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?





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





I come from the hair belt!

5 06 2010

I have a love hate relationship with my hair.

I love the hair on my head. I wash it almost daily, shampoo it up to a big white lather, condition it and am constantly playing with it. I go through periods of wondering if it’s falling, trying to grow it out, cropping it short, coloring it, hiding the grey, loving the grey and buying hair shine products that hardly ever work.

The hair on my body is another story. I’m constantly trying to remove it or to discover a method to remove it forever. I haven’t succeeded. But not for want of trying – I think my hair is very stubborn… like the rest of me.

As a teenager I used to wax my legs. I remember my first wax. It was just before my uncle’s wedding. I was 16. My mum took me to an Indian lady’s house where I had to lay down under a slow-turning ceiling fan while she proceeded to rip my hair out using just one ball of wax. It was excruciatingly painful. She used the same ball of wax, pressing and stretching it out to cover one part of my leg, pulling out the hair, kneading it into a ball again, and stretching it out over the next bit of young flesh. In less than an hour, I was hair-free and clean.

But the problem with starting waxing is that you have to keep it up. Since then I have waxed religiously every month, sometimes every 6 weeks. The worst is when you are approaching a period, the pain is heightened and I scream out loud!

I have tried other less painful ways though. One involved lasers. My dermatologist told me this works best on fair-skinned people with thick, dark hair. I was a good candidate she said – not as perfect as some Arab women but perfect enough. I went to six sittings; the hair under attack was my moustache and the hair under my arms. After spending a shitload of money, I was still left with some hair, but it was scantier.

I have also tried an epilator. This appeals to me as it allows me to grow my leg-hair to resemble that of a grizzly. My niece named me hairy-beary! But epilating is messy and takes too much time and you can’t always get every hair you want. The back of my thighs was particularly challenging.

But my legs, moustache, chin and underarms are just the beginning. And no, I am not referring to my privates before you start thinking of that. I do have hair in other unwanted places. For example, I have a love trail. This is caused by the hair on my tummy leading down to my pleasure pot – hence the name love trail. My girlfriend thinks it’s cute but that’s because she is hairless – as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom – and I envy every bit of her.

My friend K and I had a discussion once about how leg hair removal is a manifestation of one’s social class. For example, in Sri Lanka, women from privileged backgrounds almost always wax, shave, epilate, use electrolysis, or laser away unwanted hair.  But all this costs money and needs to be done frequently. So not everyone can afford it.

Some lesbians I know choose to keep their body hair as a political statement. I don’t mind hair on other women, but on myself it bothers me endlessly. I just have to tweeze that millimeter of hair on my chin or else I won’t be able to sleep at night!

So I have resigned myself to it. I come from the hair belt! It’s kind of like a volcanic belt or a forest belt and it is definitely geographical. Being hairy is in my genes. I know some men of my ethnicity who are like gorillas – with hair that extends from one end of their bodies to the other. (Wall to wall carpeting, I call it.) But this isn’t cool or acceptable on a woman!

How is it that men can get away with being so hairy and women can’t? When will it be cool to be hairy? I want to be cool and hairy. But for now, I have to stop writing this post because I feel a follicle erupting in my chin and I have to rush to find one of my four tweezers… Good night!





Starting over

26 05 2010

It’s like starting over.

Like being born again.

Not like an evangelical Christian, although I have heard that many lesbians are Christians too. Seems like a paradox to me, considering all the ways in which a lesbian just is, all the ways in which you find yourself defying, denying and redefining what it is to be a woman, most of which are surely contrary to any christian teaching? I couldn’t imagine going into church and lining up good and proper, ready to join in the singing with all the other straightfaced, straightlaced, straightpeople – husbands leading, wives following, children and pets bringing up the rear. After fucking a woman you love, can you really imagine straightening yourself like that?

I couldn’t.

All that mad lust and abandonment. And that’s besides the abandonment of practically everything we’ve been taught to honor, respect and obey; all those lessons we spend practically our entire lifetimes unlearning?

But anyway. As I was saying.

Oh yeah. The starting over thing. It’s kind of like when you realize finally, or maybe like some of us, very slowly and hesitantly over a very long period of time – that that’s what it was all about. That all those years you spent trailing around the schoolyard behind that one, to-your-dazzled-eyes abso-fucking-lutely beautiful girl – just watching, (stalking probably,) actually meant something? When you actually start thinking – I like, no maybe I love.

Her.

Agh.

Better not share this information with my mother or sister. Not when I’m twelve and all they’re hoping for is that I’ll win the English prize this year too.

I remember spending every single break at school, munching on a Chinese roll and following the adored one and her noisy gang of friends, everywhere they went. I would watch their games, trail along the edge of the wall as they galloped along, absorbed in their own pursuits and never noticing me. Which was a very good thing too. They would have crucified me if they had guessed what I was doing. But I didn’t really know what I was doing myself, so how could they?

Or maybe like some of my friends who shall remain nameless for now- maybe you had all these furtive but delicious boarding school experiences that put you on the right track since you were six…?

O lucky, lucky.

Falling in love with the little girl in the next bed. Or next desk in class. Meeting behind the rosebushes at the corner of Block C. Exchanging notes. Whispering ‘I love you!’ Holding sweaty hands and feeling terrified but not really knowing why. Kissing.

It just feels so good it has to be wrong.

But as I was saying.

Like starting over. From like, zero. You have to re-learn everything. Everything. The clothes, the shoes, the hair, (Oh the hair!), the whole look. Then there’s the stuff inside your head. All the anxiety. The guilt, the rage, the fear… and maybe hardest of all – the becoming aware. Your eyes open, your body changes, your skin feels different. And all this takes years to get used to. Years of fears. And tears.

And everyone around you behaves differently. Didn’t they?

No? Well maybe you had a smooth transition! Maybe you’re from London or San Francisco or Sydney or some other superfucking cool, self-consciously liberated city like that. Mardi gras and dykes on bikes and everyone out and proud and free. Maybe you grew up with queer parents even. Maybe it was easier to be queer than straight in your neighbourhood. Maybe it was all sharp haircuts, tattoos and piercings everywhere you looked, and lots of great footwear. And everybody fucking absolutely everybody else since they were practically twelve.

O boy.

(Or maybe you’re just too smart to let on to us brown, timid, south asian girls that your experience was pretty much and awkwardly the same. White people/brown people living in white places….must be cool above all, after all. Ha.)

But we’re no hothead paisans…not me, and not my friends. We had to claw our way into the space we have made and a small fucking space it is too. And that’s what I’m writing about, I think. Our space and how we got here. In this third world, war torn, poverty stricken, uneducated, nationalistic, moralistic, feudal, homophobic, chauvinistic, self-righteous, corrupt, militarized, paradoxical, sad and crumbling beautiful city, we huddle together, hoping that no one of us has to leave for any reason, yet unable to withhold support from any one of us who’s lucky enough to go.

This is our life. We chose it, we live it. This is our country. We complain about everything. The people, the politics, the war, the foreigners, the locals, the food, the cost of living, the war, the roads, the men, the women, the neighbours, the schools, the war the war the war. But we love it. Like our horrible Siamese twin, we are attached to it and would miss it if we lost it. You could offer us any city in the world and we might even go. Some of our merry little band now live in Australia, after all. Freezing their asses off, working like slaves and missing home – but loving the law and order, the freedom and anonymity of life in a first world city.

We, on the other hand, are the stay-at-homes who would always want to rush back.

Now we have peace. And here we all still are.

Starting over. At home.





One third of me is an activist

9 05 2010

One of the things that emotional upheavals bring to my life is obsessive introspection. It makes me look at the run-up to the whirlpool that happened. It makes me look at my actions and it makes me try to make sense of who I am. I didn’t think of myself as an activist until I woke up one day and heard that what I was doing was called activism. I had worked with other groups with a passion for a cause but they had not called themselves activists. Was there such a thing as a professional activist?

I had no issues though. The experience was the same. There is a group of people. They espouse a certain cause. With passion. They live by the principles it entails. I was familiar with this scenario. I had been brought up on the exploits of revolutionaries and too many red shirts around the house. I knew what was expected. Heck, I expected it of others. What is it that working on rights entails that other ‘professions’ don’t have to deal with?

To look for this difference I had to think of myself in different professions: policewoman, accountant, software engineer, data analyst, graphic designer. Why does that FEEL different? If you ignore someone’s intention of suicide, can you tell people you work to prevent suicide? Can you fight for child rights and ignore the 14 year old servant in your mother’s house?  Look the other way and you compromise your principles. And ethics. And values. When you work for a cause, you give your life over.

Activists who think of it as a job? Sounds odd.





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!





I need you

28 02 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxq-wCf5G8o

Anyone who’s ever been in love would have used the words ‘I love you’ at some point of their campaign of persuasion. And most people over the age of four would have heard and understood the phrase at some point of their lives.  ‘I love you’ is possibly the most emotionally moving, courageous and meaningful thing anyone can say to another person and it takes precedence over any other claim that a lover especially, might make. ‘I love you’ has the power to remove all doubt, reaffirm one’s faith and even perhaps re-create feelings which might be fading away. ‘I love you’ is magical.

The words ‘I need you’ though, are not half as exciting and are not advertised half as often as ‘I love you’ in popular music and culture – implying as they do a more selfish wanting which is not necessarily a compliment. Unless of course you are of a masochistic turn of mind. And that’s the thing.

People leave relationships for all kinds of reasons. Discoveries of sexual incompatibility, differing life-agendas, infidelity and boredom are some of the common reasons one hears. (There are lots more of course, such as violence, mental trauma and other psychological issues which are more complex). Excessive neediness by one person however, is not really seen as a valid reason for the other to leave a relationship, possibly because it is not often very obvious and can take years to manifest itself to its true maximum potential of horror. Indeed, a person ditching someone for reasons of simple boredom might be astonished by the levels of uncontrolled insecure behaviour they could be forced to witness from a previously calm and stable individual. But how could we not know this about them? Is it an entirely new development in their character? Can we simply blame them and quietly sneak off or do we too have a responsibility for their condition? Why have we spent so many years with someone whose black hole of neediness is now driving us away? Can we honestly claim that we were not attracted to and turned on by this very need? Didn’t it appear to be sweetly vulnerable and didn’t it arouse all our most protective instincts – back then? Before it turned into this monster? Neediness could be the reason so many of us are in co-dependent relationships, that weirdly work if both parties are on the same page but not if one person decides to grow or change.

We all have needs, and these are mostly made manifest in our love relationships. And while we know that the failings of our childhood relationships with our parents almost always drive the flaws within the relationships we have as adults, it is interesting to observe how neediness works across all ages to different degrees. Since many of us have huge insecurities about ourselves, we seek to find the perfect partner. That is, one who will validate our lives, boost our egos and give us unconditional love. This is not easy. Some people spend their entire lives seeking their Soul Mate and most never find them. Most other people, gay or straight, settle for the closest thing and if this means compromising on attributes such as strength of character, will-power or critical analysis skills, then we are usually willing to do it. And some of us find our partner’s failings and flaws very attractive. Their fears, phobias and little white lies might be enchanting at first. In time however, the cost may be high and distressful.

In Sri Lanka as elsewhere, many straight relationships and marriages are founded on common interests, mutual benefit, social acceptance and family values. Gay relationships are not always so clearly defined and certainly do not have the public and private support systems that straight people can access. Sexual attraction is often a primary driving force and other factors may not be considered so important when falling in love, especially in a small queer community such as ours where choices are limited anyway. And neediness manifested appropriately can be the best means by which to attract lovers, especially in lesbian relationships. Many ‘fragile’ femme women’s maternal instincts are aroused by their ‘strong’ butch women’s need for mothering (which can lead to lasting relationships). However it could be that in crisis, the butch identified woman might completely lose the plot while the fragile femme might reveal herself to be the real Schwarzenegger of the two.

It is an interesting paradox. The very characteristics that many of us claim to aspire to and celebrate – independence, strength and unwillingness towards emotional manipulation, are not our most common experiences on the route to finding companionship and love. The refusal to use the weapon of need is rare. In reality the woman whose inner strength is too apparent could be so intimidating that few women and fewer men, would dare approach.

Where lies the difference between one person’s desire for honest intimacy and the other’s desire simply to possess?





Let’s get nekkid

2 02 2010

lesbos statue

Isn’t it fascinating, this idea of the naked? Many years ago, a girl cousin who was in East Europe was talking about getting used to a new culture. To a group of extended family members (open-mouthed shock and prurient curiosity) she described the lack of doors (oh my god!) in the shower rooms, and how she first felt self-conscious but later got used to it –‘if you wanna look, you look’ (with a toss of her pretty dancer’s head).

But is nakedness or nudity or whatever you want to call it really such a strange thing? Zip around history and what do you see but butt-naked Olympians and voluptuous goddesses. Are those two men clutching each others’ oiled bodies having sex or is it just sports? Did prohibitions on women in single combat sports have anything to do with the exposure of the female body? And as Wiccans and Naga mystics can show us, you can reach god without clothes as well as with clothes!

Who knows why it is such a problematic thing today? But it is a tantalizing topic. Which is why we asked you how you felt about naked and this is what you came up with. Of course, we started the conversation with this:

Vak: Ok. since no one else wants to comment, I am going to be honest and say that I love being naked, and it makes me feel free and silky and sensual.

Varad: vulnerable.

Vatura: Real. Who invented clothes and modesty?

And these were your comments:

Sean: mmmm… comfortable

Anon 1: Liberated, perceptive and anti-social 🙂

Anon 2: I guess it’s a broad topic. I will write my idea about it in 2 ways. In short.

1) Me being naked – I feel shy being naked. Only feel comfy with my girlfriend.

Love to stay naked in bed all day with my naked GF 😉 Feels so great.

I don’t do public naked – ex -saunas because it make me feel uncomfortable staying with other people.

2) Others being naked – Love it when my girlfriend is naked 😉

In TV, Movies (Media) – I can’t say i don’t like watching naked girls 😉

MC: naked makes me feel exposed! naked with my significant other makes me feel intimate!

PP: on these days, cold 😀

Buwa: Being naked for me is more connected to being unrestrained,  free and light hearted  in my mind.  So I can attain the feelings Vak describes if I want to, even when I am fully clothed. 🙂

REPLY by Vak:

But that is not exactly the same sort of free and unrestrained that you have WITHOUT clothes! That is a free and unrestrained WITH clothes on no!

John: Vulnerable. It’s probably ‘cos I’m fat though!

REPLY by Varad:

Naa, most people think they are fatter than they really are…besides thank god we are all different sizes!

Delilah

beautiful – whatever my body may look like, even on bloated fat days, I FEEL more beautiful the instant i shed all my clothes.

So many different things we feel when we ‘shed our clothes’ as Delilah would say, and I am sure there are many more voices that were silent. Keep writing to us. We like it.





The strategies of sex

15 01 2010

Some time back we ran a post by Vak, titled ‘Words of wisdom on sex’ which posed some interesting questions about the problems associated with sustaining sexual interest in a monogamous relationship. We know that generally accepted evolutionary theory shows that the reasons for and levels of interest in sex with the same person over a long period of time are very different for men and women:

“Because reproduction is the key to survival of the human species, men appear to have developed a short-term sexual strategy, as men who pursue multiple partners are more likely to out-reproduce men with one partner. Therefore, men’s mating strategies includes a desire for sexual variety making the chances higher that if reproduction is not successful with one female, it will be with another.

According to the journal article Sex Differences in Sexual Psychology Produce Sex-Similar Preferences for a Short-Term Mate: Men desire nearly five times as many sexual partners than do women over a lifetime. Men’s sexual fantasies also reveal a psychology attuned to sexual variety. Men’s sexual fantasies more than women’s sexual fantasies include multiple and unfamiliar partners.

This modern day psychology of the human male is no doubt an offshoot from his male ancestors who were physiologically prompted to over-reproduce to insure survival of the species.

Women, on the other hand, do not appear to have such a physiological need to procreate with multiple males, as women do not compete with other females in terms of reproduction during sexual encounters. Therefore, short-term sexual partners for women may function only to evaluate possible long-term mates, and serve more of a social function whether than a sexual or reproductive one.”

http://socyberty.com/sexuality/sexual-attraction-evolution-and-biology/

So women are not so much interested in quantity as in quality. While men seek to mate with the maximum number of partners, women seek to locate the best possible partner – one who will father strong, healthy children and also stick around to help look after them.

When it comes to homosexuality, the above equation must change a lot. Since this type of sexual encounter does not result in offspring, natural selection cannot operate as usual. So I guess gay men and lesbians are more likely to be more interested in sex for the sake of pleasure!

Interestingly, in his book, Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation, Jim McKnight writes, “Homosexuality is a major puzzle for evolutionary theory, for if evolution has a purpose it is reproductive fitness, the passing of genes to our children.” Natural selection should weed out the less fit of the species and those who carry genes for a certain genetic anomaly breed less and diminish their genetic representation in the population.” McKnight indicates this should gradually flush out the “gay” gene since over several generations, homosexual men would produce less offspring and their genes would eventually fade from the gene pool. Biologically, this would mean that homosexuality has some function in nature, since well-adapted genes adapt and survive, and clearly, the genetic predisposition for homosexuality has done so… (See above link for more.)

We can draw our own conclusions from all this. Either way, the issues surrounding long term sexual relationships in a contemporary context do seem to be more complex than one would think!





What is love?

29 12 2009

Three of us pondered an ancient question.

1.

We talk about love so much, I don’t even know if there is anything much left worth saying about love. I mean, what is love anyway? A feeling? A chemical reaction? A moment? Someone meant to happen to you? Who knows?

One thing I’ve seen over the years is that there are very few ways we love. In between those few ways, there will be many shades. But really, there isn’t that much difference about the way we love whether we are male, female, lesbian or just plain straight.

Some hurt because they love and others cause hurt for love. You may want to keep her with you because you love and I may want to walk away because I love. In the end, what do you call love anyway?

Is it when you hurt so much that you feel you are in a bottomless pit and everything is dark around you? Is it when you look around and only see the gap the other person has left? Or is it being able to share the pain and chaos of everything around you? And feel secure and cherished? Or are they both love?

How do you love?

2.

Some people love by letting go. Like the old saying: “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you they’re yours, if they don’t it was never meant to be.”

I think that means – if someone wants to be with you they will. If they don’t they won’t! Not much we can do!

I used to love obsessively – write her name in my blood and carve it on my skin. But I was 13 then. I have not loved like that since. But that first love is the only one in which you are irrational and possessed. Every other love is more pondered upon; you are slower in letting go and slower in giving yourself. Indeed, I believe that in any true love one should not give oneself completely. You have to keep some part of yourself for yourself. It maintains your own self-respect and also that of the other person in your life. You are yourself first and only then one part of couple. If you are not strong, not self-respecting, then the couple will not be any of those things either.

3.

I think love is the hidden and very convoluted reason for everything everyone does in their life – whoever they are. Even the murderer’s motives might track back to love – the need for or the lack of it. We don’t often realize this – how deep it goes and how the need for love governs the strongest of us. I don’t even think we really understand how much of our actions and thoughts are caused by chemical reactions, environment, history and the ways in which our brains work. That may be why we mistake so many other feelings, reactions and situations for true love and end up in co-dependent, infantile, unsatisfying or downright abusive relationships.

I think love and loving, like other skills, must be learned – often or maybe always through pain. But the process must be pursued and till one can love like an adult – with strength of mind, responsibility and courage, one is not really loving anyone but oneself.

But I also believe that once we achieve that level of understanding of our own minds and hearts, all kinds of magic will happen.

And that’s the point.