Discussions about sexuality other than heterosexuality are largely absent in the country. The only kind of sexuality that is talked about is heterosexuality. We can barely imagine anyone ever admitting publicly of liking someone from the same gender or both. The scope of sexuality is not limited to only these three types, but for discussion purposes, I am going to limit it to these three.
The only sexual relation that is publicly acknowledged in Pakistan is men liking women and vice versa
The idea of liking someone from the same gender or both is not entertained at all. Even the discussion about liking someone is on a very surface level because majority of the people only ever get to be with someone after they get married.
However, that in no way means that the vast majority of the people in this country abstain from having sexual relations. Yes, while this may come as a surprise to many of you but it does happen. As they say, the human beings are an exquisitely social species. This means that sex is also a very important part of our needs. But it is no secret that people cannot as easily engage in intercourse as elsewhere in the world. This could primarily be because of religious injunctions and also because of the popular belief that women are the honor of the house so the realization that they could be engaging in sexual activity will bring shame to family. It is considered okay if a man does the same because well, honor is only linked to our women.
So, straight men need to have sex one way or the other and since women cannot easily participate in the activity, they end up sleeping with other men in Pakistan
It’s understandable why they are resorting to this option and also, no one will have to live with the “shame” of being labelled as gay (the shame attached to the term gay is another story altogether) because when you say that you’re having sex with men because you can’t find a woman, you’re not gay, right?
MSM is a scientific term used to refer to men who have sex with other men, usually straight
Men having sex with other men obviously happens within a private setting, like bedrooms but many often indulge in sexual activity in public spaces. This can take place at locations like shrines or laborers sleeping together after a long day at work. It is also common knowledge that such things occur, to the point that it is internalized by the people of these areas. For people who have access to the internet, one can also find men using gay dating applications.
“In Pakistan men are discouraged from having girlfriends and so often, their first sexual experiences will be with male friends or cousins. This is often seen as a part of growing up and it can be overlooked by families – it’s the idea that ‘boys will be boys’. Sex between men will be overlooked as long as no-one feels that tradition or religion are being challenged. At the end of it all, everyone gets married to a member of the opposite sex and nothing is spoken about,” shared Qasim, a researcher , while speaking to BBC.
“In Pakistani culture, having sex with a man — as long as you’re the one penetrating or “the top” — means you are the epitome of machismo. It makes you super-straight,” says Ali speaking with Xtra.
“You’re dominating a guy. Dominating a woman is easy, but you’re dominating a guy. You must be super masculine”, he went on.
Research suggests that men may engage in such a behavior because of the following reasons:
- It is just done for the sake of finding a sexual outlet, these men do not necessarily find each other attractive
- It is easier to find men available for sex rather than women because the idea of honour is attached with a woman, and that involves judgement from the people around.
- The majority of the people who engage in sex with men just want to get off. They don’t care who is on the other side.
- It is also easier to not spend money for sex. To go to prostitutes, they would have to spend money. So, it is more convenient to just sleep with each other.
- There is no commitment involved in such exchanges. Everyone knows why they are indulging in the act.
Aslam, a resident of Lahore and a daily-wage laborer shared his experience in having sex with other men:
“Women are a sacred figures. We can’t have sex with them without marriage. I wouldn’t ever imagine my own female family members doing such a thing. We(men) all understand that and sleep with each other instead. We cuddle at night, and the spaces are public. This means that there are many more individuals like us.”
Since the indulgence in such casual sex can also increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, I asked him whether or not they account for such incidents.
“We don’t know anything about that. We just want to get our pleasure and that’s what we do. Life goes on”, Aslam said.
I asked him if he was married or not and if he sees this as an immoral activity
“Guys just want to have sex. That’s how we are programmed. I don’t think that’s immoral. I am not married now but my family is looking for someone. It would be nice to have someone in my life. I don’t exactly know whether or not I would stop this casual indulgence in sex.”
Sexuality in Pakistan is a very sensitive topic. The stigma around it results in such activities and that also involves a lot of risk. If we can just start actively discussing these things, a lot of people can lead healthy sexual lives.
Cover image via: bbc.co.uk