Superstitious sex

30 03 2010

As we have all discussed on this blog so often and as we all know, Sri Lankan society is deeply conservative and superstitious, and matters of sex and sex education have always been taboo subjects, mostly viewed with suspicion, shame and fear. There is also the belief that sex education leads to more sex.

As a result and as we have also ranted here, there are widespread problems of inappropriate, predatory and ignorant male behaviour both in public and private situations which every Sri Lankan woman would have experienced to some degree.

It is very clear that we need massive changes in attitudes towards sex and reproduction, starting from the top – through government policy, educators and parents. And one very important factor of change would obviously be educating young people about desire, sex and sexual health so that they can be comfortable with these concepts and reach a more liberal and informed position from which to deal with these issues in their lives. This would help empower people by teaching them to manage their own desires and not resort to masturbating in public, for example!

Part of my work allows me to advocate for this. It is a very complex and controversial field to work in and very challenging as well, but I do have a passion for it.

Recently I conducted a workshop with some young people from Anuradhapura and Vavuniya. Initially the boys were very forthcoming and open while the girls were much more reserved. But on the second day things changed and the girls started talking more freely. One of the activities that helped us break through the silence was this: we asked the group to each make a list of all the myths they knew regarding the subject of sexual desire and function. We then analysed and discussed each one. What we discovered was that almost all of them were designed to increase people’s fear and caution around matters of sexual interaction. Here are some of the things I learned:

Masturbation makes you thin.
Masturbation gives you acne.
Fat women cannot give a man satisfaction.
If you have pre-marital sex you will faint away upon entering the marriage poruwa.
Eating pineapple can induce an abortion.
How to increase penis size (1): Watch the sun set into the sea very intently. At the exact moment the last rays fade into the ocean, quickly throw sand in your mouth.
How to increase penis size (2): Tie a rock to it, using string.

Feel free to comment and add to this list if you can!

My mother wished.

26 03 2010

I would eat what was put before me.
I would listen to what I was told.
I would stop sliding down the banisters headfirst.
I would stop playing rugby with boys.
I would stop breaking my teeth playing rugby with boys.
I would brush my hair.
I would wear dresses.
I would learn to sew.
I would continue piano lessons.
I would continue ballet lessons.
I would go to Sunday Mass.
I would go to Sunday School.
I would go to school more often.
I would sit for exams.
I would pass exams.
I would read the Bible.
I would not ask about sex.
I would not lock my door.
I would have more friends.
I would have more boyfriends.
I would have fewer friends.
I would have fewer boyfriends.
I would get married.
I would get married in church.
I wouldn’t get married and leave home.
I would have children.
I would not get divorced.
I would ask my brothers and sisters to visit her.
I would visit her.
I would ask my brothers and sisters to call her.
I would call her.
I would change my ways.
I would stop falling in love with women.

Getting on the long distance railroad, aka an LDR

22 03 2010

A close friend once told me ‘don’t do a long distance relationship’. But the thing with long distance relationships is that you sometimes don’t have a choice. Or you do (you always have a choice, right?), but it’s not a choice you feel you have. A long time ago, when I was planning a lengthy stay away from my girlfriend, a friend asked me, “are you going to break up before you leave?” The question seemed ludicrous. Why would I end a stable, wholesome, loving relationship just because I was leaving for a while?

ldrMany years later, another friend asked me why I couldn’t ‘fix’ things in a relationship that had already come through the long distance railroad with flying colours. And I thought back and realised it hadn’t come through with flying colours. Many things that went wrong stemmed from that time apart. The signs are there, you just don’t see them. We think nostalgically about planning the day without having to think of another person’s schedule. We resent not being able to go out whenever one wants to go out. We wish things were the way they were ‘before’ the lengthy stay apart. But you don’t know how to get the train back on track. Or maybe you do but you don’t want to. Or maybe you want to but don’t know how. Who knows.


"...and despite dna predictions of incompatibility"

Or maybe, it was just the differences that grew over the time spent apart. So, the distance only showed you the cracks and you don’t know how to fill them up. Or maybe you do but you don’t want to. Or maybe you want to but don’t know how. Who knows.

Are you a good liar?

20 03 2010

Write to us!

Intelligent life

16 03 2010

Guilt by association

10 03 2010

Recently I met a young woman who was questioning her sexuality. (Read: ‘extremely closeted’). We met through a mutual friend who felt it would be good if the three of us got together so her friend could talk to another queer person in friendly company. I suggested meeting in a cafe in Colombo but was told it was too public. So then I suggested a more obscure, quieter place that I knew would be deserted on a Saturday afternoon. And so we met and chatted and actually had a lovely time. I was really pleased to have met her. She reminded me of myself in some ways.. a younger me. I tried to reach out to her and reassure her that it was perfectly normal to be going through the feelings and experiences she was but I am not sure I made any sense at all.

Later, I wondered – why was she so afraid to be seen with me in public? What was it? What if people saw us together? Would they wonder how we knew each other? Would they think – how come we were friends? Or was she afraid that people would see her with me – someone who is very publicly out as a lesbian, and start thinking – Oh, so maybe she’s a lesbian too?

Was this feeling of ‘guilt by association’ so strong that she had to hide? Should I feel offended that she was ashamed or guilty to be seen with me in public? Do I look that dykey? (No, I was not wearing my “I love my girlfriend” t-shirt) or should I just try to be understanding and remember how it was for me all those years ago, when I was coming out?

And everything in between

8 03 2010

“Butches are known by their appearance, femmes by their choices.” Joan Nestle

I like girls. The experts around me sometimes tell me I am a butch dyke. I intensely dislike being told who I am and what my own little personal definition is going to be. I am extremely wary of being defined at all but writing this forces me to look at this matter of identity.

I am not very keen on anything that categorises people although I know it is inevitable. (Virtually every choice in life puts one into some demographic or the other after all). But I don’t think that the relief of conformity that comes with embracing these groupings is worth the blocking of other information that goes with that decision…like evangelical christians and gay people, who often seem to have so much in common – we tend to interact with our own groups almost exclusively and so continuously reinforce what we already choose to believe and feel. I do not choose the titles of butch or femme or any other for myself. But I do see that people very consciously choose and need religion and other groupings to belong to and that they may also need the reassurance of clear definitions of identity in their lives.

Years ago, I have to admit to doing my share of clomping around in Doc Martens, jeans and shirts in the fiery heat of Colombo, simply to broadcast the point that I was a dyke and I would dress as I pleased. But now I really don’t care about any of the accessories, for myself or for others. I like girls…femme, butch, whatever they choose to call themselves. But I like them for their characters, their humor, their strength and their tenderness to me. I am attracted to butch girls’ androgyny and the huge energy they have, which I do not possess myself. I am also attracted to femme girls’ knowledge of their own power, their lack of need to explain themselves and their desire for butch girls. It is these things that I love, not their definitions of themselves.

Here are some generalizations of my very own. Butch girls are sometimes thorny, controlling and insecure. They are also competent, logical and sometimes dearly loved in the mainstream world where they could have close male friends. They are resilient, having spent lots of time trying to lure girls into bed and have a good sense of humor from learning to handle rejection since they were ten.

Butch girls are usually strong and are frequently into competitive sports. They are ferociously attached to their personal fashion choices and wear their pants and shoes and hair like weapons against a hostile world. Since they are visibly different, they have to fight harder.

Femme girls are delightful. They are quite aware of their massive power which they are capable of using quite ruthlessly when necessary. They also possess the softest hearts and can be persuaded into the wildest activities, sexual and otherwise, by smart butches. Since they do not have to deal with the battle against the mainstream world as much as butch girls do, femme girls are often more relaxed about themselves and their choices. But this also means they are not always forced to think too deeply about these choices and what they imply. Femme girls are usually gorgeous and funny and in many ways are quite like straight girls, except that they are fatally attractive to butch girls and they know it.

Femmes are perhaps best described as lesbian, bisexual, and queer women whose manner and style falls along the lines of what is traditionally considered feminine. Whereas butches are sometimes accused of trying to be men, femmes are sometimes accused -by other lesbians -of donning accoutrements of traditional femininity to pass as straight in the mainstream world. Actually, however, femme lesbians subvert prescribed sexual and gender roles by co-opting conventional ‘womanly’ traits to indicate their attraction to other women.


This may not always be true in real life but it is a revolutionary idea so I like it.

And then there’s all that lies between…the soft butch girls sexy in short skirts, the strong femme girls in charge of their lives – and all the physical and emotional characteristics that we lesbians exchange and share. And in the end I don’t think there is any final definition of femme or butch that covers it all anyway. How could there be?

Why do women want to be like men?

5 03 2010

As women’s day approaches I wanted to write and reflect a little bit on what it means to me. Sometimes I talk to friends and colleagues (who are not necessarily feminists) and they ask me questions like “Why would we want men and women to be equal?” or “Why do women want to be like men?”

Actually, I don’t want to be like any man I know. I don’t want men and women to be exactly the same either. It is our differences that make us interesting as individuals. What I do believe however, is that men and women should be given the same opportunities to be the best they can be; so for example, if there is money enough to send either me or my brother for higher studies, I want to be given the opportunity to qualify too. If there is fish for lunch, as a daughter I should be given the same share as my brother. If my father owns a piece of land, I want equal share in it with my brother. I believe in equality.

National decisions that affect us all are made by members of a parliament. They decide if I should pay an additional 3% as Nation Building Tax when buying clothes for my kids; they decide if we should start another university in Sri Lanka; they decide if young adults should be taught about sex in schools; they decide which laws should stay and which should go and they decide if I am a criminal because I love another woman.

The national parliament has 225 seats. I want women and men to have an equal number of seats and an equal voice.

I somehow know my mother understands me much better than my father; her voice is stronger even though it may not be louder. I want to hear her – and women like her, as strong voices in parliament. I want a woman who knows and understands me to speak about the issues that affect me. I don’t believe a man can do justice to this.

There are 960 million illiterate adults in the world. 640 million are female. Why?

There are 130 million children not enrolled in primary school. 90 million are girls. Why?

Parliamentary seats worldwide: only 11% occupied by women.

In Sri Lanka it is 3%! Why?

Total land in the world: only 10% owned by women. Why?

This is what I question and this is what I believe needs to change. For me this is what Women’s Day is about – its about questioning and changing and equity.

International Women’s Day is on March 8th.

A small moan…

2 03 2010