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We want to talk about sex and sexuality. Particularly, its politics. Particularly the power it has over us, the power to keep us quiet about violences that happen in our homes, the power to kill us with diseases we are not educated about or cannot prevent; how it is used for coercion and how it is meant to be an expression of pleasure, love and respect. We want to talk about sexual rights and sexual health, sexual orientation and gender roles, sexual violence and sexual abuse, sexual empowerment and sexual happiness. We want to talk about family and relationships, love and marriage, homosexuality and heterosexuality, heteronormativity and perceived deviance, religious sanction and religious condemnation, freedom of choice and autonomy over one’s own body.
In short, we want to talk about what people living their everyday lives deal with every day, but are not allowed to talk about because we, as Pakistanis, have not allowed sex and sexuality to enter the conversation.
Kyla Pasha’s passionate statement of the repercussions of not talking about sex and sexuality is from her article “All About the Conversation”, from the first issue of Chay Magazine. In May, Duniya posted about this revolutionary online magazine and thanks to Facebook, I saw a link to the first issue on my home page…you know, on the creepy stalker newsfeed.
I clicked on the link and, admittedly, expected to find SOMETHING that wouldn’t sit well with me. At best, I expected it to be hetero-normative and at worst, well….it could have been pretty horrible. I’m happy to say that it is great! The website, though obviously very new, is organized really well. Articles are categorized into Gender, Health, Love, Media, and Sex Work. I love that those categories cover so many different things! The writers are also coming from a variety of perspectives. While the taboo around sexuality obviously affects women more than men (read this article on the website by Maria Ahmad..it’s great!), the magazine employs both men and women, both queer and straight to offer perspectives on issues of sexuality.
The mission statement of the magazine is good insight into what they are all about:
Having observed in Pakistani society, a disturbing tendency towards fear and shame around issues of sex and sexuality – that is to say, around a normal human interaction – the founders of Chay Magazine feel that sex and sexuality should enter the public discourse. The taboo and silence around sex and sexuality are oppressive on all of us, irrespective of gender, and lead, at the very least, to unhappiness in our daily lives and, more often, to violence, shame, depression, ill health and general social malaise. We at Chay Magazine endeavor to bring to the Pakistani reading public a place to converse about those things we are most shy of. Our hope is that, through this, we can become braver and stronger, more powerful, self-assured, and just and fair members of society.
I really appreciate that they understand and acknowledge the intersections between sexual shame and interpersonal violence. And of course, I think it’s great that young Pakistani women are finding spaces to talk about sex in ways that they can’t in their everyday lives.
The funny thing is that as someone who grew up in the United States, I have experienced similar feelings of shame and guilt about my own sexuality. Is this something that is not specific to any one culture? Of course it isn’t. The United States and ‘western’ culture have a lot of issues around sex as well…I’m sure I don’t need to try to argue that point any further. But I think that it is easier for ‘westerners’ to grasp the idea that Pakistan is more oppressive.
At the same time, I would hate for young Pakistani activist writers to be worrying about what people in the United States are going to think about their website while they post. I think my point is simply that I hope they can critically analyze their own perspectives on the issue so as to not demonize the entire Pakistani culture. I think it is too soon in the game to tell whether or not that will happen.
Overall, the magazine is great. It could be a great resource for young activists. And what better way to show people in the West that Pakistan doesn’t need anyone to help them – there are clearly a lot of people there who are engaging in grassroots feminist activism on their own. The best thing about the website is that it also serves as a community space…so not only are they talking about creating a conversation around sex and sexuality, but they are providing that space for us!
You can sign up for a personal account to comment on articles. If you would like to ask questions or submit an article to be in the magazine you can email Chay at firstname.lastname@example.org.