was amusing.

Just recently she was in Toronto and I decided to take her for a walk around my area. We live near the village…the gay village...and it’s a lovely place to live. There’s always something going on and a great drag show is right around the corner. :)

Whilst we were out that day, she was absolutely fascinated with everything; the colours, the liveliness, the outfits, lol. I remember when I was in college it disturbed her that I even went to the pride parade but this year she came too. Hurray! It’s just about exposure really – she’s a lovely person but didn’t know what this world of homosexuality was actually about. The more she learns, the more accepting she becomes. I was thrilled to see her at pride and she was pumped with adrenaline. She had a great time.

Also, during our walk around the village we came across a huge sex store…she was really curious about it, stopping to look in the window, etc. So, I asked her if she wanted to check it out… and that was a baaad idea. I thought I was a very liberal, open minded-person… but strolling through aisles and aisles of fist shaped dildos and vibrating tongues with my mom was enough to make me wish the ground would swallow me up.

She was equally uncomfortable, if not more…within 4 minutes we ran out. It was interesting, but also agonizing…. Why I get myself into things like this, I do not know. :/

But just to clarify, It wasn't all weird cuz we're Pakistani and conservative, it was all weird cuz shes my mom! I think anyone (well...most people at least) from anywhere in the world would have been troubled by that situation. The worst part was - when this girl came up and asked us if we needed any help or if we wanted to see some of the products....ugh. Never again. Stupid me.

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But where were we....the interviews... So, Fatima brings to our attention that Pakistan is a place where billboard models are sometimes spray painted black to resemble a burqa-clad woman. Hardcore eh? …especially considering the fact that women in Pakistani ads dress modestly anyway.

Zobia is the only one that mentions the Kama Sutra, I thought more people would. However, in her opinion this religious extremism might just be a struggle for identity. Perhaps we wish to separate ourselves from our 'superpower' Indian neighbours so badly that we’re willing to become extreme. Its an interesting thought.

Chew on that for a while.

6 comments:

  1. Rabia's views perplex me. How can she hold the view, "People will do what they have to and restricting them will only have the opposite effect," and also be "firm set" against premarital sex because "it becomes the source of many of society’s problems." Should religion and,thus, society restrict it or not? I think somebody has some soul-searching to do.

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  2. And that's the interesting part, I find that often happens with people caught between the West and the East. And its hard for any of us to get away from Western values nowadays. But Rabia has also recently started wearing a Hijab, so she is obviously struggling to find that balance between religious values and modern values I guess, and I suppose thats where the inconsistency would creep in... but it's only a guess..

    I came across this kind of thing so often during the interviews...The best example of which would be Layla's opinion on premarital sex... she thinks its fine, but also thinks it makes u lose respect for yourself...

    And I hate to generalize, but I find that desi's often have a lot of internal conflicts like this, it starts from that overpowering thread of religion thats been woven through the very fabric of our existence from the day we're born. That clashes with many aspects of modern life, and at some point we start to pick and choose elements of both, rather than make sure everything is consistent across the board....

    I tend to ramble, but I hope I've made some sense..

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  3. Just to un-perplex the perplexed:
    That is precisely it, you say "religion and thus society". Religion should (and does) restrict it… society shouldn’t. You are contrasting two statements I made, one of which is a personal opinion and the other being simple fact.

    Having spent my entire life in ‘oh-so-conservative’ Saudi Arabia, I have learnt that society’s restrictions do little (if anything at all) in terms of achieving/controlling behavior that mirrors a religious guide. I know too many people who have grown up in a restricted/repressed society and have NOT embraced the religion that these surface from, but ironically they have done so (in its true form, not forced) after moving to the more liberal West, (US, Canada, UK wherever). You may have heard of many such cases yourself too. My point being, yes I am against the idea of premarital sex, but where in that sentence have I claimed that controlling or repressing a society is a way to achieve it?

    Eiynah - To claim that I am ‘obviously struggling’ to find a balance is a bit presumptuous don’t you think? Of course you are entitled to your own opinion but that is a pretty huge assumption. Also, I would be interested in hearing what you mean by balance between ‘religious’ and ‘modern’ values.

    It is quite clear that I am (other than clearly “Rabiya” :P) someone who is an outsider in terms of the participants in this blog which is interesting for me. Personally I find that ‘open-minded’ discussions often specifically challenge what the person who brings a religious dimension to the discussion has to say, which if I may say so is kind of hypocritical. Not saying that is the case here, but something that happens often in discussions that I may witness or participate in so I am looking forward to what the readers of this blog have to say (to me) or otherwise. :)

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  4. Oh snap, never expected you to be reading this. I had forgotten that you weren't interviewed years ago, like the other women. Makes me wonder if any of the others also read.

    I guess, from what you said above, that at least you don't believe in a Caliphate system - which many people in Pakistan have the hots for at the moment. And that you don't believe that sharia should be the basis for societal laws. You could argue that it shouldn't merely for the fact that there is no consensus on what is sharia, but if there is anything Islamic jurists have near enough formed consensus on, it is that premarital sex is haram.

    I, in my naiveté, had assumed that for countries composed of muslims and declaring themselves Islamic, religious law should naturally translate to national laws. You somehow have been able to make an artificial distinction between religious rules and good law, even in such a case. So laws shouldn’t criminalize ‘adultery’ even when the religion, of that particular country, prohibits it? Even if that is done, what do you suppose should happen in the instances when religion specifically asks society to punish sinners?
    Also, don't you think it is myopic of a religious text to restrict premarital sex - as you believe it does, if you also believe that "people will do what they have to and restricting them will only have the opposite effect."

    If I knew that my obstinate, intractable kid was going to do the exact opposite of what I asked him to do, being that I am omniscient and my kid rebellious, by nature, I would not instruct him so in the first place, knowing, as I do, how my kid is and what effect my instructions will have on him, in advance.
    You have said that I am contrasting two of your statements, one which is an opinion and the other - fact. They both sound like opinions to me. Not sure which one you have labeled fact. Even if one is a fact, to hold an opinion which doesn’t logically conform with what you believe to be a fact is what still perplexes me.

    About the people moving away and becoming more religious in foreign countries. I also know “too” many people who didn’t become more religious, and people that actually became more liberal. I also know too many second generation immigrants that are generally less religious than their parent. I feel I know what leads people to these different results in foreign countries and that doesn’t have much to do with a link between religious observation and non-restrictiveness of a society (which I think you somehow tried to make) but rather identity issues. I would discuss this further but that would be digressing too far in to an academic discussion on sociology and would make this reply even longer. I also think it’s a bit presumptuous of you to label the version of religion you believe to be the “true form.”

    Anyways, Rabiya Begum, I hope this rejoinder makes sense. I would be happy enough to clarify if it doesn’t 

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  5. Rabiya - I'm so happy that you're actually reading! :) And like Mackers, I too wonder how many of the interviewees follow the blog. The ones I could get in touch with, I have - so they know its up.

    As for the presumptuousness of my 'obviously struggling' statement - please note that I ended that sentence with,
    "I guess, and I suppose thats where the inconsistency would creep in... but it's only a guess.."

    So yes, it is just an opinion. I'm sure you know better than I do, that transitioning from a non-hijabi lifestyle to one with hijab isn't always smooth, I dunno, maybe it has been for you - but from what i've seen.. its just like finding your identity in any other way... you struggle for a bit to find the right flow...cuz everything's so new...

    What I meant by finding a balance between religious and modern values is just that. Like premarital sex for example - that flat screen in your living room - is almost godlike in most homes now. That’s how the message is spread to the masses. Premarital sex isn't looked down upon in contemporary global society. It's just part of life... a lot of the younger generation come to accept it as that, no matter where in the world they're located. Saudi Arabia included. However, the religious values in the same country are obviously different. It's not easy to pick a side sometimes (I'm not saying that’s the case for you, but for many) and that is how things become inconsistent.

    In Karachi, I actually knew of someone who was known as 'Hijabi Slut', although I'm pretty staunch in my non religiosity, that woman offended me to the core. There is absolutely no reason to tack the title of 'religious' on to your person unless you can be a good example (from all the effin’ terrorists too, we know this is not often the case). But this girl was an insult to Islam, yet she wore a major Muslim identifier. Of course this is an extreme example, and in no way do I claim this is the norm. When questioned, she would always say, “well I can't stop screwing, drinking or smoking up. Hijab is a step in the right direction... its better than not doing anything at all” (Of course I completely disagree) - but to lesser degrees, these kinds of inconsistencies exist in all forms of people. Cuz the world has become such a small place and the mish mash of cultures colliding creates confused individuals. Religous and non-religious alike. It seems tougher for the religious ones because the values of the world are not in synch with religious values. I cannot put it any simpler than that.

    And, you're not an outsider Rabiya - there are so many different kinds of Pakistanis, it's important that you're here to represent another side, one that’s more reflective of the general opinions in the country.

    As for the hypocritical nature of those who claim to be ‘open-minded’ and yet cannot ‘tolerate’ religiosity…I couldn’t agree more. It’s completely true, there are tons of narrow-minded ‘open-minded’ people out there. Lol. I myself have been guilty of that, it’s something I’m working on. It hard when the only kind of religious people you meet are those that want to preach and judge and save your soul. It’s hard not to judge them in return. But we must remember they don’t represent all religious people.And as more and more liberal, logical and non-judgmental believers come out and make themselves known (like yourself) the more we can bridge the divide between both extremes.

    One thing I’d like to say in defense of the non-religious ‘hypocrites’ – we’re only human, just like our religious counterparts. If they are not held to such high standards, then why must our inconsistencies be questioned? :P For the most part, we do keep to ourselves, and seldom try to preach.

    That said, I have nothing but respect for those who are intelligent enough to understand why they believe rather than just doing it cuz that’s what they’ve been told.

    I cannot believe the length of this bloody response.

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