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You have sex. Let’s talk about it

Our unwillingness to talk about sex risks us from realising the possibilities of critical discussions on larger societal problems.

By Brian Horton

“So why do you want to work with only the transgender community?”

It was the middle of a call with a corporate representative interested in talking about transgender issues in the workplace. Given that people across the LGBTQ spectrum are invisibilised in corporate spaces in India, I found it strange that this particular person was only interested in talking about transgender persons (mostly hijras and transwomen).

In response to my question, the representative explained that “we want to give them choices and options as well as to save them from their…historic professions”.

The palpable hesitation in the speaker’s voice as they said historic professions, instead of sex work or prostitution, said as much as the intentional censorship of any immediate reference to sex. Even the recent Transgender Bill passed by the Union Cabinet strategically skirts the issue of sexuality (and 377 of the Indian Penal Code) all together while promising to rescue hijras from begging and sex work.

At every turn, the sex in sexuality is in danger of being silenced by our own discomfort with talking of desire, flesh, and well… sex. This imposed censorship risks us realising the possibilities of critical discussions about everything from gender inequality to sexual consent to the resilience of casteism.

Throughout my fieldwork as an anthropologist studying LGBTQ social movements in India, I have encountered discomfort, and at times, disgust regarding the topic of sex, particularly sex between non-heterosexual and/or cisgender-identified persons.

Often this disgust or discomfort does not register as plain and outspoken revulsion. Rather, it becomes more banal dismissals of sex talk as something that is “not Indian”. Sometimes there are no words, just the cacophony of cliquing tongues and monosyllabic sounds of disgust, “chee”.

Throughout my fieldwork as an anthropologist studying LGBTQ social movements in India, I have encountered discomfort, and at times, disgust.

Throughout my fieldwork as an anthropologist studying LGBTQ social movements in India, I have encountered discomfort, and at times, disgust.

Much like the turn to describing reviled things, people, and ideologies as “anti-national”, such claims of national or cultural inauthenticity amplify compulsions to remain silent about everything from sexual dissidence to our own experiences of desire.

Once, during a “Hug a Queer” rally organised by an LGBTQ youth group at Marine Drive, I watched as members of the public chided the event organisers.

At one point an older man on the footpath with his family began shouting down the organisers claiming that this is not done, homosexuality is against the culture of the Mahabharata and the Shastras, and that this should be something reserved for the privacy of the bedroom.

Such a visceral reaction is not simply to hugs or even to alienated young people searching for affirmation. The invocation of tradition and culture aims to silence newness, moments where individuals attempt to challenge the status quo, here by talking openly about sex and desire.

And the shame around sex and sexuality talk is not just limited to uncles shouting down those challenging the heterosexual and normative limits of sex. Last week, The Telegraph reported that an expert panel working on recommendations for adolescent education was pressured by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to strike the words “sex” and “sexual” from their final document.

An anonymous member of the expert panel cited that the ministry’s justification was that the usage of the words sex and sexual might offend people.

It is ironic that an effort to empower young people with knowledge think that we have come to the point where the mention of sex – even in an effort to empower young people about their sexual health – is subject to being labeled as offensive.

But what could possibly be offensive about sex, let alone talking about it openly?

The booming 1.252 billion population of India suggests that someone must be having sex. However the ways in which it is policed, relegated to the private sphere, and sanitised out of the public domain suggests the disruptive and subversive potential of sex.

And when it does enter into the public consciousness, it is often so wrapped in metaphor and metonymy (and patriarchy) that the subversiveness of it is muddled by a parade of stylised images of lovers dancing in the rain, extinguished flames, and kissing flowers all set to a Lata Mangeshkar tune.

“Why must you people talk about it”, is a question LGBTQ persons in this country are often asked about speaking openly about sex and sexuality

My answer to this nettlesome question is simply, because heterosexuals talk about it so often. At the office water cooler, at weddings where aunties and uncles talk about who is next in the matrimonial firing squad, in films where heroines clad in wet saris dance to the tunes of male protagonists, our world is dripping in sex.

Even without uttering the words sex, erotic, the names of organs, or positions, heterosexual sex is not only privileged, it is the singular lens through which sex can be imagined.

So talking about sex for LGBTQ persons incites us to imagine an otherwise and other side to the limited frame of public discourses on sex and sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

Dismantling the myths of rape culture

By Matthew Wade

slutwalk

It’s a double edged sword: as a queer woman, your sex life is objectified if you’re too femme, or dismissed if you’re too masc. In light of the recent SlutWalk rally in Melbourne to protest slut-shaming and victim-blaming, Matthew Wade spoke to queer women about how their sexual identities are policed in Australia.

Men often fetishise the sex lives of queer women or erase them completely, with little elbow room in between.

When she first came out and started dating women, Natasha Smith was femme-presenting, and her sex life was a point of objectification.

“A common question at the time was around what I did in bed, but not in a way that made me feel empowered,” she told the Star Observer.

“People would ask if what I did was really sex, and who the ‘man’ was in the bedroom.

“When there’s no man involved other men have to try and figure out what this tantalising thing is… when a woman’s sexuality isn’t defined by them they turn it into a form of entertainment.”

On the flip side, Smith believes the sexualities of queer women that are more masc-presenting are often invisible, as they’re not seen by men as ‘real’ women.

“Queer women live in this weird dehumanising space where they’re stigmatised as sex objects for the straight male gaze or they’re denied,” she said.

For her Master’s thesis Smith focused on the impact homophobia and sexism had on same-sex attracted women.

She interviewed women aged 18 to 60 and many told her they had experienced street harassment and ogling, with men yelling at them for holding another woman’s hand.

“There’s this idea that you’re an object but if you fight back and resist that, it comes with the threat of escalating violence,” she said.

For many of her interviewees, revealing their sexuality to a male who may be flirting with them in a nightclub would have damaging repercussions.

“As soon as they said they were a lesbian, they’d be called a slut, a dyke, and would be subject to public humiliation,” she said.

While shame and stigma are commonly heaped on the sex lives of queer women, this becomes much more apparent when a queer woman has a more grievous encounter with sexual assault or rape.

According to the United Nations, Australia has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, more than double the global average.

However, because men often try to delegitimise the sexualities of queer women, their voices and experiences are left off the table.

Smith believes rape culture affects society at large, but that for queer women it can be particularly damaging.

“If you’re a queer woman and you happen to be more masc-presenting there’s a weird sort of erasure of your sexuality,” she said.

“And because people misunderstand rape as something connected to sexuality, many think queer women aren’t likely to be raped.”

When it comes to survivors of sexual assault and rape, Smith wants to debunk a common misconception: that rape is about sex.

“There’s an assumption when it comes to sexual assault and rape that they’re inherently sexual acts – but they’re not,” she said.

“They’re violent acts of power that use sex as the weapon.

“The myth that rape is somehow related to the sexual attractiveness of women is what leads to the dismissal of the experiences of queer women.”

Beyond the masculine and feminine gender binary that subjects queer women who present either way to sexual fetishisation or erasure, queer women who sit somewhere along the spectrum also face stigma around their sexual identity.

Where Smith recalls being asked intrusive questions about her sex life as a femme-presenting woman, Melbourne resident Luca Vanags-Smith is at times assumed to not have one.

As someone who now identifies as gender queer, Vanags-Smith has seen a noticeable shift in the way her sexual identity has been perceived.

“I think if you’re femme you’re hyper sexualised, and if you don’t fit the stereotypical model of femininity you’re invisible,” she said.

“I’ve had the lived experience of being gender queer for about two years and I’m viewed by many men as being sexless, or as being an asexual creature.

“I think there’s also this idea that two people that have vulvas can’t really have sex because there’s no penetration involved, so men see women sleeping with each other as entertainment for them.”

The desexualisation and dismissal of masc-presenting or gender queer women can also lead to homophobic views around Vanags-Smith’s sexual identity and her relationships with other women.

“I think when I was more femme-presenting people didn’t take it as seriously, but now my relationships often get pushed into a more heterosexual lens, which isn’t the case at all – after three or four months at a job I had, I had to break it to my boss that I wasn’t in fact a man,” she said.

“It can definitely erase the queerness of my relationships.

“People just assume I must be the one that uses the strap on, when one: that’s none of their business and two: that isn’t the case at all.”

Vanags-Smith has also found that heterosexual men will treat her as ‘one of the guys’ and attempt to engage her in a sexist conversation.

“Men will come up to me, point out a particular woman and say, ‘she’s got a great ass mate,’” she said.

“I know how awful that can make someone feel, especially a same-sex attracted woman.

“I’ve also had guys calling me love and telling me I just haven’t had a good fuck, and asking me how I have sex.”

As a means to combat this, Vanags-Smith believes sex education in schools needs to become increasingly sex positive.

She also added that sexist attitudes and misogyny are the bedrock of homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia.

“With same-sex intimate relationships between women, men don’t really fit into that equation,” she said.

“And some see that as affronting.”

Melbourne recently played host to the annual SlutWalk rally, a march developed as a means to protest the slut-shaming and victim-blaming of women around the world, irrespective of gender or sexual identity.

It was created in Canada in 2011 after a police officer said “women should avoid dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted.

In Melbourne the rally sees speakers with a diverse range of experiences speaking out against misogyny and rape culture, and how it affects women.

Smith believes SlutWalk does well at being as inclusive as it can be, particularly now that the conversation around trans and queer identities has become more prominent.

“When I started going to SlutWalk I wasn’t as out as I am now, and it was through being emerged in the march that I found a community of feminists that understood me,” she said.

“They enabled me to grow into someone I’m very proud of and to be comfortable in my sexuality.”

Vanags-Smith said she loves SlutWalk because it changes people’s opinions of what a sexual assault survivor might look like, to include women of different ages, cultural backgrounds, and sex ual and gender identities.

“It acknowledges that there may be people who are femme and attractive, but there may be women who don’t fit these archetypes who may also experience sexual assault,” she said.

“The idea that some women are more at risk than others is a massive myth in rape culture that SlutWalk seeks to dismantle.”

Complete Article HERE!

He Knows Me; He knows Me Not

SEX! — We have a finite number of erogenous zones, but an infinite number of ways and means of stimulating them. INTIMACY! — We have a finite number of needs, but an infinite number of ways and means of satisfying them.

Sex is one a way of expressing intimacy and intimacy can give meaning to sex. Simple, right? As if! When sex and intimacy collide, confusion, disappointment and frustration abound.

Doc,I really have a serious problem. I can have sex all day long — women, men, whatever ya got — not a problem. And I think I’m really good at it too. That is until there’s hugging and kissing. Again, — women, men, whatever ya got — big problem. I don’t mind a quick hug or embrace, or a fleeting kiss, but anything more than that and I just freeze up. I can’t seem to relax inside myself while in another’s embrace. I am 39 and worry about dying alone and forgotten, because I can’t let myself get close to someone long enough to fall in love. I know this sounds foolish, but I have never even slept with another person, like after sex, in my whole life. What’s wrong with me?   — Frozen

Wanna know what’s wrong with you, Frozen? Easy! You’re a human, that’s what’sbrutos4235.jpg wrong with you! You are exhibiting a very human characteristic, a fear of intimacy, albeit a rather severe case of it indeed.

Many people are able to perform sexually, while having difficulty with intimacy. When I see such a person in my therapy practice, I help my client overcome this rift by encouraging him to gradually increase the amount of intimacy he is comfortable with every sexual encounter. It’s a simple behavior modification thing.

So, I suggest that you hold an embrace a minute or two longer each time you are embraced, taking the intimacy a bit deeper than you did the time before. The same goes for kissing — hold a kiss for a few moments longer, or kiss a little deeper each time a kiss is offered. You’ll have to concentrate and make a concerted effort, because this is unfamiliar territory for you. But you have a really strong motivation; you don’t want to be sad and alone. I think you’ll find that you will be rewarded handsomely with everything you invest in this exercise.

A good potion of any fear is what we talk ourselves into about the feared thing. Sure, there may be a traumatic event at the source of some of our fears. But even if there is, we have the capacity to move through the remembrance, let go of the trauma and move on with life.You’ve been living with this phobia for a long time, Frozen. It’s become second nature for you. As you apply yourself to overcoming your dread of intimacy, have some compassion for yourself. Know this will take time. In fact, it’ll be the work of a lifetime.

My advice to you is to set a goal for yourself. Try to turn some of this aversion to intimacy around. Give yourself say 6 or 8 weeks to make this happen. Start out with baby steps, but don’t hesitate to stretch and challenge yourself. Let your partner(s) know that you are working on something important. Ask for his (their) help and patience. You’ll be able to overcome your hesitancy even sooner with the help and encouragement of others. Ask for feedback on your progress.

Keep at it till you are comfortable cuddling in someone’s arms for an hour or till you can kiss someone passionately without wanting to pull away. Celebrate the fullness of your personhood; don’t just settle for bumping parts.

Good luck

Dear Dr. Dick,I could sure use you some advice on how to find Mr. Right! Can you help? Here’s the thing, I only meet guys that want sex….they objectify me and just think about their own needs. I’m sick of it. I’m including a link to my online profile and photos of myself so you can judge for yourself.Where can I go to meet someone that believes sex is mutual?    — Why Not Take All of Me

Are you trying to tell me that someone as delicious as you is having trouble connecting with quality people? If so, what chance is there for us mere mortals?

Listen, I don’t mean to be flippant. It’s just that looking at your photos and reading your profile, you sound like a dream. Of course, maybe that’s the problem.brutos3046.jpgI’m not sure asking me, or anyone else for that matter, how YOU should go about finding Mr Right is the correct way to go. The reason being, there’s a different Mr Right for everyone. For some, Mr Right is no more than a pretty face, stiff dick and a supple ass.

Your needs appear more complex. One thing for sure, if you are looking for the perfect match for YOU, integrity and authenticity are preeminent. Don’t settle for less than what you want.That being said, you might begin by reassessing how you present yourself online. If the images you post suggest sex, that’s what you will attract. I mean come on — all those eye-popping nude full body shots of yourself; the close-up of your dripping hardon; your ass backed up to the camera lens like that, so that everyone and his mother can see where the sun don’t shine. And your profile, it proudly proclaims, “power bottom extraordinaire.” — Trust me, darlin’, none of this invites anyone to take you seriously for the dignified, well-rounded person you claim to be.

Finding Mr Right, is difficult at any stage of life. While you sound like a decent enough guy, you are no longer a youth. This time of life presents it’s own unique challenges. Are you carrying lots of personal baggage that may be off-putting to potential partners? I see that a lot in my more mature clients. They are too set in their ways to really enjoy the spontaneity of a new relationship.Lots to consider, huh?

Good luck

Dear Dr. Dick,  I have recently been going out with this great guy. He’s had three long-term relationships in the last 10 years or so. He says that with each one, when they met, he felt a “spark.” (I guess he means the spark of attraction, or passion.) But each of his relationships came to a crashing end.Anyway, this guy and I have been chatting on the internet for hours every day for weeks, but have only had two dates in person. And both times we got down to sex rather quickly. Now he says he wants things casual between us, because he didn’t feel any spark upon meeting me. He says I’m not his soul mate.I think this “spark” is passion. But fiery as it is, it always burns out, as it did with his first three partners.I’m different, I fall for a guy by getting to know him, finding mutual interests, and developing intimacy over time. (Although this method hasn’t worked for me, any better than his method has worked for him.)Is the approach through friendship better or worse than the approach through passion? Is there a future for a couple like us?  — In Way Too Deep

My gut feeling is that there isn’t enough common ground here for anything more than asensitif.jpg garden-variety casual internet connection. And I suspect you both are looking for something more permanent than that. That is what you are talking about, right?

While you may have enough in common to consume hours of internet time each week, (no big challenge there, you can train a chimp to do the same) the sex thing, or passion thing, or whatever else one calls it these days, simply isn’t there. And there’s no making it suddenly appear at this point in your association. Your internet “date” is not about to be dazzled by anything that isn’t highly combustible, regardless of how poorly this has served him in the past. Your method, on the other hand, ain’t getting you married either.

Alas, we’re such creatures of habit.I am of the mind that passion is the stuff that keeps us thrilled while we slog through the less appetizing “getting-to-know-him” and “getting-adjusted-to-his shit” phase. In fact, I believe the “fireworks” thing is designed to distract our attention — or more precisely — blind us to the more unsavory aspects of the guy we’re bumping.

If there are no fireworks we’d immediately see the guy’s an overweight psychopath, with anger management issues, bad teeth, a little dick, shameful personal hygiene, a ridiculously low IQ, dwarfed only by his bank account, who picks his nose and lets his mother run his life.Time to move on, darlin’!

Good luck