Category Archives: Sex & sexuality

What #TimesUp India Is Making Me Realise About Myself

Last week India’s #MeToo / #TimesUp movement rose (again), sparked off by Mahima Kukreja’s outing of standup comic Ustav Chakrobarty sending unsolicited dickpics and badgering underage girls for nudes. It set off a chain reaction examining the complicit parties, the enablers and patterns of predators. Thread:

Since then it has spread to other performance spaces, to advertising, to media, to journalism, to publishing and more. All these alongside Bollywood’s own filth outing with Tanushree Datta’s allegations against Nana Patekar. And across the ocean, the US is grappling with the same issue over a man named Brett Kavanaugh. Sharing this video here as the only positive note of this story: 

On one hand, I am so glad that these stories are finally finding their voices. I cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of carrying these toxic secrets for so long and there are so many, so many of them. Every morning I’m waking up in fear over which man I’ve known, read, watched, applauded, appreciated, spoken to, smiled at will be outed as the next sexual predator. We are in so much pain.

It’s forcing a mirror to all of society and not just its toxic males. A few men I know have been outed at predators. Did I know? Did I suspect? Was that action that I shrugged off, actually an indication of something more sinister? Should I have laughed at that joke? Should I have warned this person? I introduced these people; what if one person took that as a trust guarantee and do I carry some responsibility if anything happened? What am I missing in the world and about the people around me, today?

So many of the stories I’m hearing have not even made it out yet because the victims fear that they are too young/unimportant/powerless and that their predators are too famous/rich/powerful. I am grappling with recognising that the victim of an assault or harassment can build an unreal sense of the perpetrator’s power while trying not to invalidate their feelings. How can you say “I believe you” and “No, that’s not true” at the same time?

Then there was the outing of someone I knew slightly and hadn’t really liked (though not because I had an encounter of this kind with him). He was outed by someone who in the past, has enabled my own abuser despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The question that hung over me was ‘Should I support someone who did not support me?’. It was a time of personal reckoning, figuring out who I wanted to be. I’d thought these aspects of my character would be set and figured out by this time in my life. Clearly, character is a lifelong process of testing. I passed. I don’t know that I feel good about it. Is feeling like I was denied justice, a better feeling to live with than guilt and vindication?

This same person, along with a lot of other people also put out a call asking to be told if they were friends with an abuser. It made me really angry at first. And then I realised, people don’t know what they’re asking for, when they ask for that door to be opened. When the sheer magnitude of this truth hits them, many recoil and their reaction is to assume they get to judge whether they should take action or not. No, I say. The minute you ask for the truth, you are asking for the victim’s trust. And the minute you bring judgement in, you are violating that trust. Complete trust in return for total lack of judgement is the deal. Here’s my thread on this matter:

Having said this, I’m realising that maybe I invite confessions and sharing from people just by talking about these issues. Over a decade ago, when I wrote this post about child abuse, it provoked a volley of reactions that I did not expect and did not know how to handle. I considered quitting blogging. A friend told me that I had stood for something and that mattered to the people who were sharing with me and that I had a responsibility towards them. I interpreted that to mean I’d have to be a space of listening (since I’m not qualified in any other way to advise, heal, police or protect). If you read the above post, please also read this as the conclusion of that. I am rethinking this now.

I asked a close friend (a survivor and an activist) for advice. This person asked me how many people who were spilling their truths onto me and expecting me to rescue them, showed up for me back in 2012? I could argue that some of them were too young, some too married (like this is an illness that renders one incapable of logical and just thought towards unmarried people), some not strong enough (as if strength is a talent some are born with and which becomes public property to exploit). My answer was…NOBODY. I have tried hard not to become cynical about people since then and I’ll admit I often slip up. I cannot forget that I live in a world that enables and applauds my abusers for the same things that they attack and condemn me for experiencing. It is so hard to feel empathy for enablers, even harder than feeling it for the perpetrators.

And finally, I am realising how easy it is going to be vomit, to dump, to offload resentment and rage. Neither of these are logical or fair-minded. They just are — powerful and unstoppable. I’m trying hard not to talk about my own experiences partly because I do not want to co-opt the narratives of the people speaking up for the first time and partly because it might become a case of Chinese whispers with people blaming my perps for things they did not do as part of the pervasive ‘Men are trash’ feeling. As justified as that feels, I know I cannot live with those feelings. I just can’t.

Mercifully a friend who’s been away from all this rescued me in a single conversation last evening by asking me to remember to retain my capacity for joy. That’s all. We each have to live with the consequences of our actions, our emotions and our words. What’s most important in the long, long run of life? I choose joy.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay you.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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Lust Stories: Wham, Bam And A Thankless Ma’am

This weekend saw the Netflix Originals premier of ‘Lust Stories‘ – a format repeat from the 2013 anthology ‘Bombay Talkies’, with the same four directors, each contributing one story. Let me pause a minute to CRINGE at that name so you can understand why I was expecting something along on the lines of the sleazy Hate Story franchise. Happily, it wasn’t all that bad. None of the stories are titled so I’ll refer to each one by its respective director.

Anurag Kashyap‘s tale was a moody character sketch of a woman just like most of his films. I disliked her then I related to her and finally I accepted her – echoing my experience of every Kashyap film I’ve seen. This story assumed female lust and agency as a fact. If we embrace those, then this is the most nuanced depiction of a woman and her desires since the arthouse period of Rekha, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi films. The introspection-by-4th-wall-breaking was really annoying but it added a certain relatable flavour to the central character, making her a human being with her irritating quirks, rather than an ephemeral nymph/predatory cougar. She is both and she’s more. I had a ‘Shabd‘ flashback but given that Kashyap took forward the sexual politics of the situation and gave it a woman’s voice, I think this movie stands as the best of the Lust Stories.

Zoya Akhtar‘s story was a lot like her tale in Bombay Talkies – a simplistic, privileged view of middle class India that still charmed because it stopped short of preaching. Just short. This story was less about female lust and rather labored the point of women being sex objects for men. It didn’t say anything we haven’t heard before and served as a neat filler sandwiched between two intense (and good) stories. I do want to clap for Bhumi Pednekar’s performance in this film. I counted exactly one dialogue by her in the whole story(“Saale nange”). All the rest is lingering gazes, a trembling hand, a stuck breath and it is everything that is good in this film.

Dibakar Banerjee‘s film was my favorite in the lot because of the character nuance. The story explored male vulnerability and fragility with sensitivity. But female lust was the subtext of this movie rather than its central point. This is a story about male emotions rising around and (partly) manipulated by the female object. The Wikipedia page of the film only describes Lust Stories as being about lust. But given that the promos only feature the female characters, one is led to assume that they are about female lust – wherein this one doesn’t fulfill the brief. Manisha Koirala as this seniormost actor (even if a faded one) in this entire anthology rocked even her straitjacketed part, moving from a Waheedaesque Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna nymph to a throwback to her Akele Hum Akele Tum sorrowful self. The one lovemaking scene in this film pans on her smiling indulgently and sorrowfully as her lover grinds (with tears) above her. It captured the entire essence in a story that should have been about her, rather than the men that she happens to.

Karan Johar‘s story was the big disappointment. No surprises there since his story in ‘Bombay Talkies’ was the weakest too. What a mercy that time, his plotline arrived at the end. It felt too much like a discarded script for a Hollywood movie, hastily cobbled into Indian context. Mile high club fantasies and casual usage of dildos in college libraries? Nope, not smalltown/lower middle class India at all. Even the comic relief was borrowed from The Ugly Truth (not exactly a great reference point on female empowerment or for that matter, female lust). I got the sense that this part was the ‘moral of the story’ bit where the audience is meant to be informed of the fact that female libidos exist, masturbation is okay and that Indian males are clueless about this fact. Okay, thank you.

All in all, I think ‘Lust Stories’ was a nice enough watch. It was adequately sensitive without once becoming sleazy. All four stories remained in the realm of believable (though the realm had to be very elastic in some cases). And yes, India needs more stories like these. We’re a country of a billion people who gave the world Kamasutra but are terrified of the thought of orgasms or masturbation, especially on-screen.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

The Stance Podcast: Ep. 17: SXonomics, Modern Mumbai, A Ballet Collaboration with Zakir Hussain, Playwright Natasha Gordon

 

Last month, SXonomics met the Stance Podcast team. Stance Podcast is an independent arts, culture and current affairs podcast exploring diverse, global perspectives. Presented as a transatlantic conversation between broadcasters, Chrystal Genesis in London and Heta Fell in San Francisco, Stance aims to inform, entertain and inspire action.

We met Chrystal and her team on their Mumbai trip, to talk about collaborative performance, sex and gender activism and Mumbai. We are featured alongside our friend Praful Baweja and the podcast also includes stalwarts like Zakir Hussain.

This podcast helped me recontextualise the ideas I and we have been putting out in writing and in performance, within the global framework of important conversations around sex and art. This is tremendously validating and helps move past the misogynist attacks, the microaggressions and everyday hatred that comes my way.

Listen to SXonomics on the Stance podcast ep.17:

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SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

The Gifts of February: Surviving Triggers

February brought a lot of gifts and a lot of lessons. Hear that, 2017? Lessons don’t all have to be hard and suffering-riddled. Well, perhaps not true. The #MeToo movement has been gaining voices and echoes all around the world. And last month it hit really, really close to home. This time the pain was not mine but like an old fracture that aches in certain weather, my experiences echoed in the voices of the women who came out with their stories of being coerced, bullied and harassed.

I found myself standing at a crossroads. I could drown in the pain of remembered trauma and let 2017’s horrors (and 2012 and 2002–03) stay alive. I did what I do after every bad decision I make. I decided not to let it define me. These were things that happened to me; not things that are me. And every experience I have had, I have been able to turn into a lesson. So why not these?

I think that is why I was able to live through February without the rage that destroys every woman who has experienced violence of some sort by a man, and finds herself triggered over and over again as it continues in other women’s stories. No, it has not been easy.

I found myself wanting to throw a chair across a room, when I found myself sitting next to stories of violation, inside a room where some of those violations were probably perpetrated. I felt my breath catch as I watched a young girl clutch an inhaler as she spoke, back ramrod straight. Yes, I know what that feels like. I live in that pose most of the time. Determined and petrified, both at once.

In the weeks to come, I found myself seeing fear under people’s skin, prickling up as noticeably as goosebumps. Every man I know — in their wary glances that they probably don’t realise makes them look shifty. The damning silences in forums where hard truths are finally emerging from women’s insides. The brittle bluster that left me as disturbed as usual but seemed to leave them spent and a little scareder of me. I had one exhausting discussion where Papon’s actions were defended and where I screamed down the mansplaining and silencing being done to me. Whew.

And yet, February had gifts. I have survived it without falling prey to the mental darkness that plagued me in late 2017, without succumbing to toxic conversations and associations and habits. And that tells me something about that the old fears that surfaced in December when SXonomics addressed the issue of domestic violence. I have lived for a long time with the effects of gaslighting, not the least of all being the damning guilt that it was all my fault. December prised loose what I hope was the last of residual trauma and I spent weeks after that falling sick. But when I began February, I found myself on the other side, washed clean of the lingering effects of a poisonous person. I was never one. Could I be blamed if my skin burnt when it came into contact with toxic substances? I am not a violent person. I never was. I’ve borne too many things in my past, with grace to know this. Gaslighting made me forget. No more. So thank you February, for reminding me about who I am.

Traumas have a way of lingering on and triggers are sneaky things. But the healing can keep going on too. It’s a lot like addiction, really. Every day is a fresh battle with darkness. The world does not understand, cannot understand and possibly does not want to understand. But when the voices die down, it’s possible to find a minute of silence inside yourself. Mourn the death of all that you lost. And then, in that death, find peace. It is not entirely ugly.

February felt full of love though it wouldn’t look like that to someone from the outside. All I did was work. But if you’ve known me long enough, you know I live well when I have the opportunity to work well and vice versa. It’s good to be the person I love — Me.

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Gender is fluid. Yesterday evening, @IshmeetNagpal and I performed a one hour show titled 'Balanced Voices' about gender imbalances in the popular narrative. Voices are gendered and so are narratives but suppression and silencing of certain groups (women, LGBTQIA, people of colour, non-savarna people) makes the world an deeply unjust place. My lips reflect my politics. They're a bit smudged as this was shot after several hours of application. But I even like the blending that happened as a result. That reflects the politics of gendering too. #IWear #lipart #lipstick #bluelipstick #crossgender #genderpolitics #gendering #genderedcolours #feminism #feminists #feminist #patriarchy #BalancedVoices #SXonomics

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Rape Culture, One Accidental Anal Joke At A Time

I saw a tweet being shared (with a fair bit of bragging about how it went viral on 9GAG).

Earlier that day, I chanced upon this article about anal sex:

The Phenomenon of ‘Accidental Anal’

For those of you who cannot be bothered with reading the article, what I took away from it – it may be possible, in the heat of the moment, to superficially  jab at the wrong hole. But the kind of penetration that causes pain definitely isn’t ‘accidental’.

Anal sex has its takers and those who enjoy it, do so with two vital ingredients – lubrication and consent.

Now look at the above ‘joke’ again. If these were sexual situations (as the ‘joke’ implies), would the women’s expressions be ‘Oh oops, how careless’ or “OH MY GOD THAT HURTS SO BAD!!” I am a woman and I can tell you female pleasure does not look like that. I can see pained resignation, agony, horror and grief, respectively on each woman’s face. Are these the reactions you’d expect from consensual sex or the opposite – dare we say it – RAPE?

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I tweeted asking if the above was a rape joke or not. The originator of the ‘joke’ replied with the following.

Let’s ignore the defensiveness and the unwarranted aggression all garbed under ‘I respect your opinion’ and focus on the reactions each of our tweets got. I’m not surprised. Misogyny is so cool that the vast hordes will rush to defend and support it. On the other hand, here’s what happens to a woman who even questions a man and god forbid, challenges his rape culture.

 

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

And finally, this is what happened when I asked for help:

  • Mumbai Police ignored it altogether. Gee thanks, we now have a new case for ‘resting on laurels’.
  • Twitter sent me the following message: “We reviewed the account you reported and have locked it because we found some of the reported Tweets to be in violation of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules. Tweets that were not in violation may still be public. Please note that if the account owner completes our instructions to unlock their account, and complies with our stated policies, the account may be restored.” I checked the offender’s account and it was visible and active, albeit with the above death-wish tweets deleted. Wow, slap-on-the-knuckle for saying ‘You should die’. Funnily enough, ‘You should be raped’ gets some attention but this one doesn’t.
  • Woman 1: Ignore it. I face so many such with all my yada yada blah blah super important work and ignoring is the only thing to do.
  • Man 1:
  • Woman 2: This is not a rape joke. This is not a death threat.

Oh well.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

But this morning, others told me that they agreed that it was a rape joke. Several also expressed outrage about those offensive tweets and confirmed that they considered these death threats. A fair few joined me in reporting that account (which I imagine is the only reason Twitter thought to take some fractional-hearted action).

‘Accidental Anal’ is a violation of consent. Rape will never be funny. Wishing death on somebody is not trivial.

I am glad enough of people realise that if you stand with a rapist, you make it possible for them to be so. Being silent about, ignoring, joking about or agreeing with rape culture IS rape culture. Attackers trying to silence anyone who challenges rape culture, are propagating rape culture. If you support these attackers, either openly or by asking the recipient of their attacks to be silent, you are also propagating rape culture. Every word counts, every moment of silence counts too. Try not be a rapist.

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SEXONOMICS: Making Feminism Fun

I haven’t written about SEXONOMICS all these months, have I? If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Youtube, you may have spotted a mention or two. Back in the month of love and Valentines, I got attacked at my favorite performance venue. That incident triggered off a polarising among my community with a handful of men victim-shaming me or rushing in to prove their machismo. Many more of them ignored my requests for help. And I realised that I was standing alone for ideas that would get me attacked into submission. I lost all my friends, my treasured relationships.

I also came onto stage, braving crippling stage fright and carrying the wounds of abusive, gaslighting, confidence-shattering relationships. And with this incident, I was being vanquished and systematically bled out.

I found an ally right then, a slight acquaintance that I’d laughed with in the past. She spoke with me and for me. And she asked if I’d like to collaborate on stage. We joined hands with the only man in our space who agreed with our thinking. Drawing strength from each other, we collaborated on a performance piece titled ‘The Parenting Economy‘. We performed it at NCPA during the South Asia Laadli Media Awards. Within a month, we were featured at two other events, one a creative space and one a nightclub. Two months later, another feminist performer invited us to collaborate on a ticketed show.

This is how SEXONOMICS was born.  Dramatic, is that? I’ve barely been able to catch my breath in this journey from solitary feminist struggling for a chance to speak to co-founder of SEXONOMICS.

Each performance has been reshaped in its writing, its delivery but most importantly, in the thought it espouses. We’ve addressed bad parenting, toxic gender roles, troublesome dating rituals, sexist language, the burden of social approval, revenge porn, common fears around sex, gender privilege, feminism and more. We’ve made use of poetry, rap, spoken word, drama, satire and role play. Every single performance has been an apprehensive step fearing retribution like in the past. And every single one has yielded much joy, learning and possibility.

One major milestone this month was Scroll.in carrying the following story about us –

‘With humour and sass, SEXONOMICS  the Band aims to make feminism fun for Indian women’

I am very glad for all the wonderful conversations that SEXONOMICS has made possible for me, with my collaborator but also with others. If you’ve enjoyed my writings so far, I think you’ll like this next stage in my words also. SEXONOMICS is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“People are so comfortable in their minds with misogynistic references,” Pandyan said. “I just want feminism to also be something that is welcome on the furniture of your mind. It ought to be sitting on the same plush sofa that has been the prerogative of Salman Khan or Honey Singh so far.”

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Celibacy, Sluttiness and Everything In Between

Now that we’re all adult and modern and can talk about sex openly, let’s.

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Image via Unsplash/Jairo Alzate

Only let’s not do that dialogue about repressed sexuality, about the male fear of women’s sexuality about all the cliches. Let’s talk about how women feel about their own sex, shall we? Wait, The Vagina Monologues already did that, didn’t they?

Okay fine, but let’s do more of it. Because this here is a blog and we love talking about ourselves and not enough of it gets done and it’s always about how we are in relation to men. I say enough, I want to talk about me, about how I am whether men exist or not (well, obviously they do because sex, right?). I want to know how other women feel about themselves.

So sex. One of my first and most deeply entrenched ideas has been (Note the use of ongoing present tense or whatever that thing is called) that all my body organs will fall out of my vagina. Think about it. Gravity. So much stuffed into one body. A hole right at the bottom. Yeah. Of course I worry when I cough or sneeze or well, shit too hard.

Then there’s the one about the man being an intrusion. Look at even the language of sex. Penetrate. Bang. Ram. Horny. Hitting that. At the other end of it is the too coy, the nauseatingly abstract. Making love. Becoming one. Barf.

I have learned that sex does not have to be, actually should never be painful. Well, not you, 50 Shades of Grey peeps. My body is wonderfully designed to stretch, to contract, to bend, to twist in all manner of ways. Not inefficiently did Mother Nature design a body that could sustain multiple orgasms. But it’s learning that has come over time, over much challenging and forcing my way through preconceived notions, over inhibitions and over censure. It’s been a mental as well as a physical journey.

How do I feel about having sex? Outside of love, outside of control, outside of social norms, outside of all of that. Ever ask yourself that? Do. It’s one of the most fundamental things your body can do, should do.

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Tuvale bastırıp geliyorum 🙈🎉

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I like it. There’s no ‘with the right person’ because that’s too much like a romcom and life, I know has been nothing like that to me. I like it when it’s on my terms, when it is fun, when it carries respect but not reserve and when it goes through and ends with both of us feeling pleasant about it and each other. And there just isn’t enough of that going around.

Tinder, you suck. I don’t even want to meet the men on it, let alone do anything with them. Hookup, what a horrible word. It makes me think of Captain Hook and which sane woman would want that going into her?

I was a virgin for way longer than most people suspect. It’s hard to say why. Early in my life I met a man (boy?) who forced himself on me and tried every mindfucked trick in the book. (“If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll go elsewhere”, “When a guy doesn’t have sex for long, he falls sick”, “You are so ugly, nobody but me will want to have sex with you”). It scarred me for a long time, yes. Also, the only way I kept some vestige of self-respect and control over my own body was by telling him that I wanted to save myself up for marriage. I don’t know how much I believed it. I do know that that idea carried me through what could have been a much more damaging situation than it was. And an idea that saves you, deserves to have a prominent place in your life.

As it turned out, my first time – and I will not call it ‘losing my virginity’, ugh what a horrible way to put it, so materialistic, so fear-ridden – was with someone I loved very much and who I believe loved me then. We were also going to get married. We didn’t and that’s a different thing.

Reconciling that fact took time because it also brought up other things that people don’t normally think are related. What if the reason I had not found the right man was that I should have been looking for the right woman? And what about children? Funny isn’t it, we never tend to think of how we feel about children in the same conversation on how we feel about sex. Oh wait, there are no conversations about how we as women feel about sex.

Two years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. Now all grown up, she leads the kind of single, sexed up life that is the stuff of crusty Indian politicians nightmares. She describes herself as ‘a bad girl’ and she does this with a laugh. Look how she has internalised the slut-shaming we are subjected to.

I want to believe that if I do something, it’s got to be worth doing. And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And there is no shame in that, only pride. And fucking self-respect. Heh. Fucking self-respect about fucking. If you don’t got it, it ruins everything wonderful about sex.

Some days I think about what it must be to be a testosterone-fueled being and I think I’m better off. I want to believe that it’s a myth that male libidos are bigger than female libidos. I mean that doesn’t make sense. My gender is the one that can go on longer, have multiple orgasms and hell, has many hundreds of more nerve endings (thus pleasure points). Momma Nature would never have put all that in a body that just didn’t feel like it much. What nonsense.

I do think that testosterone makes creatures impatient, perhaps even foolish and one-minded. For most of my life I have not had sex. Sometimes it’s been when I did have somebody in my life; sometimes it has been when I didn’t. It sucks to not have sex when you are with someone. But when there isn’t, well, there just isn’t. And there I fall into the opposite trap from slut-shaming, the celibacy-shaming. Why is it such a big deal whether someone wants to have sex or not? What is burning need for it? There are 7 billion of us running around the planet and stepping on each other’s toes. We really don’t need to make more human beings. And as for pleasure – it’s only pleasurable when you’re not doing it under pressure.

Signing off now. No, not to go have sex but because I’m tired.  Yes that happens too. There may be such a thing as enough sex.

The Real Estate Of The Body: I Don’t Understand Why Gender Is A Part Of Identity

I stiffened when I saw this scene. Natalie Figueroa is not a likeable character. But I found myself relating to her words. I really don’t understand transgender women.

I have never been truly content being a woman. This does not mean that I want to live in a man’s body. I hear transwomen make references to being able to dress prettily and gossip with girlfriends as experiences they’ve missed. I guess the transmale counterpart to that would be to shave and have boys’ nights out. I have not felt incomplete for not having had those experiences.

For me, bodies are just real estate for our actions, our minds and our intentions and I’m sitting inside a physical space that has less currency and less value than the real estate of a man’s body. I am fairly certain that who I am, would not change depending on the kind of body I’m in. But the world treats this body with less respect and power than I’d like.

I am not saying I don’t enjoy the nice things about living in a woman’s body. I love dressing up and I enjoy the natural grace that comes from being in a smaller, curvier body. But these are fringe benefits that I can perfectly well live without. They are my way of making peace with inhabiting a physical space that I’m not happy about, compensation prizes if you will. I cannot think of anything that I would miss deeply about being a woman, were I to wake up as a man tomorrow. Because who I am, has nothing to do with the body I live in.

This is also not about who I am attracted to. My physical/sexual side has been drawn to men, so far. But the only reason it has stopped there is because there hasn’t been a pressing need to go beyond. As a woman, there are enough of opportunities available to me to engage with men. The heavy social/emotional burdens of exploring sexuality with a woman haven’t felt worth the effort to me. In that hypothetical world where I’d wake up as a man, I can’t really imagine that flipping over to the equivalent model (being a man drawn to women) would be particularly difficult. That should tell you that my sexuality doesn’t drive my body identity either.

Anybody who possesses a man’s body, to me, is someone who won the luck of birth, similar to babies born to affluent parentage rather than poor families. I really don’t understand why someone would want to give all that up to live permanently in the squalor, the permanent fear and the degradation that a woman’s body is subjected to.

I think about Nadika. We’ve been friends for years and I’ve related to her as a cisman. Then she came out as a transgender person. I don’t relate to her any differently since then, except trying to figure out the right language to encompass her life. I feel empathy for her unhappiness and her struggles, I really do. But I feel it without truly understanding, in the way some men are sympathetic about period pains. Nadika’s freedom story gave me some insight but not really understanding. It made me think that maybe how relevant gender/sexuality is to our identity, differs for us all.

I am not a man trapped in a woman’s body. I’m a person trapped in a woman’s body.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Baby Invisible: On Sex, Emotional boundaries & Identity

Sex is a complex act to share with another human being — in action, in thought and then, in words. I find it has gotten easier to talk about it the more I’ve done so. In writing too it gets easier the more I write though the words come awkwardly when they do. And finally, in performance poetry, the kind of open vulnerability and authentic sharing that it demands — I haven’t been able to do that. Until now.

This piece originated in a workshop over a month ago. Since then it has shifted in form and in idea. My feelings have swirled and changed and doubled back as they do on things that are that internal. But also because of the conversations that this piece has provoked, when I shared it with friends, male and female. Conversations on performance, on poetry, on the relationships between men and women, on sex, pleasure, love, pain, resignation, defeat and emotional barriers.

I spent today in an awful state of mind. I was running low on sleep having spent the night talking to my favorite aunt who had dropped into town to meet me. Then I awoke to the news of a death in the family of close friend. And finally, just thinking about this piece all day kept me in a state of quivering, confused, dark confusion. I finally decided that this was the best possible starting point for me emotionally to perform this particular piece (writers are such masochists). So here it is, from the Poetry Open Mic at the Hive, Bandra.

*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Why LGBT Rights Are Also A Women’s Issue

Today opened with this news coming up on my timeline.

Sec 377 slapped on Infosys techie after wife catches his gay acts on spycam

Now where do I start on this? I can see enough of people going “Look how Section 377 helped this women get justice against her cheating husband!” Is that really true?

A gay person should not have married a straight person. It began a relationship on the premise of a lie. And he continued being involved with other people after he was married, constituting cheating. Real justice would have been if he was punished for his sins of lying and cheating.

But section 377 doesn’t punish lying or cheating. It criminalizes acts of sex that are deemed unnatural. Which means if the husband had been sleeping with other women instead of with men, this case would not have worked. This is about punishing the man for being gay, not for lying and cheating on his wife. Is the latter a lesser crime in the eyes of the law then? Is it even seen as a problem?

The woman says her in-laws blamed her for their ‘perfect’ son not being attracted to her. If the spycam had shown him sleeping with other women, wouldn’t this chauvinistic opinion have continued? ‘He went elsewhere because you weren’t good enough for him’ would have been the refrain. Thus, woman-shaming for the man’s faults.

If the law is inadequately equipped to address an issue, should it erroneously use something else to punish the perpetrator? For one the inadequacy remains. Secondly, it facilitates other wrongful convictions. And finally, in this case, it only sustains the idea that a straight man is perfect and everything else is someone else’s fault. That ‘someone else’ in most cases is usually the woman closest to him.

Discrimination hurts everyone, not just the discriminated against. This story shows how LGBT issues are also women’s issues. If human rights aren’t equal for all, we’re only going to be running around in circles using the wrong laws for the wrong things.

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