Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sex and the single Indiian girl

This book invokes its title from Helen Gurley Brown's 1962 Sex and the Single Girl, an advice book (Cosmopolitan magazine style) for the newly sexually liberated female of the time.

Much has changed since 1962, and women today navigate a wholly different sexual landscape. While possibilities abound, so do conflicting expectations regarding women and sexuality. Lee Damsky points out in her introduction that Brown's concept of "the single girl," warped and reductionist as it was in the 60's, makes even less sense today.

Attempting to understand what single girls are up to these days, Damsky warns that "the last thing we need is another advice book. But with so many possibilities and so few role models, I couldn't help being curious about what other women are doing with their sex lives these days." The purpose of this collection is explore the sexuality of Gen X women, understanding all the while that sexuality and sexual expression are not separate from the rest of women's lives. The sexual decisions we make (and don't make) say a lot about who we are and how we understand the world we live in.

Sex and Single Girls is a feminist collection of 44 essays from straight and queer women telling their own stories of sexual experiences, identities and desires. This collection explores how these varied women currently understand their own sexuality and the sexuality of others.

Contributors come from a variety of backgrounds and sexual/gender orientations: all flavors of queer and straight, a variety of class, racial and cultural backgrounds, able-bodied and disabled women. Contributors also represent a broad variety of sexual experiences; from Black Artemis, a thirty year-old virgin, writing about the joys of solo sex with sex toys in "Armed and Satisfied", to Meg Daly's "The Allure of the One-Night Stand," in which she writes about the one-night stand as "a sort of enigmatic lover in itself . . . [that] I would court for years to come." Contributors write about solo sex, group sex, vanilla sex, BDSM sex, sex drives, sexual relationships, sex ed - the list could go on and on.

Although some of these essays are pretty steamy, and graphic details are rarely held back, this is not an erotica collection. This book is at turns hilarious, tender, and sad, but never disappointing. I found myself wanting to send essays to friends of mine, and this book will definitely make into more than a few of my buddies stockings this holiday season. It reminds me of discussions I have had over the years with friends, as we talk sex and relationships. However, this book brings me insights from so many wonderful women I have not had the pleasure of counting among my friends. Many of the themes that emerge are familiar to me.

As a Gen X girl myself, I understand the struggle to define and defend sexual autonomy in a sex-saturated culture. Like many of the writers, I too grew up on a diet of pornography, with sophisticated knowledge of sexual techniques and jargon years before I learned about my own sexual desires.

This "information age" of sexuality has forced us to become more discerning, but has also left us much room to explore. This collection helps put a frame of reference on these experiences, and asserts female sexuality as the many-faceted, many-splendored thing it is.

Let me give you a brief sampling of some of my favorites from this collection. Probably my favorite essay is "Seductions of a Bordertown Boy," in which Karleen Pendleton-Jiménez recounts her experiences of living in an ambiguously gendered body as a Latina butch lesbian.

This essay ends with the retelling of a (metaphorical?) sexual encounter between the writer and - you're not going to believe this - President Clinton. Our writer tops Clinton, as he explains that "he no longer had sexual relations with heterosexual women, or men, or anyone else besides butch dykes. That [this] sexuality defied any regulation definition of sexual relations thought up by any legal or government system."

This is good stuff. Ironic, hilarious, and very smart, this essay is an excellent examination of the complicated power dynamics that accompany sex. In fact, the link between sex and power is a theme that runs through many of the essays, with each author offering up a slightly different take on the subject.



Jim said...

Status of Single and Divorced Persons in India
An individual who remains single and never marries feels out of place, socially and culturally. Traditionally, single persons were supposed to be the responsibility of the extended family, and this tradition still continues. Remaining single is more acceptable for men than it is for women. When a woman is not married, it is assumed that there is something wrong with her; she may be very difficult to get along with, she may be uncompromising, and therefore she is single. Single men and women are not allowed to participate in religious festivities and marriage celebrations because it is considered unlucky, unholy, and inauspicious (Rao and Rao 1976). Traditionally, parents who could not find a suitable match for their daughters were ostracized and looked down on.

Divorce was not even a remote possibility or even thought of until recent times (Kakar 1998; Mullatti 1995). In India, there is a cultural, religious, and social stigma associated with divorce. Community disapproval is stronger for divorced women than it is for divorced men (Lessinger 2002).

Studies of divorced, separated, and deserted women show that a majority of them experience serious financial problems, and as a result, many of them are unable to provide food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their children (Kumari 1989; Mullatti 1995; Pothen 1989).

After a divorce, Indian women also experience a multitude of problems in the social arena. Because there are very few divorced, separated, or single-parent families, minimal or little social support is available to them. Divorced Indian women encounter greater social barriers to dating and remarriage (Amato 1994; Mullatti 1995). Moreover, they are hesitant to make friends with men (either single or married) because the friendliness might be misinterpreted to mean that the woman is frivolous, immoral, and sexually permissive. As a matter of fact, a large proportion of divorced women reported problems with sexual harassment, in the workplace and on the social scene (Amato 1994; Mehta 1975; Pothen 1986). According to Paul Amato (1994), most Indians consider sexual relations outside of marriage as unacceptable for women, so most divorced women's sexual needs are unfulfilled unless she remarries, and remarriage for an Indian woman is relatively uncommon. It is, therefore, not surprising that a majority of Indian divorced women experience problems with loneliness (Choudhary 1988; Pothen 1986).

As a result of social stigmatization and familial ostracism, a majority of divorced women in India set up their own households and become self-sufficient (Choudhary 1988; Mehta 1975; Pothen 1989). Satya Leela (1991) found that one-fourth of separated and widowed mothers lived with relatives and only 5 percent were economically dependent on their families.

The doctrine of pativratya also makes it difficult for a woman to leave her husband; instead, an unhappily married woman is expected to accept her destiny—a notion strongly supported by the Hindu concept of predestination (Amato 1994). Amato further added that a divorcee with children generally was forced to make demands upon other male kin within the joint family, and this may interfere with a man's primary role obligation, that is, the economic support of his own spouse, children, and perhaps elderly parents. Hence, a woman without a husband (with the exception of a widowed mother) cannot be accommodated over the long term within the framework of the joint family structure without considerable compromise and tension.

Anonymous said...


Ann O'Dyne said...

I wouldn't be surprised if that
Helen Gurley Brown book was what inspired
Dr Germaine Greer
to write her uni thesis on the topic we now know as
'The Female Eunuch'.

S&TSG was a groundbreaker at the time, and she is not dead yet. She should get more credit for being part of the feminist revolution (the drama of which, you young ones could not possibly understand).

Wishing Many Happy Returns Of The Day to another Virgo blogger

(- I think more Virgos blog than any other sign)