Like a virgin

30 06 2010

Did you know…that the hymen is named after Hymenaios, who was the Greek god of weddings and marriages?

And do you know what thousands of young women in Sri Lanka are anxious about?
It’s virginity.

A young woman once wrote to me saying “I am a 19 year old girl. I’m getting married in three months to a boy that my parents have found for me. I am bit nervous about the marriage and the customs. Can you tell me how I can know about virginity?”

Working with young people, I get asked a lot of strange questions but this one was tough to answer, not least because this is something I so rarely think about! I was saddened to learn that even in this day and age women are expected to ‘prove’ their virginity. This involves having intercourse on a white sheet, (or on the man’s new white sarong, worn at the wedding). The sheets are later examined by the bride’s in-laws and the bloodstains will decide her fate. If the sheets are clean, there is a problem.

The very idea freaked me out, but more than that I was intensely disturbed that in the 21st century this sort of thing still happens. So I wrote to her saying that as far as I knew virginity refers to whether a person has ever had sexual intercourse. If they have not, they are virgins. The only real way one can know if a person is a virgin is if they tell you. Of course some people associate virginity with the breaking of the hymen in a woman.

People also believe that all women are born with a hymen. (The fact is that about 0.03% of women are born without a hymen.). And as the hymen has perforation anyway, it technically doesn’t need to be broken.

But besides all this scientific information about the hymen and virginity, I told her the real problem was how the concept of virginity is often used as a means of controlling women’s sexuality. People holding power over women’s lives including parents, older relatives and community leaders, often control how a woman proves if she is a virgin and how important this is in her life as well. This is dangerous because virginity is then equated with morality and virtue. People who have never had sex before marriage are not necessarily better, cleaner or more virtuous human beings than those who have. Virginity has always been used to  judge and control women and this cannot be just or right.

This was the real message I wanted to give her but I wondered how, even if she received it, she would deal with the inevitability of her wedding night blues?





All time favourite books…

26 06 2010

1.

A word child Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch is possibly my favorite writer and this may be my all time favourite book. It is the first book by her that I ever read, and I like it because it deals with obsession, guilt, human nature, time and love. It is the story of an (anti) hero – a man who works with and is fascinated by words, who is doomed to repeat the most significant mistake of his life. Murdoch writes brilliantly as always, and she always lets her readers draw their own conclusions.

Written on the body Jeanette Winterson

I like Jeanette Winterson’s preoccupations with love, loss, magic and quantum physics. But also because this is one of the few books that ever made me weep.

Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck

This review says it all.

“What it’s all about are friendships and the dynamics of interpersonal dealings between immortal characters. Immortal in that every generation has their Pilons and Dannys, and of having things that you can hold in your own hand versus things that cannot ultimately be bought or sold. The appeal is due in part to the similarities in our own lives and in the lives of others. In every Steinbeck novel is a little gift of insight. This has many.”

Also although the book is set in California, it always reminds me of Sri Lanka and people I have known.

2.

John Irving

Lets just say I love all his books – I love the bears, the sex workers, the boxers and the struggling authors that live in every one of them. He is a master story teller and wonderful entertainer. I loved The Hotel New Hampshire most of all: it made me think about the attraction of the forbidden.

Graphic novels

I love graphic novels. My three favorites are The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Kari by Amruta Patil. Although very different, they each deal with something close to my heart or something I am fascinated with. There is something wonderful about this art form that appeals to me. It’s like reading a movie. When I was a teenager, I read the movie “Grease” as a comic and ever since then I have actively searched for this form of writing/drawing.

Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides

I loved this book because it made me question my assumptions about sex and sexuality. I read it early in my coming out days and it threw open a whole plethora of questions. The fact that I still remember the story line and can easily recall some of what I felt when reading it, reminds me that it was one of my favorite books!

3.

Daughter of Fortune Isabel Allende

Most times the books we read resonate because of the particular moment we read it in I think. Every time I think of this book, I remember the road to the library in Harlem and the book’s beautiful thick cream pages with large letters. The prose is lyrical; it makes you want to visit Chile, and is sweeter and more romantic in mood than The House of the Spirits. I discovered my love for magic realism with this book.

The Harry Potter series JK Rowling

I love the magic in these books – witches, wizards, beasts that talk, spell making, all of it. I like the author’s use of the many classical mythological references in the naming of things, it adds layers of meaning. My favorite book is the first one and I don’t think the entire series is perfect, but it is still a series I read over and over again, especially when I feel sad.

A short history of nearly everything Bill Bryson

If you are wondering why I am including a pop-science book in this, the answer is I am a geek. The other answer is that it is a well-written book on science and makes things from super-volcanoes to atoms to black holes seem more titillating than porn.





Time passed is time past

25 06 2010

The river

the river

said Heraclitus.

you think

it is the same

you think you know

how time passed

but

this river is not

the river you knelt in.

time passed is time past,

this water

is not that water,

the cool green water

your feet rippled in

that water is far away

and you will never know

the brown leaves

silvery fish shadows

twisting in the foam.

you will only know memories

dredged up

fished out

grabbed

through the sieve.

time passed is time past.





Whorephobia

24 06 2010

Whorephobia affects all women.
Women are brought up to think of sex workers as ‘bad women’. It stops them taking advantage of many freedoms…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/23/sex-workers-whorephobia





Citizenship, homosexuality and equal opportunities

20 06 2010

“For those of us who are heterosexual and conform to the sexual behaviour expected of us, we enjoy the perks of citizenship without much thought. But the recent events held to commemorate Pride week, and discussions held around issues that haunt the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) communities in Sri Lanka, brought up the fact that, for these communities, citizenship remains a vexed legal, socio-political subject….”

http://catseyesrilanka.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/citizenship-homosexuality-and-equal-opportunities/





Having lesbian babies: or looking at the sky through the eye of the needle

17 06 2010

There’s a lot of baby talk going around these days. I thought it was only us here, but there was our sister from lesbian neurotica commenting on the article in Time as well. I like babies in the abstract. Like, I want people to have them only if they want children. Like, it irritates me when people smoke with kids around. Like, it pisses me off when the state messes with the education system. There is all of that. But when the baby is in the room I can only admire from two feet away.

When I was straight, my mouth would set in a mutinous line when the boyfriend talked of children. But as a lesbian I felt I should support my partner if she wanted a baby. If she loved babies at least as much as I loved dogs, it was sad not to be able to have a kid. NOT a comparison. NOT. But. I can’t think of not having dogs in my life. So imagine seeing kids all around you and not being able to have one for yourself because of stupid reasons.

Like having to pretend you are married when you go to a hospital to get information on fertility. Can’t they just imagine you are a loose woman and still give you the correct info??

Like trying to find a gay-friendly gynaecologist who won’t have a fit when a woman walks in and says ‘me want baby without man around’. Needle in haystack, what!

Like not being able to adopt because you are not married to a man. And look at all those idiot families neglecting kids and those other kids who are in orphanages.

Like not being able to be artificially inseminated if you are not married and the husband hasn’t consented. What the fuck? Maybe the hospitals can start off a side business in marriage brokering.

I can’t even begin to say what a froth all this gets me into. But hey, we have our means.

wink





Man and man, woman and woman

16 06 2010

Politicians in Iceland have passed a law legalising gay marriage…

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/06/11/icelands-parliament-unanimously-approves-gay-marriage/