Disclaimer: The author doesn’t mean to generalize anyone, she believes #NotAllPakistanis. She is all for girls in burkas who breakdance, men who cook (where are you?), and considers aaloo in biryani a normal phenomenon
It’s just another day, you’re strolling in the campus grounds, surfing the internet for memes, or casually making small talk, and a conversation about suppressed female sexuality comes about. Now after the myriad of 2am conversations that were a little TOO honest and hours and hours of debate on the topic in libraries, cafes, and car rides, I’ve realized that even in a place that doesn’t have considerable openness about such topics, I’ve been pretty lucky to find people who don’t sue me for using my right of free speech.
There’s a slight chance you’ll find yourself in a discussion with that girl your mom wishes you were more like. She is either a close friend of yours or someone you accidentally became friends with. Shareef AF, covers her head, knows how to cook all eastern dishes, offers Fajar and watches the 8pm soap drama. She may be smart and understand the lows and highs of suffocating khandani culture, but she still knows exactly which crockery is for guests, and which for daily use.
When you talk to her about these things, at first she hesitates and tries to find comfort in “hamari society aur religion” but sooner or later she realizes the limitations she’s been conditioned to. However, this girl takes on the role of sanskari bahu and knows her well-being that of her family lies in negotiation with the tradition.
Then there’s the friend you thank God for, every day. When you first met her, she seemed like the girl next door. It was only way later that you realized that she too has all the weird and crazy quirks. She also pays for herself on dates, likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. She has her family blocked from Facebook (good call) and fangirls with you over the trailer of movies like Lipstick Under My Burka and then goes on lengthy rants when it gets banned. She joins you in fighting the patriarchy and always has your back.
God forbid, you engage in this conversation with an unsuspecting guy who was just looking for casual conversation. This is the guy who never intended to launch into a detailed discussion about any sexuality let alone, about women. He never expected you to talk about it either, because…well… it’s taboo, you’re a girl, he’s a guy, you’re not supposed to talk about things like that! He’s going to blush the moment you mention anything in the context. He’ll be baffled and runaway, but be prepared to catch weird looks from him later.
Then comes the counterpart to your gal pal, the guy who’s just as done with society as you are. There’s no telling how many rants you’ve gone on together, about desi parents, gender stereotyping and general restrictive environments. When you open a discussion about female sexuality, he will generally be in support. He’s sick of the “hamara beta, hamara sahara: hamare ghar ka rakhwala” just as much as you are of the “hamari beti, hamari izzat: hamari khandani amanat”. Also known as the “gay best friend but not gay” in situations where he’s not listening, there have been multiple times when you rolled your eyes because someone thought you two must be dating, which is exactly why you’re both so done.
Like everything else, these conversations have their ups and downs, sometimes you realize you’re not alone in the boat to self-awareness and other times you think it’s a lost cause. Often, people share their experiences with you but still no one expects girls to just be girls. They have to be the sophisticated lady-like beings who always carry embroidered handkerchiefs and appear shocked at the mention of anything such. Topics like sex and anything related are shunned and regarded with disgust. No one really talks about it except in select circles where they know they won’t be judged. Half of my female friends didn’t even know their own anatomy until their late teens.
I agree that in a place like our homeland, it’s not just female sexuality that’s repressed, and we have a long way to go, many other things to set free before that. If it’s something related to anywhere above your ankles and below your neck, you better not think about it. There are women who would let their minimal disease grow into something that can’t be cured, just because they’re too scared to tell anyone. #FreetheNipple seems like a shabby joke when you can’t even free your mind to think. But of course, everyone knows about men taking matters into their own hands.
I still remember the curious stage in my tweens when we were starting to menstruate and got to know all about penetration and pregnancy, wet dreams and the male climax. Nobody talked about what happened in women’s bodies or what changes we were going to go through. No one told us about the anatomy, down there, and believe me or not, we were too scared to look – at our own bodies. We were told that we were ‘supposed to have blood’, so one day we could have a different kind between the legs and bear the offspring for our one and only mijazi khuda and boy, it would be painful. No one told us that it didn’t have to be painful, that it could be pleasurable, in fact, and that there was more to sex than having children.
In the West, they talk about physical pleasure, and discuss what is and isn’t a myth. And here I’ve met women whose sense of awareness of their body has been numbed down one comment at a time. They’ve always been told what to do and what not to do, disregarding their own preferences. Even I have always been told that this is all dirty, distasteful and contemptuous. I should have nothing to do with it. Don’t touch it, don’t feel it, just do nothing and pretend it doesn’t exist. And then after more than two decades of considering it the most disgusting thing anyone could do, just sign a piece of paper and go wild, we need a child.