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Author Topic: Cultural Differences
BustaEve
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Hi all,

I've posted a few times regarding this relationship, but the following is an issue which has been on my mind for some time.

I'm Australian and my boyfriend is from Saudi Arabia. He is currently studying at the same university as I am in Australia.

For the most part, I really enjoy learning about his culture and find it fascinating how different Saudi society is Australian society.

However, there are certain aspects which I feel very uncomforable with. For example, the position of women in Saudi society.

Sometimes I question if I can be in a relationship with someone who holds such different views to my own. Obviously I can't hold him personally responsible for the status of women in Saudi, but by being a man, he is in part complicit to the Saudi women's oppression (this is my point of view, and he doesn't believe Saudi women are oppressed at all).

One thing that really struck me, was that if a Saudi (Muslim) man wants sex with his wife, she is under obligation to submit, regardless of how she feels. To me, this sanctions rape, but for him he sees it as a duty, just as a Saudi man has a duty to provide financially for his family.

Sometimes I feel torn. I feel for the women of Saudi, and yet I am involved with a man who will continue the patriarchal oppression when he returns home. Conversely though, me being in a relationship with him, does not really affect Saudi women in any way, and in part I like to think that maybe I can show him another point of view on women/the role of women and so maybe when he does return home, he will treat the women better in his life than if we had not been together.

This post has turned more into a one-person dialogue, but any thoughts from the Scarleteen team would be appreciated. [Smile]

Posts: 77 | From: Australia | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Saffron Raymie
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Have you had any talks together in which you've brought up the issue of consent with him? As in, whether or not he believes that it is your "duty" to engage in any kind of sex with him? maybe even subconsciously?

I ask because, if you've wound up in that place where you feel obliged to engage in sex, or certain kinds of sex before, this could be a potentially dangerous situation.

[ 11-29-2011, 06:06 AM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

Posts: 1285 | From: England | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BustaEve
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We've never specifically spoken about consent in the context of our relationship.

I've said "no" before and he's fine with that.

Sometimes though, when we're engaging in foreplay and he says "pass me a condom" or he reaches for one, and he hasn't actually asked me if I want to have sex. Unless I really don't want to then I'll have sex with him, but I know sometimes that I'm definately not aroused enough and so initially it's more pain than pleasure. But I haven't brought this up with him, so I can't really expect him to realise that he should always ask, which he does do sometimes.

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Saffron Raymie
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If I may ask, did you have that conversation about how you have been feeling about fellato with him? Was he understanding about it?

You're absolutely right; giving consent to another kind of sexual activity is not automatic consent to another activity. Entry is different from other kinds of sex in certain ways. When we let someone inside our bodies, that person has to be aware that they are being trusted to be respectful and aware that the person they are entering is in a position of some vulnerability, probably greater than theirs as the enter-er.

When we are entering someone's body, if we're really considering that other person, we are going to want to have an awareness about the fact that someone is letting us be, very literally, a part of their body for a while, connected to them in a number of ways, some or all of which may feel very deep to them.

Here are some other ways in which entry is different from other kinds of sex:
  • The person whose body is being entered is usually at a higher risk of injury or sexually transmitted infections, because it is their genital tissue which is most likely to wind up with small abrasions, fissures or micro-tears. For any partner involved, when there is bodily entry going on, the stakes are higher than they are with, say, dry sex, or rubbing someone's breasts or penis.
  • The person whose body is being entered is often the person more likely to experience any pain or discomfort, often due to things like nerves, inadequate arousal or lubrication, or an aggressive or over-eager partner.
  • If we’re talking about an instance of sex and a combination of body and parts that could possibly result in pregnancy, it’s the person whose body is being entered who is at risk of pregnancy.

Baring these things in mind, I don't think it's unreasonable to have expected him to ask, as penis in vagina intercourse is different from other kinds of sex, as it carries different risks.

Also, many folks with vagina don't always find intercourse to be all that awesome, especially if it isn't something they are really longing for. That's because the vagina itself doesn't have that many nerve endings, but can provide just the right kind of stimulation for folks with a penis. So, it's always something that is ideally asked for, especially by folks with a penis.

If any kind of sex is more pain that pleasure, ideally, it's time to change the kind of sex we're having or stop the sex for the time being; as pain during sex can harm our vulvas and our hearts.

Do you think you could have a talk with him about sex and communication, including consent as a whole, and how it's important to ensure that you both feel good?

[ 11-30-2011, 01:02 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

Posts: 1285 | From: England | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BustaEve
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Thanks so much for getting back to me [Smile]

My boyfriend is actually aware for 3 months (he left last Friday) and so I decided to wait to have the conversation about fellato until he got back. I just wanted to enjoy our last few days together rather than engage in a serious talk.

I really related to your comments about how "entry" sex is different to other kinds of sex. And I do feel that as a female who is being entered by a male, I am in a more vulnerable position in general and specifically in terms of possible discomfort, but we always use condoms so STIs do not worry me as much.

I think what has stopped me from talking to him about the issue of consent and fellato is fear. I worry that if I do put a stop or slow-down on certain activities then he won't like me and the relationship will deteriorate. On one level I know that if he responds in such a way, then we probably aren't compatible enough, but at the same time this is my first ever relationship, despite being 24 years of age, and I don't want to lose it.

However, I know it is really important that we do discuss consent, fellato and sex, so when he does get back, won't be until the end of February, I'll initiate a conversation with him.

It's not like we've never spoken about sex, and sexual activities, but I think we need to have another conversation to discuss the above topics.

Thanks again for your help [Smile]

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Saffron Raymie
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There's a lot of cultural myths that people who identify as men 'need' sex. However this just isn't the case - libido just isn't gendered. The idea of someone 'needing' partnered sex to be happy is also false. After all, masturbation is sex. Someimes, whatever our gender, we just don't feel up to sex; we're just not interested. If I remember correctly, that's true for your partner, too.

It's more than not being compatible; if your boyfriend wanted a partner that had no sexual limitations or things they didn't like - it just wouldn't be possible. They would have no partners. Sometimes, in all kinds of relationships, we need to just step back from sex for a little while. If one person is engaging in sex when they don't really want to, it likely won't be much fun for anyone, if you know what I mean there? If your boyfriend knew how you felt about doing certain things, do you think he'd want to be enagaging in it as well?

If he didn't like you because of not liking certain sexual activities, the relationship itself would probably be a little unhealthy. Does that make sense?

When you had that talk with him that time, about only engaging sex when you are both really into it? Did you ask him why it was that he was engaging in sex with you, despite not really feeling any desire for sex himself?

[ 12-01-2011, 07:44 AM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

Posts: 1285 | From: England | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BustaEve
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At the beginning of our relationship it was mainly about sex. We would meet at a club and I'd go back to his house and we'd engage in sexual activities and I was fine with this, I didn't realise it would develop into an actual relationship.

So, I think the initial set-up was that it was understood/implied we'd always have some form of sex when we met up.

So, I think we both felt pressure/expectations that this would happen, and for the most part I was fine with this because I liked being physical with him. However, perhaps we both felt obliged to always be ready for sex and so it was good that we talked about only engaging in sex if we were both wanting it, although there are times where this doesnt always happen.

I think another issue is that, I worry that if we don't take the chance to have sex, then what if something happens and I don't see him anymore or for a while and I'll miss sex/being physical with him.

And sometimes, maybe I don't give him enough credit, as in I think he probably does like me and not just for sex. But I still worry, that if I say no or no to certain things that the relationship will suffer.

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Stephanie_1
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You know, one big thing about relationships and especially sexual relationships is when they are healthy relationships there are boundaries being set up. And those boundaries are understood to be what they are and that it's a good thing not a bad thing. This means too being able to say no when something's not feeling or working right for either person. So it sounds like it's time to talk more about boundaries together and especially to discuss your feelings on that.

Too? Part of being sexual with another person comes in wanting to be sexual with them at any time, NOT about having a ton of sexual experience with them just because you may not see them really soon. It's kind of like eating a whole bunch of chocolate because you won't be able to for a bit. It's not really the most healthy approach to the problem. Make sense?

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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BustaEve
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I definately relate to the analogy about chocolate. It's probably something I do in my life in general, particularly with food, that I do/eat etc everything at once because I'm not sure when I can have it again and I guess subconsciously I've taken this approach to sexual activities too.

As soon as my boyfriend gets back I'll initiate a discussion about these points.

Thanks all for your input [Smile]

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Stephanie_1
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A goodie in terms of reading before having that talk if you're unsure of how to bring these things up: Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

Posts: 3429 | From: Pennsylvania | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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