Monday, September 21, 2009

Women's Sexual Freedom

I've obviously been out of the writing mode. I pushed myself to come into my blog today just to write something. Anything. Okay.

The first thing that comes to mind should be fairly simple to write about--women's sexual freedom. Ha. Simple. Yeah right.

I just watched Deepa Mehta's internationally acclaimed 1996 film, Fire. It made quite the stir in India where fundamentalist Hindu groups attempted to have it banned and did succeed in forcing several movie theatres to close their doors. Mehta received death threats and other actors in the film were also threatened.

Fire is the first in a trilogy of films by Mehta, the other two are Earth and Water. I haven't seen Earth yet but Water was extremely powerful as well and it caused a stir with the right-wingers also.

Fire, places us in the midst of an extended, modern day, urban, Indian family that consists of an elderly invalid mother, her two sons and their wives, all living together under one roof. There is a manservant who also resides in the home who helps with the family's "take out" food business, their video shop, and caring of the mother.

The elder brother, Ashok, is portrayed as a "pious" religious man, devoted to his guru. Because his wife, Radha, is unable to bear him children he has refrained from sex with her for 13 years but forces her to lie next to him while he masturbates. The younger brother, Jutin, secretly rents pornography out of the video store and is devoted to his Chinese lover, to the neglect of his new, young wife, Sita.

The sisters-in-law, strike up a supportive friendship within this unjust and monotonous existence that provides some relief from the obscene and condescending behavior of their respective husbands, a friendship that eventually evolves into sexual love.

The manservant is eventually caught in his nasty little ritual of watching porn and masturbating in front of the bed-ridden mother who is also unable to speak. He is aware of Radha and Sita's love affair and his resentment towards Radha (whose demands that he be forced to leave the house were overruled by her husband) leads him to disclose this information to Ashok. Shamed, Ashok kicks him out of the house and spies on the two women, catching them in bed together. The women decide to leave together and Sita goes first, waiting for Radha, who believes she owes her husband an explanation. Things go poorly between Ashok and Radha and when her sari catches fire in the kitchen he leaves her on her own to be enveloped by the flames.

The religious and cultural significance of this act is immense. Agni (fire) bears witness to the chastity of Hindu women and has been left to decide the fate of women in literal "trials by fire" since time immemorial. In a ritual called Agni Pariksha, women are forced into a fire. If she burns, it proves her guilt. If she emerges unharmed, she is innocence (chaste). This reminds me of the Salem witch trials (although the verdicts are reversed) which forced the accused woman into a lake. If the water refused her and she floated, she was deemed guilty. If she drowned, her death proved her innocence. In Fire, Agni bestows his mercy on Radha, deeming her innocence by releasing her from his flames and she escapes to meet her lover Sita. No wonder this infuriates the homophobic, sexually repressed religious right. Their God has now been portrayed as condoning homosexuality. The realistic portrayal of traditional, yet abusive relationships such as these that Radha and Sita were suffering from are considered more acceptable than the unconventional love and reprieve they found in each other's arms and hearts. In the end, even though Radha emerges from the flames unscathed, the viewer is left to wonder what will become of these two women left on their own in this culture. Their path won't be easy.

Is the path ever easy for a woman's sexual freedom? Even in this culture from which I have emerged? American culture is also sexually repressed and women have been raised to cow tow to the unenlightened needs of their men. Not that women's perceived needs are anymore enlightened. I view traditional, unquestioned, monogamous relationships as a symptom of this malady.

A friend recently mentioned that she thinks I don't respect monogamous relationships. I admitted that generally speaking, no I don't. That doesn't mean that I don't respect a person's choice to be monogamous. I've written before about many "valid" reasons as to why a person may choice monogamy. And I myself am certainly not the one to decide what reasons may or may not be valid--except for myself of course.

My friend also mentioned that she didn't think that monogamy and sexual freedom were necessarily mutually exclusive. I agree. But there is one particular situation that strikes me as clearly not a choice that leads to a woman's sexual freedom. Although there may be many "valid" reasons as to why a woman (or man) may choose monogamy, the threat of her partner ending their relationship if she chooses to have sex with another, is not a "valid" reason--in regards to sexual freedom. Of course she has every right to make this choice and I can most certainly respect that choice. What I am unable to support or respect is the notion that this choice is not a surrender of her sexual freedom. It is a choice that supports his fear of her sexual freedom, along with her fear of losing him. I'm just calling a spade a spade, not judging the rightness or wrongness of this choice.

8 comments:

foxyfrogmomma said...

sadly I have to agree... Anytime a loved ones threatens to leave you if you do something you love, there is major control in place.Once one is out of this situation it is painful to watch a loved one go through it.I miss my sister alot but cant stand the contro she has willingly given in to.You helped me alot though when you said its voluntarily.I have missed your writing and am glad you are back.We as women give our self away in the name of love way to often....

Emma Kelly said...

Hi AP,

We see things similarly except that in my half of the relationship much has been restricted in order to ignite an alternative passion. It's more like sex is intensified through me vicariously living ti through Em's freedom.

We are moving into a new phase of exploring that embraces her sexual and emotional freedom. Much to talk about with you.

Best,

scott
Mrs. Kelly's Playhouse
www.mrsemmakelly.com

I AM ANOTHER said...

Hi Foxy, Yes, I've had to deal with this threat and for me, there was a lot more anger than fear related to processing through it. It totally pissed me off that I was being threatened in that way, plus it made me incredibly sad when I thought, "What, your love isn't deep and true enough to stay with me through this?" It was like, who is going to win out here, my desire for freedom or your fear of losing me (and whatever else) and therefore your need to control me. It was a huge struggle for us. Funny thing though, was that in his heart of heart, he knew what he was doing and that fact that I didn't really believe he would leave me made it easier for me. In the end though, had I believed him and had I given up my pursuit for freedom to control my own sexuality and love/fuck whoever I wanted, I would have spoiled the love we had with resentment anyway. Fear will take you places you don't want to go. I was very attached to the comfort of our relationship. I didn't want to give that up. So fighting for my freedom was scary. BUT, and this is a big but, in my heart of hearts I never truly believed that he would leave me if I pursued my freedom. And the reality is that some men may leave if you put them to the test and none of wants to lose what we love.

Yes, many women willingly give in to this control. So do men. It's a two way street. But I must that men's control has probably caused a lot more harm in the world and in personal love relationships. But in the end, women do willingly give in to this and that is their choice. And it's a choice to do respect even if ultimately it isn't healthy for them--kinda like eating cheesecake, potato chips and soda pop. We all do things that aren't ultimately good for us. But those unhealthy choices provide some satisfaction we are looking for. Heck yes, women do give themselves away in the name of love way too often. And when we do this it's really fear we are giving ourselves away to. Choosing the comfort of sameness and what we know is okay. I just strive for awareness in my choices. Thanks by the way. I've missed my writing too. I'm going to try to start writing more often again. Love.

I AM ANOTHER said...

Scott,

How do I find you and Emma?!

And of course I get what you and Em are doing. Everyone has different desires and ways of playing their sexuality out. Whether it's a cuckold husband, a monogamous couple, D&S, BDSM, or the various forms of polyamory etc. we all ignite our passions and express our love in different ways. I believe it's doing it with awareness that counts and a big part of being aware is facing our fears, yes? I mean, you've walked this edge intimately.

I'm excited and curious about this new phase of your exploring Em's sexual and emotional freedom.

Love to you both.

foxyfrogmomma said...

I confess,I sobbed reading your response.My mate couldnt/wouldnt handle me having one dog.I knew in my heart of hearts that if he took one thing I loved, it would soon be another.After having years of dogs who didnt bark,me cringing always if I thought they were in his space,I had to leave.Leaving people/places/things I loved for things I loved was one of the worse things I have lived through.I have learned a lot but one thing I know, if inclusion isnt involved, I dont want any.I am still cringing when the dogs bark and its been years.We should not have to give something up to love anyone.My first lover taught me that.I strive to remember it.
I so love reading you and thank you for your love back.

Emma Kelly said...

Hi AP,

The new site URL is www.mrsemmakelly.com. Sorry you didn't get it. It was hiding under my name in the previous comment.

Best,

scott
Mrs. Kelly's Playhouse

I AM ANOTHER said...

Hardly hiding Scott! Thanks again. I'm on my way!

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