Love + Sex, Love

In Pakistan, I can’t even kiss my husband in public without being judged by strangers

Talk about serious frustration. The concern always leads back to sin rather than raw desire. Embarrassment rather than courage.

Recently, Pakistani actress Zara Noor Abbas professed her affection on live television for her husband, Asad Noor Siddiqui, by singing him a song. Asad also did the same. Great. What is the big deal, you ask?

I personally do not follow celebrity culture at all in Pakistan, but this particular moment caught my eye, not for the particular act, but what it symbolizes. For many people in the world, this move seems perfectly normal. By giving it attention we sound like fangirls (or boys), so what seriousness is around it? This couple probably is showing this affection because the audience eats it up and loves to follow it.

While that may be true, that is precisely the point: people want to see affection. Who doesn’t? Even further, this is a married couple. Wouldn’t we expect anything but some expression of love in public? In a place as conservative as Pakistan, any sign of premarital relations and dating remains taboo, and most importantly, wrapped in the language of denial. However, marriage – marriage is the holy grail of being able to finally express love and attraction physically, right?

wrong GIF
[Image Description: A gif of Dr. Coxe from “Scrubs” singing the word wrong.] via Giphy
[bctt tweet=”In a place as conservative as Pakistan, any sign of premarital relations and dating remains taboo, and most importantly, wrapped in the language of denial. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The good news is that we are slowly coming out of the time when brides looked depressed in their wedding photos. Not to mention, when couples held awkward gazes. Emphasis on the word slowly. Still, even looking the least bit excited about your wedding day maybe connotes too much dirtiness and sin for many folks. Because god forbid if you are excited about everything that comes after the wedding day! Well, that is if you even have the chance to be excited about it in these parts. For now, such display seems confined to the privileged and celebrities on TV.

Given that Pakistan has bigger and (much) scarier realities to deal with, I am not sure how affection will ruin this society. How do we reproduce, then? Where is the connection if there is that much constraint even on married people? How does anyone understand what the healthy expression of desire and affection in South Asia looks like in reality beyond the juxtaposition of hyper-sexualized Bollywood movies and women-hating Pakistani dramas?

desi GIF
[Image Description: A gif of Katrina Kaif holding a mango in a sexy way.] via Giphy

As I look out of the window and see the acceptance of rampant inequality and intimidation by the powerful, I am stunned. I feel my heart shudder when men in machine guns walk by me, while another pair of men punches each other to prove a point on driving abilities. I am mortified when a young girl in a smaller city in Pakistan is paraded around naked because of her brother’s crimes, and nobody lifts a finger.

And showing affection, even within “permissible” boundaries, with your clothes on is indecent or deserves unwarranted staring? Right.

[bctt tweet=”And showing affection, even within “permissible” boundaries, with your clothes on is indecent or deserves unwarranted staring? Right.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In my own life here in Pakistan, I feel the harsh judgment when my husband holds me or kisses my cheek in public. Upon arriving at the airport, I walk up to him, after not seeing him for a while. As I give him a kiss (yes, on the lips), one group of men stares at us as if we have committed sin. Another has the most perverted smiles on their faces in hopes that they get to watch a pornographic film. I must be the most indecent wife alive to show that affection, ready to parade myself around for all other men to see.

[bctt tweet=”I must be the most indecent wife alive to show that affection, ready to parade myself around for all other men to see.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Talk about serious sexual frustration. The concern always leads back to sex, rather than affection. Sin rather than raw desire. Embarrassment rather than courage. Awkwardness rather than confident embrace.

Sometimes I walk in the streets here and see two men holding hands late at night. They talk with an intimacy they may never even experience with their own wives. I wonder what their conversations will be like when they get home — or if a conversation even occurs anymore. If children are involved, are they estranged from one another into their completely separated worlds of the home and the public space?

I doubt we could ever have a world of too much love.

bollywood GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a Bollywood couple hugging on the floor.] via Giphy