Most of this summer, I’ve been cut off from most of the human population — by choice. Sometimes there are just so many rape references and derogatory jokes a certain Lady can take before she storms off in fury, hoping to leave in her wake toxic ImaginaryChemicals hoping that some particular nincompoops would just disappear from the surface of the Earth. Alas, chances of that happening are as real as is her dream to attain the super-power to read three books at a time. Or the odds of her reading a Jack Kerouac without flinging the book across the room. Or her giving up veganism. Or finding the complete and un-edited journals of Sylvia Plath. I’m sure you get my drift.
This weekend my friend forced made manipulated asked me if I’d like to venture out of my cave my room has currently become. As much as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I’ve become the proverbial turtle seeking refuge in zie’s shell every time the world manifests its inane-ness, I knew she was right. I’ve noticed lately, even my dog has started giving me patronising looks. But the last straw was when I saw I’d finished every single thing on my ‘To Do’ list three weeks in advance. Let’s just say, when one gets mocked from the afore-mentioned one’s’ ‘To Do’ list, the said one should just get out of the freaking room, put on quasi-clean clothes and breathe in the exhaust fumes of the city for lung exercise. Also, my argument that I stayed in my room all the time as an existential rebellion to all the world’s problems didn’t impress my friend too much. What can I say? Intelligence isn’t everyone’s forté.
In the days I spent not talking to most of humanity, some interesting trends have sprouted. A very popular one is to silence any Lady each time the topic of conversation goes vaguely near to sex, sexuality, expression of sex and especially consent. Don’t believe it? The following is a real conversation between me and a Dude.
“Me: I actually pretty much disliked Sex and the City 2. All that extravagance, the big labels and absolute insensitivity to POC just got to me. Plus the whole idea that women can be ‘free’ and have sex without guilt was the raison d’être for the series. In the movie, the only person who does end up having sex is Samantha. Most of the characters have become complacent caricatures of their former fierce selves.
Dude : Why would you even watch it? Shrek is out too. Isn’t Sex and the City a little inappropriate? Our culture does not advocate women to become sluts. All that free sex everywhere, what messages are they giving women? This can’t be considered as ‘good’ surely.
Me : Our culture tells women not to be ‘sluts’ but men can whore around as much they want under the supremely annoying trope that ‘Men are like that’? Any reasonable person can see how ridiculous this is! Also, what is so wrong with free sex? Especially when it comes to women’s choice to have free sex, everyone puckers up like a soddy grape and when men are ‘sluts’ you applaud them, think of them as your heroes! Isn’t that a little unfair? And it’s not like women don’t have/like sex. They are just expected to keep quiet about it, among many other problematic things.
Dude : That’s not unfair! It’s India! We don’t talk of sex or our sex lives. This isn’t the U.S!
Me: Correction – WOMEN can’t speak of sex. I can’t believe I’m having this conversation again! Also, this isn’t the 1900’s anymore. Jeez you belong in Victorian England.
Dude : You’re a man-hater! Of course you think this way. You’re nothing but Westernised trash.”
You can see why I chose to ignore this particular part of humanity. As much as I want to make-believe that it’s just this specific douche dude who has such hang-ups about women’s sexuality and The Olde Double Standarde; he behaves so because he has had a deeply troubled childhood where no one really loved him, that’s why he spews so much slander around; on an extremely real level, I know he’s not the only one (Note to self: Recovering Optimists Anonymous meeting tomorrow). There’s nothing shocking about this double standard — it’s older than the zit on my face, this I understand. What I refuse to understand is just why everything I say is used against my status as a Lady.
Last week we were sitting around a coffee table, speaking of another couple we know. This couple in question is supposedly having troubles in the ‘sex-department’ and all the Dudes were speculating who wasn’t performing according to their prescribed gender roles, questions regarding both of their sexuality and sexual prowess are tossed around, the Dudes settle in a conversation that’s quickly setting itself for an endless round of “If it were up to me, this is what I’d do…” and then plunge into excruciating detail to the technical aspects of positions, girth, speed and a million other things as the girls fiddle with their hair, try to see this monologue to a visible end.
When my friend and I suggested that just maybe it’s their business and we should keep out of it, we were rewarded with the labels of being ‘prude’ and ‘frigid’. When we tried to participate in the debate, we were accorded with laughs and guffaws, expressions like, “These two are going to tell US about sex! Let’s hear these women silly, infantile LadyBrains speak, might make for excellent mocking material later”. When I said that we’re just as likely to know and talk about sex, without guilt and shame (two words that are always used ad naseum when the issue of women’s sexual expression comes up here), immediately my status as a verifiable source was questioned. I had two options, admit that I do know about sex and let their creativity run amok imagining me in various accommodating positions or I keep quiet, decline that I know anything about sex. As tempted I was to tell them the truth, I couldn’t risk them knowing, my parents knowing, the world knowing. So, I shut the hell up. Mission accomplished said the Dudes expressions while I felt like bursting into tears.
As Indian women, we’re denied the right to public or private assertions of our sex-life, enjoying our body, taking control; even within the boundaries of marriage. We try to voice our opinions on sex and every other time the DudeCouncil interjects, telling us what we should do and like; always taking refuge in the horrendous standby that “Good Indian women shouldn’t talk of this (‘this’ is code for SEX in India). None of our Goddesses, role models etc sit around like those Western sluts talking about men like that. Yes, sex within marriage is good and desirable. It’s up to you and your husband to decide what you want in there. What’s the point of talking about it?” — Patriarchal translation: “Your sexual expression depends on the mercy of your husband. If I were you, I’d start fasting for a compassionate husband instead of talking to us.”
The debate of women being homosexuals or trans-gendered is limited only to our heads as Indian lesbians and trans-gendered people are an extremely closeted community as opposed to the relatively more publicly visible Indian gay men. If I’ll ever dare to speak up on behalf of Indian lesbians or trans-gendered people, there is a good possibility that more unnecessary tags will be attached to my name which can possibly ‘destroy’ my reputation in the closed Hindu community I belong to, much to the embarrassment of my parents.
This is the exact reason I chose stay in my room for as long as I could help it. I promise myself that one day, I’ll speak up, set the record straight and talk about all the things I’ve been silent about; all the things I’m forced to be silent about everyday. Today, however, is not that day.