Features Sunday, April 19, 2015 - 05:30
When a Pakistani woman runs a blog on Pakistani sexuality, it is bound to ruffle more than just a few feathers. The woman is Eiynah, a pseudonym she goes by. "I remain anonymous because of the threats I constantly receive for my work," she says in a conversation with The News Minute over email. If you visit her blog, a disclaimer pops up warning you: "The blog that you are about to view may contain content only suitable for adults." Moving forward to the next step, the first image that strikes you is that of a woman holding two ripe mangoes against her breasts. Eiynah's blog is called Nice Mangos. "I chose nice mangos because of the popularity of Pakistani mangos, and for the usage of mangos as a euphemism for breasts. I thought it was apt because I write about sex. It's also meant to be a subtle statement about the objectification of women," says Eiynah, who also creates the graphics for her blog. "It makes the process a lot more fun for me, than just writing about it", she adds. Nice Mangos, is a blog, that discusses sexuality in all its form- not shying away from its very purpose. Orgasm, masturbation, homosexuality, incest, orgies- the blog is more than being just an answer booklet; it gives scope for debate and encourages discussion. All the while, giving readers the option to remain anonymous. The blog has grown to include discussions about sexuality and religion, sexuality and politics, etc. However, its main purpose is to provide a platform for discussion about sex and sexuality within the South Asian and Muslim culture. So what are Eiynah's views on sexuality? "I believe in equality, diversity and open-mindedness. I believe that it's really a personal choice. As long as consenting adults are involved, it's nobody's business," she says.  In her email to TNM, Eiynah writes, "the last time I was in Pakistan I observed how little the average person knew about sex, how judgmental they were about different aspects of sexuality. I am not a doctor or certified sex therapist myself, but I have studied sociology and sexuality in university, combined with communications and graphic design. I had plenty of discussions with people of different socio-economic backgrounds; I found that there was a lack of basic information across the board". Pakistan is Eiynah's native country, but she has spent most of her life living abroad, growing up in Saudi Arabia and moving to Toronto when she was a teen. Sometime around 2010, Eiynah started the blog, but she had been collecting data and conducting interviews much before that as she saw the need for such conversation to be started. Eiynah's unusual venture, which she believes is the first of its kind, has had to overcome many roadblocks. But as word spread, more and more people reached out with questions and concerns they had regarding sex or sexuality in Pakistan (and sometimes India too). Some voiced similar thoughts, whereas others were just intrigued to read about others. Eiynah purposely decided to write about sex and sexuality in Pakistan. She feels that people need a platform where they can discuss their queries openly without experiencing the backlash. She writes, "Pakistani culture, especially Muslim Pakistani culture is not very open to discussions about sexuality. In my experience, we kind of live in denial of it. We like to pretend sex doesn't really exist. And if it does, it is for the sole purpose of procreation. Meanwhile, everything goes on, just like any other country - perhaps even more so because of the lack of access, segregation and repression. I have interviewed swingers, people who have partaken in group sex, people who enjoy bondage, S&M, etc. etc. This is the part of Pakistan that not many people get to see." "The worst manifestation of this unwillingness to talk about sex and associating it with something shameful, is probably the fact that pedophilia is rampant. There is this perception that to discuss something as traumatic as childhood sexual abuse is 'shameful' - if it is brought up by a survivor, it is quickly brushed under the carpet. Because, "what will people think?" - that is actually one of my main goals, to change that mentality, and to provide a safe space for people to talk about their experiences.....to increase the information surrounding this, so that things may change." "Taboo is an understatement. Sex and sexuality is not just taboo in Pakistan, it is damagingly under-discussed. And so many people suffer because of that. Especially women. Sexuality bleeds into so many aspects of our lives; it is not just restricted to the bedroom," she continues.  The new generations in Pakistan seem to be an open-minded lot. "Things are changing, slowly but surely. I think social media is really making a difference. With people having access to shared stories and other people's unfiltered opinions, things are changing. Like minds are able to speak out collectively, and that is powerful," she says.  However, Eiynah does not just write for adults. She is also an illustrator who creates graphics for children. She says, she has always wanted to write children's books. My Chacha is Gay, one of the illustrations she created earlier this year, has come to become very popular. What she writes for children, is not very different from what she writes for adults, she believes. "I try to promote tolerance, diversity and secular values through my blog, and basically the kids books are in the same vein. Just minus the adult content," she explians.  "I feel there are too few resources for Pakistani children that are not painted with a religious brush. If we taught variety from an early age, maybe Pakistan would not be suffering from such extremism now," she adds.  There are, however, certain sections that are against Nice Mangos and the content it serves. Hate mails, criticisms and threats are something Eiynah has to deal with regularly, apart from getting varying reports of her blog being blocked in some areas of Pakistan and the Middle East. "My blog," she says, "is not for the faint hearted, let's just say. Sex is a divisive subject. I appeal to some, but I am hated by many too." Albeit the constant hatred does weigh down upon her on days, but none of this stops Eiynah, for whom the good experiences definitely outweigh the bad ones. For every bit of loathing, she also receives considerable encouragement and appreciation from her readers. "The blog has accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed (of)!" says Eiynah who has no plans of giving up yet. "Being a Pakistani 'Muslim' woman in any part of the world means that people will have certain assumptions about you. But that's why I think it's so important to showcase the diversity within the Muslim world. Because stereotypes are very inaccurate," she says. What Eiynah does is commendable, all the more because her work allows for light to seep in, on a subject that is otherwise not usually tread upon in the country she hails from. The discussions on her blog, that provide solutions to many, also question conservative traditions. Eiynah in Urdu means mirror. Eiynah's blog too functions like one- giving people a clear image of sex and sexuality, taking the shame out of it in the process.  Eiynah's book My Chacha is Gay can be purchased online at http://www.mychachaisgay.com/   An earlier version of the story was first published on the The News Minute on September 2, 2014.