Of Orgasms and Sitting Down to Pee: How I’ve Learnt to ‘Do Gender’
I realised that almost every time I had sex with my girlfriend, I prioritised my orgasm over hers, thus doing gender
Studying a Masters in Gender has meant unlearning everything I ever imbibed since childhood.
As I began to acknowledge my male privilege and consciously tried to not assert my masculinity, I realised that my actions, interactions were and are “gendered”.
The difference in those actions, however, is in the way gender is done, whether it contributes to the status quo, or challenges it. Therefore, I believe that “doing gender is a way of life”. Taking a cue from what Harry Benjamin, an American sexologist, wrote in 1967, I think that gender is so deeply ingrained in our interactions and actions that it is impossible to not do it.
Before we delve deeper into the idea of how doing gender is a way of life, it is imperative to define “doing” here.
It includes our interactions, actions and behaviour, which may perpetuate gender inequality, maintain the status quo or challenge it within the realm, in which the action, interaction or behaviour is constituted.
Of Orgasms and Status Quo
We all do gender. Every day. Knowingly or unknowingly. To explain what “doing gender as a way of life” means, I will share instances of my own actions, interactions and behaviour – and my parents’ and friends’ in some cases – across two spaces: public and private.
In the private space, I did gender unknowingly by watching pornography which objectified women – the prime focus being the male protagonist’s orgasm. Watching it gave me a certain gendered idea of sex and pleasure. I realised that almost every time I had sex with my girlfriend, I prioritised my orgasm over hers, a socially constructed and gendered way – which I learnt from watching a certain kind of pornography – of doing gender. It made me realise that my sexuality contained an intrinsic – but socially constructed – aggressiveness.
Within my family, I did gender by not valuing the unpaid care work done by my mother and other women relatives who did it without any incentives or valuation of their work. I did not understand the importance of how the sphere of reproduction contributes to the sphere of production.
I did gender when I willingly participated in many patriarchal customs and traditions, unknowingly contributing to maintenance of the status quo.
Before moving onto how I did gender in the public space, I would like to share a well-known case which will further explain what doing gender means.
The infamous Delhi gang-rape incident of 2012 got worldwide attention. But what appalled the people – and led to widespread outrage on social media – was an interview of one of the rape accused. In the controversial documentary “India’s Daughter“, produced by the BBC, he said “A decent girl won’t roam after 9 at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”.
By raping – or inflicting sexual violence – the girl, he did gender because doing violence is a form of doing gender and despite being convicted, he believed he was right. His way of doing violence against the victim was his way of doing gender. In the interview, he did gender again by making the gendered statement, which echoes the mindset of many in India.
Listening to My Female Friends
Coming back to the public space, I did gender every time I didn’t care to listen to my female friends and shut them down while debating Indian politics because I didn’t agree with their arguments.
I did gender by categorising Muslim women wearing Hijabs as being oppressed and subjected to injustice, not realising that there may be different ways of justice and my vision of justice and empowerment may be different from what those women want for themselves.
However, the past few months have redefined the way I do gender. Before doing anything, I stop and look back to analyse the possible gendered impact of my actions, and then go ahead with it.
For instance, an article on Everyday Feminism made me think of how I did gender – asserted my male privilege – by peeing standing up in a gender-neutral bathroom in Sussex University and creating a mess, which I had never thought of before. It inspired me to try sitting down and peeing – something socially constructed as feminine – and doing gender differently.
I did gender all my life. I do gender every day. I will do gender every day in the future. And it’s not just me, all of us do gender because it is a way of life, knowingly or unknowingly.
Doing gender to challenge the status quo is my way of life. What’s your gendered way of life? Challenging the status quo or maintaining it?
(Devanik Saha is a MA Gender & Development student at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.