Our discomfort with s*x

Why can Pakistanis not be ‘happy in bed’?

Earlier this month Mathira’s most recent venture hit the social media circuit to mixed reviews. Her appearance in Josh condom ads felt liberating to some, just as it felt disgusting and out of place to others. It didn’t take long for PEMRA to shift uncomfortably in their shoes before they gave it the boot. No Mathira. No advert for protection. No population control.

But what was in that ad that caused such a commotion to begin with? If we dig a little deeper than the obvious truth, we’re left with something which isn’t really that lewd; we’re left with our own lack of ability to handle sex. The Pakistani people are no strangers to coitus with the country popping out close to 14,000 children on a daily basis. A developing country such as ours cannot afford the population boom. Staunch denouncers of Mathira’s Josh are blaming her left, right and centre for tarnishing the family planning/birth control platform. That sounds about right? Not if you look at the ad closely. It doesn’t really touch on the subject of family planning at all. It can, however, be tied in with sex education.

The various aspects relating to one’s physical, psychological and sociological needs are what form the basis of such education. The manner in which men treat women in Pakistan is deeply rooted in the fact that they’re not taught to be empathetic, and especially in terms of sex, they’re not educated at all. What Mathira represents in Josh’s advertisement is a woman who’s married to a man who keeps her happy. The idea that physical intimacy can be important for women too never really occurred to any of us, did it? And when faced with it, we know not what to do except recoil in horror. Like the air you breathe, like the food you eat, the birds and the bees is just another need one has to satisfy. Why it’s taken and turned into a taboo which needs religious, moral and ethical policing is confusing.

The volume of marital rapes in the country is enough to make you wonder just what is it that the men are doing with their women. It’s a silent crime where the victim is called the victor and the perpetrator is the master. We would rather punish bad morals than educate people for having the bad morals we taught them in the first place. We do not wish to teach our young men to be kind, gentle and good to the women they love. We’re okay with a husband forcing himself on his wife with no thought whatsoever of making the experience a little easier for her to handle. And when you add the stamp of religious approval, there’s literally nothing anyone can do. This can be fixed if men are taught to be more kind to the women they’re married to, however.

Sexual behaviour has been made such a taboo that simply treating a wife as an equal partner in a sexual act is thought of as immoral. And the immorality police is nowhere to be found when women are being wronged time and time again. Josh can be accused of a lot of things but its ad had to be appreciated for trying to present a different point of view. An average Pakistani woman will give birth to five to six children in her life time. From those, several will be the product of marital rape or sex subsequent to some form of abuse. So it’s not surprising that Pakistanis can’t stomach Mathira’s character prancing around like a happy woman who’s so terribly satisfied that the entire neighbourhood is jealous.

This is a country where experts estimate that almost all HIV cases where women are involved stem from transmissions from a woman’s husband to her. So we’ve built our women to be willing victims of rape and disease and there’s no law that can rectify that situation – but we will ban an advertisement which focuses on keeping women happy in bed. Pakistanis look at condoms and conclude “family planning”, because we fail to acknowledge them having any other utility. And we fail to tap out of our “haww gandi baat” mentality no matter what we do. Physical intimacy isn’t just a man’s play, it’s equally important (if not more so) for women.

But more than the men, it is the woman that are fault for taking it lying down (no pun intended). They refuse to talk about the taboos, refuse to address marital rape and go along with all manners of horror willingly. Discussions over sexuality are held behind closed doors with one’s mother, never with one’s husband. And never is the subject of pleasure derived from physical intimacy visited. It is the same women who are having such a hard time understanding why Mathira would do something so ludicrous i.e. be satisfied with physical intimacy.

At the end of the day, if the critics of the ad are to be taken seriously than any woman who’s happily married to a man who’s nowhere near as good looking as she is, is basically a woman that lacks character. If she’s satisfied with coitus then all the more so. There is no insinuation that simply using Josh can get you all the women you want. The only woman the guy seems to want till the very end is his “wife”. It is high time we actually try and sensitize men to the role they play in their spouse’s sexual wellbeing.

While family planning is an important issue, it is not the only one that demands attention. We have a dire need to revisit how we look at our women, how we treat them, and how we label the ones that seem different. For now, evidently we cannot tell the difference between a woman that’s being objectified, and a woman that’s merely satisfied. What we cannot comprehend is “oh so dirty!”

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. She can be emailed at luavut@gmail.com. She tweets @luavut

Luavut Zahid

Luavut Zahid writes about all the injustices she sees, whether they're directed towards people, or the planet. She can be found writing about crisis response and disasters just as easily as she'll pen a piece about the mistreatment of women and minorities. She can be reached at: luavut@gmail.com, and she tweets at: @luavut.



63 Comments

  1. Dani said:

    You’ve got some b*lls(one can never know what may offend the moderator) writing this article, I salute you and I agree we all need to change our point of view, we all need be a little less conservative and we all need to try Josh condems.(btw just kidding on last one, one can use another brand if they want ;-) )

  2. Shahzaib said:

    I grew up watching the "Saathi" ads on TV then came green star marketing and their message of "waqfa"… none of these ads was taken off air because the ads were not uncomfortable for any living room in Pakistan. Why can't "josh" make a similar ad? Our society is Islamic in it's outlook and will remain the same, the efforts to systematically pound at its makeup will never crack it open to "vulgarity" cloaked in the shape of "genuine concern for public-sexual health".

    • unikorn said:

      You utterly fail to understand what the message in the ad was and what the writer has openly explained to dumba** like you who still would not understand a word of it.

  3. SnD said:

    Absolutely tremendous piece….The article brings into the fore the deep, dark curtained truths of our male chauvinist society into the fore. Majority won’t be able to digest them but unfortunately that’s what the truth is :)

  4. Shaleem said:

    Absolutely tremendous piece….The article brings into the fore the deep, dark curtained truths of our male chauvinist society into the fore. Majority won’t be able to digest them but unfortunately that’s what the truth is :)

    • Laila Orakzai said:

      I agree … but now she must have the ability to face criticism too.

      • Anon said:

        .
        I won't worry …
        She is no 'chicken hearted' …
        .

  5. Emaan Hateem said:

    Being psychologist, I have understood your viewpoint and I am strongly agreed with you. I appreciate your courage to write on taboo and you wll have face criticism as well on writing courageously. There is no proper system of educating couples before or after marriage by their elders, just like parenting which is neither taught nor learnt.

  6. Faruk said:

    You didn't address the "strawberry" flavor mentioned in the ad in your article. I think you didn't understand what act this ad was insinuating

    • Raz said:

      I don't think you read the piece. The strawberry flavour is to help women get more pleasure out of the act too. She keeps talking about pleasure and how women should have some through physical intimacy as well.

    • Sara said:

      The ad was recognizing that people engage in all forms of sexual acts, some forcefully, many willingly. Its naive to believe these acts will only happen because of an ad – they happen anyway. You fail to understand the writer's point – sex happens, in all manners and forms. And its been happening without the influence of Mathira, and will continue to happen even though the ad has been banned. And since it does, these ads are important to try and facilitate greater awareness on how to make it beneficial for both parties.

  7. Anon said:

    .
    Hearing a human voice makes me think Pakistan has some hope …
    .

  8. Anon said:

    Finally some sensible writing on this issue. There isn't anything wrong with the ad, just like you mention, it's the people's mentality that is creating problems. For the men, they may be offended that the ad 'implies' things because it mentions strawberry flavor, but they won't imply much when it comes to them watching porn. Sex, women, and shame together are just concepts created by the misogynistic society of Pakistan, it has nothing to do with Islam.
    Once again, really good article.

  9. Kramer said:

    For everybody hating on the fact that it mentions the strawberry.. ITS NOT A FLAVOR, IT'S JUST A SCENT. That means you can smell it, not taste it. A lot of women, including my wife, hate the smell of latex in condoms.. strawberry could help make the experience a more comfortable one.

  10. Farhan said:

    I disagree with the writer.

    Agreed that some taboos are unnecessary and need to be broken. We need population control and therefore condom ads.

    Liberal lobbies have to understand that taboos can be broken but trying to deal with them aggressively only strengthens them. This ad by Mathira was insulting to many couples, even those who use them.

    For example, ads for female hygiene products are already running on television and nobody seems to have a problem with them because they portray females in a positive light. I see this as a good example of breaking tabooss

    • Anon said:

      .
      But you didn't disagree with the writer …
      .
      You have a point though …
      Are you able to deal with that with it's face-value without characterization (like "Liberal lobbies") ???
      .
      .

    • Ahmed Usama said:

      Once people get comfortable with a topic it remains taboo no more, as you said female hygiene ads, portraying females in a 'positive light'.
      Portraying SEX in a positive manner was the first step, people got used to; it's called sensory adaptation and believe me no supernatural being can control it but one's own senses, and now comes Mathira : being worked in an advertising agency, a stunning new concept is extremely important while launching a new product. What difference will the customers feel from number of different condom brands? I am pretty sure almost all must have tried JOSH once if they are provided with a partner to have sex, and if it holds the quality they will try it again.
      I really back your concerns about the liberals. Yes! they are an immoral breed who have always been in a constant jihad against the 1400 year old moral standards. And i am afraid with the internet looping in every sacred corner of our social harems, the future of the Ummah is critically endangered, signs for those who believe, the day of judgment is near!

  11. Nadeem said:

    Marital rape is the new term imported from west. Who is doing it are women doing it or men.

    • KJ Kifakeid said:

      Wow! I don't have any word to describe your ignorance.

    • Ain Kay said:

      Such morons we have in our society. Lock them up, throw away the key and forget about them. Oh, but that way we would be imprisoning major chunk of our population!

    • Anita said:

      May be if I can throw some STRAWBERRIES at Nadeem that he would get the message!

    • Sara said:

      Its not a 'term'. In a country when you have girls married off at 13, even younger, who have no idea about things like sex, are still developing physically and psychologically, sex is absolutely forced on them. Forced sex=rape. Lack of awareness and education in general results in high levels of female abuse. Learn to look for facts before you make ignorant statements.

    • Anon said:

      .
      Depends …
      .
      If I married a saggy rich widow in my youth, it would be her …
      .

    • Nosherwan said:

      No need to be so harsh on Nadeem.
      Let me explain to him the term Marital Rape in the way he can perhaps understand more profoundly.
      So Nadeem saab imagine u are married to a Big Sturdy Pathan named Pistole Khan from Bannu. You cooked all day, did all your house chores, cooked meals etc etc.. tired and exhausted at the end of the day. Pistole Khan comes home first yells some slurs.. and then he says, " Wa lakka! La shalwar te ho ja putha"
      No foreplay, no sweet talks no nothing.. and starts firing his pistole without your will.. How would you like that? I bet you would?
      Believe me.. I am not trying to offend you.. But who knows, perhaps your parents even conceived u this way"
      La shalwar!

      • Nadeem said:

        Tumhari mother nein tumhein bataya tha us key sath ye huwa tha.

  12. mrs AD said:

    Yess it is true that these “TABOO” things r so easily available in shops n stores ..Yess coz stores n shops t purpose built places where one can easily get these “TABOO” things as v cannot deny the need n importance of these ”TABOOS”…obviously u cannot find these “TABOOS” on road side or could pluck it from trees…besides it also doesn’t mean that as knowledge is getting common about such “TABOOS” so v start discussing it so openly or watch n appreciate such adds based on such “TABOO” on television n forget the norms n moral values of our society. As per above peice of writing it shows add was to educate ppl how to control population…but I feel sory to say that writer has very poor sense of understanding coz the way add was made not at all giving msg of controlling population but it was very seduceable rather giving msg of vulgarity n polluted the v beautiful relation marriage.. .I m sure how open, liberal or broad minded one could be! Can never discuss such issues right infront of family consist of sisters , mothers, fathers, grand parents, daughters n daughter in laws, young siblings etc…try n digest the reality which is far bitter that v love to get involve in arguments without noticing the sensitivity of issues.. yes Islamic republic of Pakistan has its code of conduct n high social n moral values which v as nation have forgotten..being fresh n educated blood its high time to fulfill our responsibility to bring back ” Ezzat n waqar ” of this Islamic republic of Pakistan…it needs guts to stand n raise ur voice against wrong rather it is quite easy to start flowing with what ever wrong going around us.. mind it that raising ur voice against wrong is the sign of “mukkamal emaan” n letting it go is the weakest sign of “emaan”..

    • Fara said:

      Dear Mrs, I would like to bring it into your knowledge,that the "very beautiful relation of marriage" in fact involves (GASP!!!) sexual relations!

  13. sattar rind said:

    we need birth control on any account. we may leave hypocrisy behind and look forward as the rapid growth of population is more dangers than the josh ad.

  14. danish said:

    such ads are not acceptable and are not even allowed in Islam…!!! Intermingling of non-mahrams are not allowed the way they showed in the ad….!!!

    parents and teachers have the role of educating the youngsters about sex within the islamic shariah ,not such vulgar ads.

    • adeeb said:

      You're in a public forum. Does Islam allow a na-mehram to view your post? Uh oh. Too late.

  15. asad said:

    nice views here. i will say taught the teenager in your family about all morals etc then criticize ads etc

  16. Sarah said:

    Nice article. Why should I keep bearing someone's children when he cannot even support me financially?

  17. mizhaider said:

    very well written, though it will take another 50 years (maybe more) for the people of this country to make sense out of what the writer is trying to say.

  18. lucky said:

    How other Islamic countries do to educate their adult population on this subject?

    • Fara said:

      Through public health campaigns and school counselling,done even in the conservative Gulf countries.

  19. Danish Khan said:

    Marital Rape? Now what the *uck is that!!!!

    • Ask said:

      Its when you forcefully have s*x with your wife.

  20. rab nawaz said:

    what does mean by marital rape ? i request to writer plzz make me to understand this term then i will comment on the piece of writing.

    • Ask said:

      Its when you forcefully have s*x with your wife. Google it if you want details.

  21. moin said:

    PEMRA is not against the pop control neither educated Pakis…All Josh ppl need to do is to promote it in the right way which is acceptable.

    As a marketer I would say the name itself is wrong as in this society it promotes sexual harcore behavior which is not acceptable generally in this hypocrate society but mkt must follow what is right.

    2ndly I would say the ad is based on a theme where everyone is envying the man as his new wiffe is taking extra care of him. it is fine but the context is wrong.

    3rdly i'd say there are beautiful ways to advertise and name a brand and yoru teams must find them by understanding the market more.

  22. Watertree said:

    stop breeding like rabbits and think of misery and economic collapse that these primitive urges are doing to our society.

    • Watertree said:

      spend time on learning and improving quality of life.

  23. Nadeem said:

    Next step towards so called liberalization is don't get married. Keep following the western culture and you will be there sooner then later.

  24. Shazia said:

    family planning and disease prevention are important for our women and men, ads are the only way to communicate in a modern society; we must get over it and let it run

  25. Aleem Ullah said:

    A nice way to present point of view but some things ned to be considered before siding with the ad makers of Josh condom
    1. How did a model(mathira in this case) know that a bad looking guy is good at bed before marriage? the ad definitely points to pre martial sex.
    2. Many facts stated have no proof whatsoever, Martial sex, HIV Aids, this is never a way to claim reliabaility with no factual presentation.
    3. Birth control units are developed at urban even rural units as well, so a private company signing up for it doesnt make any sense.
    4. Sex education should be a state responsibility coming out from a marketing company that would do anything to gain popularity, what do you expect them to bring next?

  26. faraz said:

    The point writer wants to elaborate is that female satisfaction in the act is usually ignored and all the contraceptives adds are focused on family planning only. Point is well taken and extensively explained.
    I think there should be a tv slot in which such ads should be aired maybe late nights when children are asleep, mostly. As for this ad, I have seen it ans was taken aback, mathira being a super model is taken as a shock by onlookers when she marries such an average guy the reason being these condoms. Is that it? Or are there some innuendos intended? Things can be conveyed in a more subtle and gentled way.

  27. Ali said:

    only by educating people and making them informed on issues. Ignorance is killing this nation. The first part of solving a problem is acknowledging that there is one. And as for this article in particular…I think it's great that attention is being brought to the fact that in Pakistan…sex is something that is meant for men to enjoy but not as much attention is given to the woman!?!? I can't begin to comprehend living in a society where a woman is not treated equally. And moreover, how is it enjoyable for a man if the woman is just laying there completely uninvolved in the process of love making? The ad itself is really not that bad…it's time to educate our people…on everything and living in a democratic society allow everyone to live as they choose.

  28. Mystic said:

    Yes, good… move women from oppressed to s3x symbols… Well done!!!!

    Can't find a middle ground, can we?

  29. Soha Khan said:

    Very refreshing to finally hear a rational take on this. Seriously people need to demarcate social issues from religious ones, there’s obviously no need for a ‘fatwa’ on this commercial (bet the shura is already tired of mathira’s scandals). And yes we really need to be more open about the so-called taboos. Coming from the people of the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ also the largest benefactor of the porn industry, it’s very surprising that a condom commercial that depicts a sexually satisfied, contraceptive – advocating woman is so threatening

  30. Ali said:

    Though the writer is on the firm grounds of population control, but we as a nation of Pakistan we as a in general as human beings are way far from understanding this view.
    (By we I am referring to a vast majority holding the shackles of ignorance)
    Condoms, contraceptive pills, family planning etc… were alien concepts about a decade or two ago. Being involved with the process, and statistically viewing this post one can judge for themselves what matters the most for this nation. 49 comments, and I can say probably the most read post. Problem with this nation is about understanding the balance of nature. You are amazed and stunned when you hear the words on being pregnant 'ALLAH ki marzi' even they dont have the money to visit a healthcare center for delivering the child.
    This subject needs to be taken very seriously in the manner to educate and introduce laws accordingly.

  31. Mohammad Akram said:

    The writer has given the opinion which one an agree and other disagree Just discussing and giving opinion can elaborate the problems and perhaps find some ways to tackle the problems There may not be a problem but to address and highlight to that extent might become and considered a problem Humans are humans and they will remain pro and anti and some agree and some disagree on any thing around Its nice to know that someone gives opinion and it is discussed that much. Good luck

  32. Aqeel said:

    I am not well versed in Islamic guidlines relating to matrimonial relationship but I do recall sayings that emphasise the importance of s*x in matrimonial relationship. While prohibitions against extra-marital ***ual relationships are strong, s*x itself is not a taboo subject. Permissible ***ual relationships are described in Islamic sources as great wells of love and closeness for the couple involved. Islam view ***ual intercourse as an act of worship that fulfils emotional and physical needs as well as being procreative. About considering womens pleasure, in one Hadith The Prophet said, "Three people are cruel: . ..a person who has sex with his wife before foreplay.'' (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 40) There are many other such Hadiths that emphasise the importance of womens pleasure. So to some extend a person having reglious knowledge in this regard may be more empthatic.

  33. Hasan said:

    Why do these taboos impede the betterment of mankind ? I think I have a part of the answer. Our religious and cultural values are static. They do not evolve. When one's worldview is static with a provision that it shall prevail in the presence of knowledge that advocates the adoption of other values then one cannot evolve in spirit or mind.

  34. Umair Saeed said:

    This is not about our discomfort with the subject, it is about our incompetence as media organizations and regulatory authorities. There still isn't any system of television content ratings. So till viewers care clearly communicated the suitability of a television program for children or adults; such ads and programs need to remain banned!

  35. TaZ said:

    I am an overseas pakistani and have grown up with these kind of ads. I believe that people who are opposing to these ads are uneducated mullahs who don't even follow the Islamic religion let alone anything else. Plse tell me who follows Islam in Pakistan because if they did then Pakistan wouldn't be in this situation. We cannot blame India, America or any other nation for that reason for the problems created by our own politicians. Please tell me that the richest man in Pakistan (prime minister) pays a paltry $26000 dollar tax really!!!!!! I rest my case. As for the ad well there will be an enquiry.

  36. Uzma said:

    The article has the potential of raising eyebrows, and women, more than men are more likely to agree with the writer.

    But my point is, can this behavior of men be changed when we talk about rural areas (and urban ofcourse), because if we really want to change Pakistan and especially teach men how to treat women, we cant just share our opinions over these issues, what we need to do is, take action. And not just depend on greenstar teams and criticize.

    I would agree with the writer and all her proponents if there is some practicality to it. Talk wont change behaviors, we must take action, and since we all agree there is dire need, lets go and teach families in rural and urban areas who do not have access to sex education or the internet.

    Teach mothers and fathers to start teachin their teenagers about the birds and the bees. In addition to that, explain to men what islam says about women and ways to treat them better.

    So who is in?

    Mere talk isnt going to help. Its high time!

Comments are closed.

Top