Hurdles are a woman's constant companion. In a male dominated world, it is difficult for a woman to openly express herself in almost every sphere. However, the obstacle doubles when it comes to sexual needs. A woman's virginity is seen as a criteria to define her 'purity'. Even after years of struggle, it is next to impossible for women to explore their sexual needs. While patriarchy is one reason, women themselves accepting the subjugation makes it all the more challenging.
Sexuality in Literature and Criticism
Simone de Beauvoir in her work 'The Second Sex', writes "One is not born, but rather becomes, woman." This statement summarises the survival of a woman in a man's world. The gender norms imposed on her immediately after her birth prevent her from exploring her own self. Hence, it is not surprising to find women struggling to identify and explore their sexuality. Being a woman shouldn't be equal to being caged.
In the short story Dry September, William Faulkner portrays the character of Miss Minnie, a victim of sexual frustration. Her 'idle and empty days' drive her to desperation. She is void of any occupation, social position and intellectual interests. Her advancing years and loneliness lead her to cook up a story of getting raped. She believes that it would present her as being sexually desirable even at an elderly age. This is an example of a woman trying to give vent to her pent up sexual urges.
Pleasure in Pop Culture
An example of the society's inability to accept sexually liberated women is seen in the movie 'Veere Di Wedding'. The controversy created around Swara Bhaskar using a vibrator very well helps us understand this. Women who are sure of their sexual needs are seen with diseased eyes. Would there be any such controversy had a similar scene been picturised on a man? Well, all of us already know the answer.
We find a similar scene featuring Kiara Advani in the Netflix original ‘Lust Stories’. That too wasn’t free from controversies. It is not easy for people to accept women satisfying their desires independently. It is always seen as a man’s ‘responsibility’ to satisfy his partner. Even today, women cannot comfortably engage in conversations revolving around sexuality, for obvious reasons and this has to change.
In the movie ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, we find Usha Parmar (Ratna Pathak) secretly reading an erotic fiction. This gives us a hint that despite her age, she prefers to be sexually active but keeps her desires hidden from everyone around because of fear of society. Whereas, sex is seen as natural for men of all age groups, women have to conceal their needs because it’s considered to be a taboo for them.
When will we stop being hypocrites?
Once a man gains popularity among women, he is seen as a stud. But, once a woman begins to gain popularity among men, she is given the title of a slut. We tend to glorify a toxic masculine character such as Kabir Singh who puts ice into his pants to curb his improper sexual urges. On the other hand, we completely ignore a woman’s needs because ladkiyon ko sanskaari hona chahiye. We can dream of equality thriving only when we learn to give equal importance to the needs of both men and women.
Shall We Change This?
- Sex is not a need for ‘only men’.
- Women are forced to keep a check on their sexual desires because of the societal norms.
- Literature and Pop Culture present how women are treated for being sexually active and high time we change that narrative
Views expressed are author's own