Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 and friendship: Do we pick our friends?



At the beginning of 2016, I was a firm believer that you do get to pick your friends. Sure, they never stand in a row and you never get to pick whoever you like the most. Friendship doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work that way. But that’s not what I thought at the beginning of the year. You do choose your friends. That’s what I thought.

And at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t in the best of places. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have any money. I had nothing to do or keep me occupied. But I had friends. Some that I still love dearly. And at that time I felt lucky for having made quite a few wise decisions with regard to the people I had picked as friends.

By then, I had already lost touch with most of my school friends. Only one of them remains someone I keep in touch with. And I thought this was a smart move. I realized that in school, at that age, thanks to the system, you don’t really meet people you have a lot in common with. Friends are people you sit next to or have the same classes with. So I was happy that I had managed to sort of distance myself from them. And I honestly thought that this was the best thing to do.

As for the people I called friends, they were people I had met at a workplace. But they weren’t exactly work friends. During the 2 ½ years of working there, I was able to meet and become friends with people I really wanted in my life. And I thought that I had been able to pick them.

Throughout the year, however, I realized that this wasn’t the case. I hadn’t picked them and that if they had stood before me and I had been asked to pick, I mayn’t have picked half of them. Before you take this as an insult, please continue to read.

Throughout the years, our group gained members and lost members and gained members and so on. At the moment, we are at around six members. We more or less have in common our careers. Most of us read, some of us don’t. Some are married or in steady relationships while others are still trying to figure it out. We went to different schools and aren’t even the same age. We watch different films and TV shows and have different morals and values.

So if I was given a character description and asked to pick, I honestly wouldn’t have picked some of them, simply because I would have thought I have nothing in common with them. I would have thought that just because they don’t read the same books as I do or believe in the same things as I do we can’t be friends. So I’m glad I didn’t get to pick because now I have this amazing group of friends I can rely on.

And the same goes for my other friends; people I’ve met online, at events, through other friends… I realize now that I never got to choose any of them. I never got to pick them. It just happened that we got to talking and we became friends.

So what has changed now? Have I stopped being a firm believer that you can pick your friends? Definietly. You can’t, you don’t, pick your friends. But this doesn’t mean you have no choice, because you do. See, you can pick whom you want to continue to be friends with.

And there’s a difference between the two. Becoming friends with someone is not something you have much of a say over. You just become friends. But you have a say over how long they remain in your life. And this is something I was struck by during the year.

You know how people say 2016 has been a terrible year because of all the deaths and conflicts and bloodshed? Well, personally, 2016 was a tough year for two reasons. One I wrote about here and it’s basically on loneliness. I may sound whiny but throughout the year, whether when surrounded by friends and family or all by myself, I’ve felt suffocated by this terrible loneliness. And this coupled with disappointment, unhappiness, etc. isn’t a good combination. So I spent most of the year feeling miserable. And one of the reasons for this was the second reason that made 2016 a terrible year for me.

You know how I said I started the year with no money and no job? That changed a few days after the dawn of the New Year. Well, not the money part but the no job part. So I had this job, still a writing job but at a magazine instead of a newspaper, and at first, I was excited to see how magazines work. I had to pick one from two job opportunities and I must admit that I didn’t make a wise decision. But I gave myself excuses and was excited to take on this new world, in a sense.

I was used to cockroach infested offices, daily deadlines, missing lunch and tea gone cold in my mug. I was used to waking up every Sunday morning, impatient to go through the newspaper and see how it all looks in print. But I wanted to see how the world of magazines operated and stupidly, I found myself writing about things and people I had zero interest in.

And at first it didn’t matter, because I didn’t know much about these corporate bigwigs. But soon I realized that I wasn’t personally getting anything out of these interviews. I would have to follow through a set of questions already prepared and leave as soon as the interview was done with. I had to deal with busy schedules and impossible secretaries.

And the worst part was this. So during interviews for the newspaper, usually artists, authors, etc. they were more like conversations and less like QandA sessions. This way I learnt a lot about the people and saw various sides to them. For instance, I was surprised by how humble a particular author was. He was wearing a simple sarong and baniyan. He introduced me to his wife. Told me about his children. Another, a doctor, did the same. While we sipped cool divul kiri, he told us about his family and all these stories.

And so I loved going for these interviews and I loved the newspaper job. The magazine job didn’t give me the same satisfaction and so I became more and more miserable. I finally quit that job in September, I think, and I sure was glad I got out alive.

The job just wasn’t for me, and because of how unhappy I was, I shut myself in. I found it easier to just not talk to people and this led to changes in quite a few friendships I had. And I felt like shit, remembering how I had all these friends I spoke to about the most personal things at the beginning of the year and how that had changed completely by the end of it. I blamed myself, cursed myself.


And I hated myself for picking the wrong friends. And it was then that I slowly started seeing that I didn’t exactly pick them. We studied together, so we became friends. We worked together, so we became friends. We hung out together with a mutual friend, so we became friends. There were no ‘I pick you’ moments. And then what about all those past-friends? The people I no longer talk to?

See, I didn’t pick them either, at the beginning of the friendship. But as time went on, I saw that the friendships weren’t healthy or that they weren’t the people I needed in my life. So I picked them out of my life. And that’s the choice we have. We can’t pick our friends but we can pick them out of our lives.

There are so many people from my previous workplace that I used to be friends with. We spoke a lot, spent time together and were friends in the proper sense of the word. But somewhere down the line, we both realized that it wasn’t working out. We were far too different or didn’t have the same values or we weren’t the people we thought we were. And so just as they decided to pick me out of their lives, I chose to pick them out of my life.

And I’m glad I did that before it was too late.

Because it gets lonely, you know. I’m human, I too would like to meet up with people, talk, laugh, enjoy life for just a bit. But I’d still choose loneliness over the wrong kind of friends. I’d rather be alone than with people who aren’t good for me. And this is where we have a choice. We get to pick who we continue to be friends with and for now, I’m happy with the people I’ve chosen.

As for my school friends, I wish I realized certain things about friendship before I distanced myself from them. I wish I hadn’t grown up so quickly. I wish I hadn’t grown out of them so soon. Because sure, maybe we didn’t have much in common but they were and are people I still care about. They are the people who were with me for most of my life. And they are pretty awesome people.



And I'm not naive to think that once you pick someone to stay, they will never leave. Life isn't that kind to us. Sometimes no matter whom we pick or how much thought we put into our decision, we are left without a choice. Sometimes the choice is made for us. And there's nothing we can do about it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Frangipani





(Before-post notes
#1: There are spoilers here and there. Marked by SPOILER ALERT! and SPOILER ALERT!- OVER
#2: I’m really, really bad at names. So if I’ve got any of the character names wrong, please forgive and correct me.
#3: These are my personal opinions. Maybe the director didn’t intend any of this. But I feel art is open to interpretation.)


 
Sometime back a friend told me about Frangipani, I watched the trailer and had a feeling it was a must-watch film. It tackled issues that Sri Lankan cinema is hesitant or afraid of even acknowledging and more than that, it seemed like a nice film. But of course, back then there seemed to be no way I could watch the film unless I found it online, which I couldn’t, so imagine my happiness when I heard it was coming to local cinemas.



Then came the next problem. A friend and I wanted to watch it but where could we watch it? Very few cinemas were showing the film, which really is a bummer because people need to see this film. It need not be everywhere we look the way Maya seems to be, but people need to see that such a film is being screened and they need to go watch it. I very wrongly assumed people wouldn’t miss a chance to watch the film.

My friend and I decided on City Cinema, Mount Lavinia, because it seemed like the safest option for us, but they were screening the film only at 10.30am. We got there at around 10.20 and found one other person waiting to watch the film. We were told that unless there were five people, they won’t be showing Frangipani.

The other person there to watch the film was a somewhat elderly gentleman. He had been there for a while, I suppose, and during that time, a couple had also shown interest in watching the/a film. When he reminded the guy at the ticket counter of this couple (with them, there would be five of us), the guy at the ticket counter explained that they mayn’t be watching the film.

Before I could come to any conclusions about they were really there for, he explained that a lot of people, especially couples, come to the cinema intending to watch a film. However, hearing what the film is about, they leave.

I was shocked to hear this. And I was angry too. But at that time, I was more worried about not getting to watch the film. The guy at the ticket counter assured us he’ll do his best to show it since otherwise it would be unfair on the people who actually do want to watch the film.

Thankfully, three more people showed up and they screened the film. And let me say this, very few films have made me react (tears, goosebumps, etc.) to the film without it being a reaction towards a character. It’s not that the characters are weak or uninteresting, because they aren’t, but the film is such that I found it difficult to respond to individual characters. It was the situations that got to me.
For instance, and this scene is in the trailer but SPOILER ALERT! There is a scene where Sarasi is seated on the veranda of her house with Chamath. When she leans into kiss him, he moves away. Then she starts hitting him. SPOILER ALERT!- OVER Now in this scene, I didn’t sort of respond emotionally to only Chamath’s character for his inability to love Sarasi or Sarasi’s character for wanting someone she can’t have.

This may seem like a weakness to some, where the characters aren’t strong enough to affect the viewer. And this is perhaps something only I felt when watching the film. But even now, two days after the film, I’m not thinking about each character individually but as lives that intertwined and cannot be looked at individually without one or both of the other characters.

What this does is that it doesn’t force you to play favorites. SPOILER ALERT! When Nalin accepts Sarasi’s offer to use one of her family owned shops for his own business, Chamath is angry. SPOILER ALERT!- OVER And if the characters weren’t so ‘can’t have one without the other’, I would have agreed with Chamath. But in this film, you find yourself understanding Chamath’s anger but also understanding why Nalin made that decision. And a film that can do this is bloody good, in my opinion.

Now the basic storyline is a love triangle. Yes, it can be boiled down to such a simple thing. Three people, two who have known each other all their lives and one who is a recent addition to the group, want each other in very different ways. And perhaps for this reason, a ‘love’ triangle is the wrong word, because Frangipani isn’t a love story. Despite being about friendship, intimacy, sexual attraction, etc. the film manages to not be a love story.

You are introduced to Chamath and Sarasi right at the beginning of the film. They’ve been friends since childhood and we find them getting ready for a bridal wear collection their teacher is presenting for a TV program. The first half of the film revolves around this TV program and it is what gives us a look into the needs and wants of these three characters.

Nalin comes to the village to do some electrical work and stays at the temple. Chamath’s brother, a monk, asks Nalin to help out with the TV program and he ends up taking part too. Not too slowly, with very little beating around the bush, various relationships quickly form between the three.

Sarasi is ill and as she says, her mother is looking for a man for her. They both have their eyes on Chamath, but Chamath finds himself attracted to Nalin. When the feelings are mutual, but Sarasi has expectations from Chamath, they have a falling out. Chamath goes to the city to study designing, while Nalin stays at the village and starts his own electrical business and later, gets married to Sarasi. We then see how each of these characters’ lives meet and part over time, with a somewhat clichéd but not bad ending.

There are quite a few things I really liked about the film. The main thing being that finally we have a film that doesn’t hint at homosexuality through innuendo. It directly talks about not only homosexuality, but the entire LGBTQIA community and also the various problems they face.

We see how men in search of men must hide behind bushes, never being able to let down their guard and constantly risk being arrested. We see how men are forced to choose the ‘safer’ option of marriage to a woman and even having a kid or two in order to not be ‘caught’ by society.

The film also talks about the trans community, which I think is incredibly important. One of the trailers they showed before Frangipani was what they claim was Vijaya Nandasiri’s last film. 66 Mayam seemed to belong with those films that are supposed to be funny but are mostly just offensive and far from funny. The trailer shows a transvestite, typical in cinema, especially Sri Lankan comedies. You have the garish makeup, shrill voice and exaggerated gestures. They are mostly for comedic effect, a character to ridicule, laugh at.

Frangipani, thankfully, only portrays the trans community as the humans they are. Chamath’s closest friend in the city is a transsexual and she comes off as a friendly, helpful, caring person. And this isn’t done in a way that feels like the director is trying to make a point. He is, of course, but it doesn’t feel like he’s using the film as a way to force people to acknowledge the LGBTQIA community in anyway. Instead the film and all incidents that happen feel natural.

Related to this and the topic of sexuality, is how the relationship between Chamath and Nalin progresses. SPOILER ALERT! When Chamath and Nalin first kiss, the scene is intense, long and shows the desire between the two. SPOILER ALERT!- OVER I was worried the film will merely hint at their relationship the way Giniyam Rae hinted at the girl’s bisexuality. But of course, a film like this will never stoop to that level and so we saw these two clearly-attracted-to-each-other men making out and later sleeping together without the usual shame, confusion, anger, etc. that follows such a turn of events.

Throughout the film, Frangipani talks about desire and needs and wants and these are of a sexual nature. And it’s not only between Chamath and Nalin. Films like Let Her Cry talk about women’s sexuality but it seems to make it look very dark and twisted. SPOILER ALERT! In Frangipani, Sarasi takes the initiative with Chamath. She kisses him. She guides his hand to her breast. SPOILER ALERT!- OVER The film acknowledges that women are sexual creatures and that they are aware of their needs and desires.

And this is why I think it’s unfair to look at this film as a ‘gay film’. The label is cringe-worthy, I know, but it is a label used by so many people. I remember telling someone about this film and they said, ‘oh the gay film.’ Sometime back when I told another person I wanted to watch Frangipani, they asked if it was that film with two men. And so Frangipani has got that ‘gay film’ label and I really think it should be removed immediately.

Because Frangipani isn’t about two men falling in love. It’s not the gay version of those godawful cheesy love stories. It’s a film that looks at so many aspects to society. You see how a family react’s to finding their son dressed as a woman by having a thovile or exorcism. You see how a monk reacts to the thovile but how he is also accepting if not also understanding of his brother’s life. You see how a family is worried about an unmarried young man because of what society may think. You see a girl pushed to ‘settle’ in life because her future is uncertain.

And this is why you shouldn’t watch the film looking for a love story of any nature. In very natural ways, the director makes us question our own beliefs, attitudes and opinions. Don’t we also make jokes about (and this is a horrible but direct translation of a phrase I’ve heard too many times) ‘men in skirts’? Don’t we question not only the sexual orientation, but also success, luck/fortune and sometimes even sanity of anyone who is unmarried? Don’t we too think of homosexuality or transsexuality as an illness? And don’t we also make the ‘safer’ choice instead of the one we really want to make?

And Frangipani successfully and beautifully addresses such things without a condescending or confrontational tone. But this doesn’t mean that the film isn’t ultimately also making people acknowledge and accept the LGBTQIA community, especially in Sri Lanka.

We, for some reason, treat the LGBTQIA community like a relative who did some godawful thing and so although still a part of the family, isn’t acknowledged and is treated as nonexistent. And yet, each and every member of that family knows about the relative and what he or she did, but they refuse to talk about it.

Everyone knows that heterosexuality isn’t the only way of life. We know that sexual desire and romantic feelings aren’t that black and white. And yet, we refuse to acknowledge it, perhaps in fear that we will be labeled something we aren’t or aren’t ready to admit. But Frangipani, especially by not being a film one can only watch at film festivals or special screenings, has made people accept that the LGBTQIA community in Sri Lanka is very much in existence but also that it faces a lot of injustice due to unfair laws that need to be changed and social beliefs and attitudes which also need changing.

Religion plays a huge role in our lives and whether we really understand what religion is about and whether we really believe in what we claim to, we will be tied to religion, sometimes not even by choice. One of the main arguments made by Camp Heterosexuality is the Only Way of Life is that religion says homosexuality is sinful. ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’, right?

Buddhism plays an odd role here. Admittedly, my knowledge of Buddhism is quite low, but from what I’ve read and learnt, the Buddha never said that homosexuality is wrong or sinful.

Frangipani makes use of this aspect to Buddhism, which all these ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ types may not like. Chamath’s brother who is a monk never gets preachy about Chamath’s life. The only time we see any opposition is when he tells Chamath that there is some turpentine that can be used to remove his nail polish. Later, SPOILER ALERT! when Sarasi shows the monk a picture of Chamath all dolled up in a dress, there is nothing but acceptance. SPOILER ALERT!- OVER

Such monks, I’m sure, are rare but honestly, if the clergy speaks more, not only about the LGBTQIA community, but the various issues we all face in society, whether it’s homophobia, racism or sexism, then I feel, society will change sooner. But for some reason, the clergy remains more or less silent, maybe hesitant to stir the pot.

But the pot needs to be stirred, and I’m glad Frangipani is here to do that. Because while making a point or talking about the LGBTQIA community, it is also ultimately a beautiful film with such easy to love and understand characters. It’s a film that will make you emotional and want to just sit with the characters and talk to them.

I’m not saying Frangipani is flawless. It has its moments, but overall, it’s a must-watch film. And if you’ve been over the fence about watching it, just give it a shot (And take me with you because I’d like to watch it again).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When there's no one...




(Warning: This is more like a personal blog post but I’m posting it here because it sort of explains why I rarely reply to anything on time –which is right at the end so maybe just scroll down? If you are my parents, then reading this may make you realize your daughter isn’t who you think she is, and I would appreciate it if you treat this post as a diary entry and (other people’s) diaries shouldn’t be read :) )



 

When you are more like a grumpy cat lady and less like the 22 year old you actually are, there are few things that annoy you more than lovey dovey posts. You know how there are a bazillion emojis? None of them reflect my facial expression when I come across a lovey dovey post. Sometimes, while scrolling down Facebook, I fear that I will basically roll my eyes out of my head. Some posts are so cringe-worthy that all I can do is stare at them, speechless.

I know that you’re now thinking that this is going to be one of those whiny ‘I’m single posts.’ You aren’t wrong. But it’s so much more than being single. It’s about the state of being alone. It’s about feeling lonely.

Whenever I put up a post that is basically saying I have no friends, classmates and people I’ve met at work or events or online come to my rescue and defend our friendship. And of course, I am friends with all these people. I care for them and at some point or another, I loved their company.

But I’ve begun wondering if it’s fair to call them friends. I haven’t spoken to some of these people in months, if not years. And even then, the conversations never go too deep. We discuss matters that aren’t too personal; work, books we like, memories.

And most of these people are the kind who I can’t openly say certain things to. Our relationships have never been at that level of comfort or whatever the word is where I can talk to them at one in the morning or leave a long message about how life is a shithole, without worrying that I’m being a bother. Even that’s with my closest friends. Others, despite having spent close to eight years studying together, aren’t people who I can be myself with.

And this isn’t the fault of anyone. I’m not saying my school friends are people I don’t like, because I like them a whole lot. But they aren’t people I can relate to and that’s why I find it difficult to call them my friends. 

Because here’s the thing. We use words like friend, love, kindness very loosely. Just because I’ve known someone for a long time doesn’t make them my friend and it doesn’t mean I should love them. We often feel obliged to call people our friends but why? Someone I haven’t had a meaningful conversation in two or three years isn’t my friend. They are people I know, people I may care for but aren’t friends people who you can reach out to when you need someone?


The problem with thinking this way and also having trouble talking with people is that you start to lose a lot of people-you-know. I remember how, just a few years ago, I used to have three or four Facebook chats going on at the same time. Besides anything work related or something very general, the only reason I even open Messenger is because of a group chat with some of my closest friends or to talk with my closest friend from school.

Looking at how my life has been over the years, it’s very obvious and clear that I don’t have that many people I can talk to. And of these, currently, sadly, I want to talk to none of them. Now, this isn’t a reason for anyone to feel sorry for me. I’ve figured out ways of dealing with crap in life despite having no shoulder I can cry on.


But what happens is this. Now I have no sleepless 3AMs where this loneliness gets to me, mainly because I go to bed quite early. And I find ways to keep myself busy. I have work. I have hobbies. I have books to read. I have tons of ways to procrastinate.

But there are times when I need to talk to someone and then I find myself going through my phone contacts and finding not a soul I can talk to. I go through my Facebook friends or Messenger chats and find none where I can go on a long rant about my feelings.

(I’m leaving Twitter out of this because while I’ve met some of the nicest people there, who have always come to my rescue when in the midst of a shit-has-hit-the-fan moment, things are a bit different over there. Twitter people understand, I hope.)

So when I can’t find someone to talk to, what do I do? Well, I write about how I feel. I either tweet or blog about it and I sort things out in my head. But I’m left with this sinking feeling that I’ve managed to distance myself from people to the extent that I now have no one I can really talk to.

This realization, no matter how many times it hits me, is always a shock. No matter how many times I realize that I quite frankly have no friends, it still scares me to a point of wanting to build even higher walls around me. And it makes it more and more difficult for me to be able to just talk with people.

I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but there are these posts people share on Facebook. They are sort of ‘feel good’ posts about various things. For instance, ‘the truth about what long distance relationships do to you.’ ‘To my best friend’s boyfriend…’ ‘To the one that is in love with the woman I couldn’t make mine.’ I’m  sure you’ve come across at least one of them. Anyway, these posts always start with ‘oh life is shit’ but then end with this pumped up, almost forced, optimism. A post on how it is to be single when all your friends are getting married will end with some shit about how everything happens for a reason and your current loneliness will only make you find someone who will be utterly good to you so like, be strong (even though your fist is clenched so tight in an attempt to not burst into tears.)


The reason I find these posts to be utter garbage is because they sugarcoat the truth and they rarely tell us what life is actually like. Like, I’m a few months away from turning 23. I’m still young. I have a whole life ahead of me and I’ll meet so many new people and I’ll fall in love and find happiness. This shit sells because none of us want to hear the bitter truth. But here it is:

I’m nearly 23. Most of my friends are either in relationships or are married. They are happy and even if they aren’t, they pretend to be. They have people who will listen to their troubles and worries and surprise them with gifts. They have people who like going on long trips with them or sharing meals. They have people who love them and make them feel needed. And it feels like shit when you’ve never had that. It feels so unfair and fucking awful when you wake up knowing there will be no text from an SO waiting for you. When you have no one to just watch the goddamn sunset with. When there’s no one who you can just sit in silence with.

But it’s not only about these little things. It’s about seeing your body reflected in a mirror and wondering if ever someone will find you attractive or desirable. It’s about wondering if ever you’ll feel love when someone’s hand touches your skin and their lips explore your body. Because we all have needs and some of them, we can take care of by ourselves but it gets to a point when you want someone to make you feel loved.

And finally, it’s about that moment when you are surrounded by people but feel utterly alone. Last week, I spent quite a few hours by myself. I was in a café, a place I love, having delicious drinks. I wasn’t waiting for anyone. I was just whiling away time. And I found myself wishing I had someone to be there with. Someone who I can tell anything to and who feels comfortable enough to tell me anything. Someone who will know what bothers me the most and what makes me the most happy. Someone who I don’t need to pretend or have my guard up with.

And it need not be a significant other. A romantic partner. A boy/girlfriend. It just needs to be someone I click with. Someone who I can be completely honest with.

And not having someone like that fucking sucks. That’s the truth. It’s shitty when you see how happy people are together and you feel like you can’t be part of that. You feel awful when you have no one to talk to when you need to get something off your chest.

So here it is. Not sugar-coated.

I’m 22. I’ll be 23 in January. I’ve only ever loved a handful of people. I’ve felt loved maybe once or twice. At this point of life, I have no hope of meeting someone (great), because I’ve managed to cut myself off from any way of meeting people. I talk to nearly no one, and of those I do talk to, none of them can be the kind of person I really need in life. And so I am unhappy. I am scared. And I constantly worry that I’ve driven into a dead end.

And that’s the truth. It sounds whiny. And it is. But that doesn’t make it any less important.




And please, if you read this and feel the need to tell me that I can talk to you, always, any day, about anything, don’t. This isn’t about needing to be told I can talk to you. It’s about not being able to talk to you about what is eating at my heart, what is most important to me, even though you are seated right across from me.


This is like a never-ending speech at an event, but this is it, I promise. I haven’t been replying to many comments and tweets and even messages. I haven’t been talking to many people. If I haven’t replied to something you posted or sent me, you may be thinking, ‘she’s complaining about not having friends but doesn’t make an attempt to maintain any relationships.’ You are right and wrong there. I do my best to distance myself from people and not get attached and this is because I sort of see myself as a fly in the room and it’s a shitty feeling I can only ignore if I don’t have a room to be in. No one’s bothered about flies that aren’t near them, right? Like, say you walk past a tap on the road and you see a fly buzzing about? You won’t feel pissed off or annoyed, right? I want to be like that fly.

The other reason I haven’t been doing a good job of talking to people is because it really exhausts me and I haven’t had a time to ‘charge my batteries’ so I’ve just sort of… been waiting for my batteries to be recharged. And I have no say in how long this takes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nudes and dick pics



There have been a number of discussions on nudes recently. Incidents of leaked nudes occur quite frequently and Sri Lanka too, has had quite a few such incidents. What is interesting however is that nudes usually refer to female nudes. It isn’t just nude pictures of people that are a problem, but female nudity that causes such an uproar.
 
This applies to ordinary people like you and I, and also celebrities. When a male celebrity has nudes published online, even if he wasn’t aware of it, little to no negative attention is given to them. Further, male celebrities can post nudes online without gossip magazines picking them up and having the stories spread like wildfire. The same can’t be said of female celebrities, who often can’t just brush it off as a mistake or a joke. They can’t even admit to publishing the pictures online or not having a problem with it as that will earn them the label of slut or whore.

What ordinary women go through when their nudes are leaked is much worse. They don’t have a publicist to do damage control. And they often don’t have a strong fan base to support them. When the video of a couple having sex in a bank was leaked recently, Sri Lankans went crazy looking for the video. And while the woman in the video was nicknamed ‘banku akka’, not many came to her defense. Instead, what people said was that ‘women should know better’, which is something that females hear from the time they are young girls.

Discussions on nudes often take this stance too (for instance, this post). Women simply should not send nudes to men, even if the man is someone they have known and loved for years. Women are taught to never trust a man but are also told that relationships are built on trust. Women are portrayed as petty, jealous and suspicious but are told that men will be men and thus can’t be trusted.

There is another side to the story too. There is no way you have not once come across/been sent a dick pic. Sometimes the simple mention of dick or penis on Twitter can earn you some stranger’s dick pic which you never even asked for. There are plenty of online accounts with profile pictures that are dicks. And the worse thing is, they don’t even easily go away. 

Men rarely hesitate to send dick pics to strangers and this is mostly because there’s no shame involved in male nudity. Walking along roads in Sri Lanka, you are bound to come across some random man urinating against a wall. There are men who expose themselves to passersby and besides the perversion in the action, such incidents are never used to shame men.

And yet, even a visible bra strap will earn a woman dirty looks from people, even other women.
This inequality between the sexes has led to women always being the guilty party. If a woman is raped, people question her attire, her sobriety and where she was, who she was with and what time it was. If a woman is sexually harassed in the streets, people blame the woman for dressing inappropriately or immodestly.

No matter what happens to a woman and no matter what is done to her, it’s always her fault. A woman asks for it simply by being female. We are forced to hide our bodies because if something does happen to us, it will be our fault.

Recently, a Facebook page had shared a post about a girl who had posted a picture with caption on how there are men fighting over her and something about Sri Lankan men being godayas. I don’t remember much of the caption itself but the Facebook page basically ridiculed the girl for being desperate. And yet, we never talk about all the desperate men who send women messages. And even when we talk about them, it’s mostly as a joke. No one ever shames these men.

And even when a woman does talk about being harassed or abused, there are people who tell her to just stay strong or ignore it. This was actually one of the comments on a post on sexual harassment in a university. ‘Don’t make a big deal out of it,’ is what women are often told when they try to speak about being harassed or abused.

And so it’s no surprise that people tell women to not take or share nudes instead of telling people to not post them online without consent. If a woman trusts a man enough to send him a nude photograph of herself and he leaks it online, are we to blame the woman for trusting the man or blame the man for breaking the trust of the woman? It’s not a difficult to answer question and yet, day after day, we keep choosing the wrong answer.

And let’s forget trust for a moment. No man sends dick pics to women out of trust. Sex isn’t something we should be ashamed of. It shouldn’t be something we never speak of. It’s one of the most natural things in this world and sure, there is a risk of pregnancy and STDs but these are risks that involve or affect all parties who are part of the act. Unplanned pregnancies and having a child out of wedlock are things that women are warned about even before they know how a child is conceived. In fact, most mothers warn their daughters of men without ever telling them what exactly men can do to and with them. This leads to women who have no clue about what can get them pregnant and how they can avoid getting pregnant.

STDs are just never spoken about. No one utters a word about them. There are people who still believe that HIV/AIDS is a ‘gay disease’. Surely with the information we have available to us, we can educate ourselves a bit more?

And yet, we don’t admit that women have needs too. And that there isn’t anything wrong with a woman who wants to have sex or send someone a nude photograph of themselves. Instead we continue to ignore completely natural needs of the human body and we continue to blame women, regardless of how they are certainly not asking for it.

So maybe it’s high time we stop blaming women and instead talk about how we, as human beings, should act. What are our responsibilities? What is right and what is wrong? And most importantly, what action can we take against people who are actually the ones to blame?