Balinese culture and Unfair Sexual Double Standards
One of my passions in life is sexuality as I have proved that a satisfying sexual life is one of my main sources of happiness.
Today, I was told by my father that I was too westernized compared to the other Balinese people in general and frankly speaking I must admit that my attitudes toward sex are indeed freer and more adventurous.
I was supposed to send this article to a local English magazine but I got rejected because the editor perceived it as too vulgar. And I decided to try World Pulse to see how the international community would react.
Alright, before disclosing the nitty gritty, I would like to share my background that has shaped my attitudes to be auspiciously uninhibited and candid about this subject that is still considered taboo by most of my Indonesian fellows.
When it comes to a sexual discussion, you can probably imagine that just like most Indonesian parents, mine are also quite old fashioned and rigid. And being a woman in this country, I feel suppressed and oppressed to talk about it openly and thus after my mother passed away, I forced an open conversation with my dad to let him understand that sexually he could not expect me to be an innocent girl anymore.
As much as I love and respect my father, I do not always share the same values with him. To me, he is an example of a man who applied the infamous double standard in which he justified having sex with a lot of women before marrying my mother yet he prohibited me from doing the same thing. Until now, he is not aware that I was really disappointed with his expectations and I wildly tried to equalize what he did without his supervision.
His main excuse was his fear and concern that I would be maligned and received brutal offhand comments and deem a slut or promiscuous if I happened to marry an Indonesian husband particularly from Bali who at his era still expected virginity as a prerequisite of a descent woman.
I can really understand his way to protect his daughter but to me, approving the denigrating remarks from my husband to label me a whore when he knows that I sleep with a lot of men implies that he plainly validates this unfair double standard which definitely does not sit well with my concept of respecting gender equality.
I actually feel a huge relief knowing that several greatest world leaders including my first President Soekarno are womanizers and from my observation, it seems that a lot of highly intelligent and talented people are apt for this behavior and as a consequence it can be an excuse to ascertain that mine as a woman deserves understanding that some people simply have higher sexual desire than others.
A couple days ago, my father was really offended and criticize me as impertinent and irreverent to find a pack of condoms inadvertently left by my ex boyfriend when cleaning up my car. I laughed for being very reckless but after realizing the number of HIV infected in Bali which has significantly arose each year and the data showed that at the end of 2011 it has reached 5.222 cases and An estimated 50% of reported cases occur in young people aged 15 – 29 (http://www.balispiritfestival.com/ayobicarahivaids), with 1464 cases in Singaraja which is one of the highest among all the regency in Bali (http.bali.antaranews.com), I wish he was more grateful when he knew that my boyfriend used condom when having sex with me instead of focusing too much on what is appropriate and amiss for our culture.
In addition to that I just heard from a friend of mine whose aunty has a small restaurant in Sanur that most of her staff who come from Singaraja my hometown has done sexual activities before they even had their menstruation, married and had children when they were 13 and 14 years old. Most of the women in the village were without a proper education and some of them were already divorced in their early age.
Whereas my mother who was almost raped by her uncle before she married my father was prone to be more smothering by imposing a conviction that sex was disgusting and she simply did that as an obligation to procreate. Also, she was paranoid that I would be tricked to be a submissive woman who was easily fooled and manipulated and got pregnant out of the wedlock with a man when I was still very young by our neighbor who a couple of times had deliberately intended to churn up my teenage life by malicious black magic due to her deep envy to my mother’s successful business.
I still remember that when I was 12 years old, I had so many admirers who are around 30 years old and my mother was really angry when she saw that one of her colleague tried to kiss my mouth. As an innocent child I did not know what to do to this man and even when I first had my wet dreams I just kept it for myself because I was too ashamed to tell my parents about it and worried that they would be upset to me.
When I was in university, there was a senior who screamed out so loud in front of my peers, "Come on Purna, everybody knows that all men can sleep with you since you were in junior high school. Let me have my turn." I was really shocked that I could not say a word. I was a virgin and yes I had a lot of male friends but I did not sleep with everyone. I chose to be silent because I knew that I did not do what he said but still it was so vivid and it took some times to let go this grudge.
Throughout my adult life, I have also been really annoyed and agonized by a belief that a woman must perceive sex as a way to serve her husband. Serve to my opinion is really subservient and slavish and by all means, I do not appreciate this demeaning concept at all. As a woman I never consider myself a servant and deserve sexual satisfaction as a man does.
In addition to that, I was really hurt receiving rejection by almost all the family of my high caste Balinese ex boyfriends who perceived that being from the lowest caste; I would not be equal to join them. Disappointed and losing my optimism to date my countrymen, I then tried my luck to date foreign men who seemed to appraise my skin color, assertiveness, intelligence, and open mindedness a lot more.
Furthermore, I was also hurt when one of my Balinese ex boyfriends told me that my vagina smelled very bad that he was reluctant to give me oral sex. I felt insulted. At that time I was a virgin and only did petting with my previous exes because I wanted to lose my virginity to a man I wanted to settle down with and I felt too ashamed with my vagina because I was afraid that I would receive the same humiliating comment.
I must thank my foreign ex dates and boyfriends who never said such a thing to me and some even enjoyed it like a hungry man who got his first food after 5 days. Feeling degraded for so long, I finally felt highly desired. There was a Greek man who loves and is very passionate about sex and my boyfriend who were generous to keep telling me about how beautiful it was to give me oral sex and psychologically their vigorous passions to please me sexually helped me feel better about myself and my vagina which I loathed for quite some times.
I know that it is too much information but I appreciate the understanding that my relationship with my vagina was really awful because I was too much concerned about what other people said about my sexual lifestyles.
I did not realize that I still held deep grudges to their rejection and it got worse when I heard my female friend who came from the highest caste told me that if she happened to marry a man from the same level she would feel inappropriate asking him to give her cunnilingus because it would be considered disrespectful but she did not say the same thing if she married a foreign man or a man from lower caste. I was appalled.
I was deeply affected by my anxieties that all of what I have heard would come true. My self esteem was scattered especially right after my break up with my first foreign ex boyfriend, when I heard my high school friend telling me that there would be no Balinese man who would accept a woman who had slept with a foreign man because I would be considered a damage good and recently there was a little girl who was told by her mother not to hang out too much with me because I was considered a slut by dating a foreign man.
Devastated and deeply hurt, I immediately stereotyped that all Balinese would affirm these racist and condescending remarks, despised and disgusted my own vagina, and wrote off the local men. Of course it was not wise to make this pigeon hole and I realize that they all did not understand my pain that triggered my behaviors and everything I had been through and unfortunately they were used to women who accepted this status quo that made them arrogant. Moreover, my mother even told me to never ever share my sexual past experiences with my husband because she had experienced that it created jealousy and conflict even when I never made a big deal when they were honest about theirs. Once again I respect my mother’s protective advice but I appreciate fairness.
And hence, since then I strive for a satisfying sexual life that I assumed would not be obtained from the Balinese men. I ensured that either one night stands or serious relationships must be satisfying for me and my partners. And talking about it openly is the beginning of my attempt to speak up and to be understood that I do not tolerate this outdated injustice.
Moving right on, I have never received the right sexual education both at home or at school and here are several first lessons I have learned from my sexual experiences. I will only share three lessons in each chapter.
1. Sex is one of the most pleasurable intimate activities I have ever done in my life. I actually feel like a gypsy when saying this because I assume that most of them have the same approach about it. To the contrary with what my mom felt about sex, I really enjoyed every bit of it. Not only that I love talking about it because it made people laugh but it also made me relax especially after reaching the orgasm. In the past, there were moments when as a single woman I felt guilty with my sexual desire. I fought against it but as a result, being without it for a month was agitating. I got crankier and I was more tense than usual and when I repressed it too long, I could be quite aggressive. The belief that as a woman, longing for sex was a sin still abide in me and I learned that when I accepted it as it is and to be honest about my sexuality even amidst disparaging judgments from certain people helped me to attain peace with myself.
2. Assertiveness in expressing what I wanted made things a lot easier. I have always been upfront to men about the do’s and the dont’s in bed and I found out that most of them appreciate this attitude. I told them my sexual resolutions namely having outdoor sex on the beach or in an empty room in a shopping centre or in a female toilet of a bar and they respected when I told them certain things I did not enjoy, e.g., I did not accept ejaculation or that my head was pressed deeper when receiving my blow job. A lot of men told me that it was hard for them to read women’s mind and to lay the card openly on the table was perceived sexier and more stimulating.
3. Being loved for who I was and who I am and sharing the same goals were substantial to have a satisfying sexual life. My first fulfilling sexual experience was when I started the approach of sharing my vulnerabilities with my Australian ex boyfriend. He was 55 years old and I was let down by hurtful remarks from my other friends who told me that he would be really lousy in bed because he was an old chap and when I told them that I was satisfied having sex with him, and we did once for 4 hours, they accused him for using Viagra. I felt sorry for my ex for the insult he received and I was challenged to prove the opposite and mission accomplished. He was the first man who could empathize with my dark sides and I felt loved. His acceptance made me relax and his attitude was also the onset to enjoy giving oral sex because in the past I forced myself doing it for the sake of obligation. But then, when he revealed he was not interested in having children, I started to fantasize another man who shared the same goal to be able to have my orgasm which apparently was the sign that I was not secure with my relationship and it affected my sexual life and therefore I decided to break up.
There were moments when my self esteem was really low that I would be loved for who I am or when I did not feel certain about achieving my goals because I perceived myself as a bad person to be sexually active, free and open and even not to be professionally accomplished according to my parents’ standards and once when the pressure was overwhelming, I forced to have instant money by engaging in sexual activities with my employer to gain power and respect in my family that I will not be controlled to be perfect anymore.
Besides, as a people pleaser who wanted to conform and get approval from my parents, I even used my virginity to make my ex marry me and it took me four years to let go the pain from having his rejection to settle down because he did not appreciate being pressured. And he felt as if I had ulterior motive behind my proposal.
As a woman who was raised to comply with the society's expectations, I was afraid that my parents would be ashamed and depressed being judged for being bad parents to let me cohabited with my ex boyfriend without being legally married and therefore to respect and fulfill my parents' concerns, I forced him to make it official. Of course he ran away.
As result, my parents were disappointed and I felt responsible to fix it. My mother even passed away when she saw me depressed after my break up and she went to a psychic to get a remedy to help me reconcile with my ex. She did that because she did not want to see me sad and she did not want to be ashamed by our family and our neighbors and soon after she was about to reach home, she had a horrible motorbike accident with my father crashing a dog on the road.
It was a deeply horrifying experience to cope with and since then I tried too hard to ascertain that it would not happen again with my father. I often felt let down and anxious when he said that I should be more aware with his imminent death that I was supposed to get married soon that I presumed would fix his public image that has been tainted by my behaviors he conceived as too wild and truthfully speaking I feel an insurmountable pressure to deal with his expectations both in my personal and professional life.
I was desperate and I kept repeating the same patterns to use my sexuality to be loved or to lure a man to compensate my shame for not being professionally successful until a couple of months ago when I forced a relationship with a highly successful man to make my father proud who was silently more interested to have sex with me more than settling down. I put a halt in that unhealthy relationship after learning to be more conscious that my motive and his were not right.
Finally, I am able to be stronger and firmer when I was tempted to have sex only because I felt guilty that a man paid my bills and to be more circumspect to question my truest motives and intentions before having a tempestuous sexual affair with someone. When I did one night stand, I made sure that I had orgasm because otherwise I would go home feeling guilty with myself and although it is hard to tame my flaming sexual desire, I now prefer to wait until I find the right man.
All in all, I can say that above all the pain I had from the rejection, humiliation, and the injustice that has been consciously or subconsciously accepted for years, I can say that so far, my sexual life has been satisfying. I also realize that all those poignant experiences in the past have propelled me to enjoy sex to its fullest and I know that I and all women in the world deserve sexual satisfaction.
Of course I still deal with people who look down at me and assume that I was sexually an easy target because I love talking about sex openly and that they are not used to meet a woman who have passions about other interesting issues in the world as much as she is passionate about sex, but I now accept who I am. I must accept that the world can be very mean to women and it is applied even in developed countries and the older I get, the more I am used to it. I simply do not choose to perceive sex lower than politics, fashion, or all the other cool stuff. It can be vulgar yet it is relevant as well.
All in all, I regard myself a highly sexual person and now I can thank all those rejection, insults, discrimination, and public humiliation as crucial catalysts to have a fun, adventurous, intense, and satisfying sexual life.
Alright everyone, I wish you all a great sexual life and stay safe.