The patriarchy in sex

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: My husband and I have been married for a year and we are hardly intimate. Is this normal?

My husband is a great man and a wonderful father. But he doesn’t want to get intimate with me. I dislike him because of that but who can I tell why I’m so miserable in my marriage?

My husband doesn’t initiate the deed with me and every time I do, he rejects me. It really affects my self respect.

I tried talking to my husband about how I want more sex but he ended up mocking me. He said men are the ones who want sex, not women. What is wrong with me?

One scroll through various Pakistani women centric groups and posts about women expressing their discontentment with their sex life are a dime a dozen. A common theme, other than the dissatisfaction with their husbands, is that they believe they are in the wrong for asking for something so intrinsic to a marriage, because surely women cannot have a higher libido than men. And it makes you realize, that just like every other sphere of life, sex is riddled with patriarchy.

The patriarchy in sex has been instilled in our mind subliminally. In Pakistani dramas, we watch the newly wedded couple come down for breakfast the next day. The man has a wide smile plastered on his face and has a puffed up chest while this blushing bride is so embarrassed she can hardly look at anyone. Teen shows have the same storyline of the boyfriend convincing their girlfriends to have sex with them and never the other way around. It is always the man who initiates and never the women. Women are the more submissive, more docile partners in the bedroom and the standard has to be same for every couple.

Pakistani women have always been told that men have higher libidos and that it is a woman’s job to please her husband, in whatever way he asks. “If you don’t please him in the bedroom, he will look elsewhere,” girls are warned during their “talk” before marriage. Women are often reminded of religious sayings that claim angels curse women who refuse to have sex with their husbands, when they want (although this has been completely taken out of context). But what happens to a man who refuses to get intimate with his wife? Will that justify a woman straying? Cheating might be more extreme for women in Pakistan so, will it justify a woman being unhappy in her marriage? Or will women be forever condemned as wantons for having a higher libido than they husband?

Because women in Pakistan are constantly told to satisfy their husbands and their libidos, they never get a chance to explore their own needs. Because it has been so inherently instilled in their minds, that their husband’s will always be in the mood, they never get the chance to consider that they too can want to have sex when they want and not only when their husbands want. And because, no one talks to a Pakistani woman about her libido and desires, she starts to believe that something is wrong with her for asking her husband for the most basic of needs.

What happens when a woman talks to her husband about her lack of satisfaction? For the most part, women shy away from having the conversation with their husbands. After all, no matter how many years go by in a marriage, between the two, the wife has to be the more demure one when it comes to their sex life. Women are also shamed for being too ‘clingy’ and so they tend to tread on eggshells even where it isn’t needed. Unfortunately, where there is lack of communication, there is a lot of room for hypothetical scenarios to be created and a lot of times, women start to grow paranoid that they aren’t enough for their husbands and that they might be cheating. And if it isn’t the paranoid thoughts then it’s the insecurity that eats at them. “Am I not good enough for my husband?” “Does he find me unattractive?”

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One scroll through women centric groups and women will be surprised to learn that having a higher libido than your husband doesn’t make you an anomaly. As much as the patriarchy in sex makes you want to cower back, the truth of the matter is, there needs to be more communication in a marriage. Women should not be forced to feel like they need to shy away from talking about something as important as sex with their husbands. Marriage is all about communication. Being able to explore your desires doesn’t make you a “loose” woman. When we teach this basic concept to our daughters, it will give her the confidence to speak to her husband and also be able to pick up on whether her husband is gaslighting their emotional and sexual needs. Contrary to the patriarchy instilled in sex, intimacy is a two way street and is about both partners, equally.

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