Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unusual Relationships

Of late I have been thinking of an unusual type of relationship among humans. One of asexuality. Well come to think of it asexuality may be more common than what we expect it to be. It was perhaps never openly discussed. We, in India, are so tight lipped when it comes to discussing sexuality, that several problems that arise due to lack of understanding/misunderstanding remain unspoken and unattended. It is as if openly discussing the problems associated with sexual preferences and behavior is sin. I wish to discuss it not as an expert - which I am not - but rather as one seeking answers. It is my request that it may be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

Long ago when my marriage was just a few months old I remember a neighbor with children aged 10 and 7 coming over to our place and discussing with my mother in law some matter of grave importance in a hushed tone. She was a new comer to our town and was not very well known to our family. I kept to myself since the woman in question seemed to prefer to exclude me from the discussion. However it was my mother in law’s reaction that drew my attention,

“Don’t be silly” she had said in a sharp tone. “If your husband was indifferent and uncaring how did you have children by him? Hush up now and never repeat what you have just told me. The world will laugh at you.”

And so it did. In the months that followed it was an open secret that her husband was not sexually inclined and she had to plead with him to have children.

“My children are God’s gift to me.” She would often say. People would laugh behind her back and even call her Kunti Devi referring to the character in Mahabharat who apparently conceived the Pandava princes by invoking the Gods and natural elements.

Years rolled on and after my mother in law’s death I distanced myself from the woman unable to listen to the same story repeated over and over again. I had almost concluded that she was crazy and felt that the point raised by my mother in law was a valid one. She finally moved out of Jamshedpur and I got on with my life.

Recently it was whispered that a young mother known to me was contemplating divorce. The reason quoted was the same as the lady mentioned above. It set me thinking. Was procreation a purely biological phenomenon? Weren’t there any emotions involved? I wondered if the man in question was partially impotent. The couple in question seemed happy enough. I wondered what might have gone wrong? I wondered if there was any way to save the marriage? I immediately explored the Internet and stumbled upon a possible answer. Like homosexual, heterosexual and ambi-sexuals there are people who are asexual. They are not impotent nor do they practice celibacy. They are simply not interested in physical intimacy and prefer a platonic level of emotional interaction. That they may be coaxed or coerced into a sexual relationship on rare occasions, explains how they manage to have children but their married life can be frustrating and dissatisfying if not to them at least to their partners. I remembered the lady who I had known earlier and wondered if it was due to frustration that she gave vent to her feelings and if we were wrong in deciding that she was crazy.

I am not a doctor or psychologist but I certainly would like to know if there is a way that enables one understand that their (a)sexual preference would adversely affect their married life and therefore clarify the situation to their future partners before tying the knot. Alternatively they may perhaps seek out others like themselves and enjoy a purely platonic relationship. I don’t see any point in coaxing such a person into marriage and complaining later. Parents assume that all is well with their children and children never feel comfortable talking to them on such sensitive issues and when it does crop up counseling is never a preferred option. I for one feel that we as a society ought to change and learn to be more open to discussing what we consider unusual or abnormal. For all one know the condition may be more prevalent but less known.

15 comments:

Srijith Unni said...

Hi Hip Granma,

Real eye-opener this one. I did not know about asexuality. I think the person who is asexual, himself might not know until he marries and then discovers..! Either ways instead of coercing into living with each other, it's better to part amicably.

Long time, since I visited in here. Sorry about that.! Hope you're doing well.

Have Fun, Take Care and God Bless!
With Best Regards,
Srijith.

Indy said...

This is an interesting matter regarding the kinds of relatonships that exist!This kind is one that barely gets discussed! Kudos to you for bringing it up here!

Yes, I am sure there are some that are less inclined to physical aspect of love, just as some depend a great deal on it, and some are a neat balance! But, it must be so hard to be the one to want a majorly platonic husband-wife rship, as surely the spouse will never get this point of view, as it is seen as abnormal!

But, then seeing the needs of a more balanced partner being neglected, I wonder how such a relationship can carry on without huge problems of physical neglect arising, and even manifesting as fights, feelings of inadequacies, and perhaps for some, adultery!

I have seen couples that barely get along or even look at each other, but have had a string of kids! But,when they get along well on all accounts but one, I wonder how much harder it must be to break off!

Such a strange world, filled with so many varied problems! I drop in from time to time to read your posts! Each one is always a gem!!!!

starry eyed said...

You brought up something really taboo, HHG, it's so unfair to the spouse...Indian families just assume that their children are ready and willing for marriage...and there's no communication nor freedom to refuse or take time...and that it can ruin another person's life is not taken into account. Where does the frustrated spouse get their urges satisfied?

Sraboney said...

I think the answer to this is pre-marital sex...The only way a person can find out if he/she is asexual is by having sex or trying to have sex before he/she gets married thus saving the spouse grief later on...

Phoenixritu said...

Classic case of sexual incompatibility. Some people just dont want to have it or are happy with very little sex, and if they are paired with those who do want it, it can cause a lot of pain.

Hip Grandma said...

srijith:I myself had not relized that asexuality was a physical condition like homo and ambisexuality and had to be accepted as such although I admit to have known that while most people belonged to the normal range there were a few that were extremely dis interested and others just the opposite.I thought that it was a medically treatable condition.this issue was never taken seriously since if by hook or crook a child is born a woman was supposed to suffer in silence.

Indy:I remember being impressed by the characters of Phobe and Sylvius in Shakespeare's 'As you like it' and was introduced to the term platonic. Real life is different and a platonic relationship works only by mutual consent. However, I did hear of a couple where the wife is asexual and the husband respects her well enough to agree to lead life as per her terms.The couple had a child due to social and family pressure and are now happy to lead life their way.

starry eyed:You are right and in a worse scenario the husband happens to be 'frigid' and his family blames the wife and she has to take it in her stride.

sraboney:Pre-marital sex has its own set of problems and while trying to solve one problem several new ones may crop up. I feel that an asexual/homosexual person should not give in to family pressure and marry.Of course I do hear that very often the person concerned may not even be aware of it. Under the circumstance amicably parting ways is the best solution.

Phoenixritu:Unfortunate it is and painful too.

Poornima said...

I bet you, many of the asexual/ gay/ impotent/ disinterested men in the marriage market dont even KNOW that they fall in that category. The question of telling the girl can come only after that. First of all, Mummys pallu keeps him safely away from self or sexual discovery (which comes with its own scary baggage)of any kind. When he manages to shrug it off his head for a while to taste freedom, I don't think analysing his thoughts, feelings or preferences feature at all on his list of things-to-do. His antennae have been pampered to death with ghee, how would he read his own signals?
Then we have the guy who has REALIZED that hes asexual (or whatever else)…do you think he will ever sit down & talk to his parents about it?? Okay, say he does-can’t you imagine what his parents would do?! Most would think that marriage (without enlightening the girl of course) will prove to be the SOLUTION, thus setting in motion a lifetime of pain for everyone.
Before I got married, I had just one prayer to the powers that be: let my future husband have faults that I can tolerate. The emphasis being on 'I'. Thats the crux of it all. A particular woman may not view an asexual husband as a problem…in fact she probably won’t be able to handle an OVERLY sexed one. I, for eg, would never have been able to get along with one of those party animal types, but a close friend asks me how I ‘deal with’ my ‘anti social’ husband! Revelation, as I have never thought of him that way…in fact I find that trait in him very endearing...

Sometimes life doesnt have any answers!

Poornima said...

sorry Ive taken up so much space!

Hip Grandma said...

poornima:i agree that parents like to keep their son's minuses well covered and would like to blame the DIL for his shortcomings.It is a good thing that the current generation of young brides are protesting. This was unheard of till about 10 or 15 years back.

starry said...

A very interesting and off topic read.how many times after years of being married and having children the husband gets impotent due to medical reasons,can that marriage survive when there is no sex and just companionship.what happens when the woman loves the man and would never leave him but the desire for sex is still there but just stays in the marriage and does not betray the husband.Is that the right thing to do?

Dr.Antony said...

The notion that marriage is a way to achieve fulfillment in life is relatively new. For a long time, people married out of economic necessity and to have children. Now, many people think of it as a road to personal satisfaction.

Many complaints about marriage go something like this: "I am not happy with him/her anymore. I don't feel fulfilled." Such complaints are a result of overblown and misguided expectations.Sex is probably the most important thing which keeps the marriage going.But often,men feels a monotony over the pattern of sex with in marriage. The man you mentioned probably has no problems other than boredom. People who are not interested in sex within family,do so,outside the family. This is the reason extramarital relations grow and thrive. It is applicable to men and women alike.

For that matter,the purpose of sex is only procreation? Probably this is the only entertainment for the poor class,and that is why their women keep on delivering every year. I don't think people engage in sex with the sole purpose of procreation, until a time comes when they decide to have a child.

Then,there are other important things in marriage. The relationship between a husband and wife goes way beyond sex. A wife is a life time partner,not just an object of sex.Men who carry sexual fantasies in their minds are often reluctant to practice them with their wives,out of shame and fear.This is why sexual interests fade away in marriage with time.

hillgrandmom said...

I just googled 'asexuality' after reading this post. I had never heard of it. Maybe an asexual person might be someone, like in fairy stories, who can fall in love with just the one person and if he/she never comes across the person, remains asexual? Whatever it is, it is a pity that parents so often like to ignore issues of their children's sexuality.

Hip Grandma said...

Lalitha:I think if a person loves his/her partner impotency or abstention due to medical reasons may not matter. but the love should be strong enough to overlook the sexual/physical part of marriage. it takes time and effort to develop such an unconditional love.
Another aspect is that while a wife is expected to act in accordance to her husband's need a husband is encouraged by society to remarry if the wife has such a medical condition. Let alone his family the wife herself may look for a suitable partner for the husband.

Dr.Antony:The man mentioned had a genuine problem. He was simply not interested and was perhaps made that way. Unfortunately he did not realize it before marriage.As you rightly say boredom does set in after a point of time and for most couples a life time companionship after a fulfilling conjugal life in the initial years is perfectly acceptable.

Hip Grandma said...

hillgrandmom:The problem when it occurs is quite a seious one and cannot be medically addressed.There seem to be different levels of it and to some an occasional hug and cuddling is acceptable but to others even this is a burden. A lot of counselling is required to prepare a normal person to adjust with an asexual one. We in India, as a society, try to brush it off as something that will get resolved with time.If the affected person(normal) is a woman then she is spurned as being shameless if ever she dares to open her mouth.On the other hand if the woman is asexual or less inclined her husband will not hesitate to impose himself on her or remarry.

Tassu said...

Well you must thinking I'm digging into your old posts and reading..! Yes I love your writing and your thoughts ma'am! Coming to your post I feel sad for that lady , it's really her misfortune to have got married to such a man.I always thought men are more into these things, this was an eye opener for me and I know now all men are not alike!