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An older Tibetan man recently asked me what I thought about increasing divorces in Tibetan marriages, especially among couples fifty and over. The basic basic problem, he observed, is that women seem to want to stop having sex at some point in the marriage but the man wants to keep going. His friend was in exactly this situation, which he tried to solve by having an affair with a younger woman. Unfortunately, the affair wasn’t great for the marriage either. His question was whether women always lose interest in sex at a certain age and what men can do to hold their attention.
I’m too shy to go around asking women fifty and over, but I don’t think the issue is about age. The real issue comes when women don’t have a history of enjoying sex over the course of a relationship. If sex is something that happens between a couple when the man wants, anytime the man wants, and the focus is on the man having a good time, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the woman eventually decides she’s had enough. The attitude that sex is for men, and the women’s job is to let men take care of their business, has to change. Some men think women don’t even like sex no matter what. That is totally not true. If men pay attention to a woman’s feelings, women can be just as interested in sex as men are.
The first part of the solution for this problem is that men need to recognize when it’s a good time for the woman or not. If it’s not, that needs to be respected every time. Work for it, show her a little romance. A good time will come for sure if the man makes an effort. Next, the couple should communicate. If two people can have sex, they should be able to talk too. If you want to know what the other person in the relationship likes, trying asking. Finally, Tibetan men need to learn to respect their partner’s privacy about what happens in privacy. When the woman knows her boyfriend or husband is going to go out and describe every detail of their sex life to his friends she isn’t going to feel comfortable.
Q: I have a humble question: I am a gay western man that helped a Tibetan family in the United States for many years. The wife of the family discriminated me worse than anyone has in my life and in any country Ive visited around the world. She treated me worse than an animal, without any hesitation. She then accused her husband of domestic violence. I truly believe in Tibetan women standing up for their safety and freedom.. but, is there any kindness from them towards LGBT individuals? Would appreciate your response.
A: Achieving gay rights and respect is going to be difficult in Tibetan culture, more than women’s equality, which is difficult enough. Many Tibetans believe that being gay is a strange Western thing that doesn’t exist in our community. Acceptance will come eventually, we can’t be stuck in 1959 forever, but there is a lot of resistance to change and “Western influence.” I hope some gay members of our society will be brave enough to speak up and help move this issue forward. Independence for individuals to be themselves will only make the community healthier. I can imagine how difficult it is for these people to have to hide, people should be allowed to be who they are.
Although women’s equality and gay equality are not the same struggle, they both are similar challenges to social control. By starting the process of getting people thinking about fighting for personal freedoms as well as political freedoms, I believe that women’s equality is taking a step in the right direction. Gay rights will be a little farther down the same road.
Q: I want to ask you one thing as i am accepting that sexual harassment or physical abuse happened in our society but why ourpeople used to hide such incidents often. For example:” A recent alleged rape of a Tibetan minor in the Mundgod Tibetan settlement”. While, their first step was to make case silent or disclosed with anyone instead of complaint over police or settlement authority. so, what you think; is this problem of our society structure or lacking behind the modern education?
A: I believe one reason people keep quiet is that families feel embarrassed if everyone knows something happened to their daughter. There is also a problem because many Tibetans don’t think abuse is really that bad. When husbands basically force their wives to have sex or teenage girls are raped, it’s almost considered normal, maybe not great, but not exactly terrible either. For example, after my book came out, one man I know told me it made him thank about times in his experience when men were together and someone said something like, “If a woman doesn’t want to give you sex, choke her like this and she will do it.” Until he really thought about it, he didn’t appreciate how bad that is. In exile, there is a lot of reluctance to let foreigners see anything bad about Tibet. That is probably the reason why they tried to cover up the Mungod situation at first. Some important people would rather protect our reputation than Tibetan women.
The solution is going to have to come from regular people, from ordinary conversations and people taking a moment to think about what is going on. We have to stop blaming women when they are victims of abuse and hold the perpetrators accountable. I don’t know that education makes much difference. There are educated Tibetans, if education was the solution we would be seeing them be the first ones to stand up and say something, but that hasn’t happened. It seems that the ones with education are sometimes the last to address problems such as abuse.
A reader asked about my thoughts on a recent quote from our political leader Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay. Thanks for the question, here’s a look at what I think.
QUESTION: I’m taking care of a teenage daughter in Tibet and I can see that she is starting to get a lot of attention from men. I’m concerned that she might get pregnant or have some problem instead of focusing on improving her life. It’s difficult to get birth control here and I’m not really comfortable talking about these things with her. How can I best protect her from early pregnancy and diseases?
ANSWER: With a teenager, if you just say “don’t do this, don’t do that” she will become even more curious. Even though Tibetans think any sex before marriage isn’t okay, don’t expect you can totally control her and stop anything from happening. It’s better to teach her to be a responsible person and how to make good decisions herself. If you aren’t comfortable talking to her about this issue, you should choose an older woman in the village to talk with her and be available when she has questions or wants advice. You can also give her birth control through this person.
This question came up on WeChat awhile ago. The same person also asked how to get a woman interested in a man, but that is really a more individual issue, you’ve got to figure that out on your own.
QUESTION: It’s hard to find a Tibetan woman willing to have a relationship before marriage like Western people do. Even if a Tibetan woman is interested in a man, and he likes her too, Tibetan women want to get married before anything else happens. Why can’t we can’t take time to get to know each other first?
ANSWER: The problem is that if a Tibetan man gets a chance to have sex with a woman he usually tells everyone he knows all the details. The next day, everybody knows about it, and that makes it hard for the woman to find a husband later in our small community. After marriage, a woman’s history can still be a problem, the husband might use her experiences to disrespect her. Also, a lot of people don’t know about birth control, and the woman might not be ready. This situation might change eventually if men are willing to respect women’s privacy a little more, but for now, you have to understand the situation the woman is in. The best thing you can do is to communicate with her honestly about her feelings to find out what she’s looking for and what her concerns are.
Starting today, we will be trying out a new weekly feature answering questions about gender equality, relationships, sex, and any other concerns related to Tibetan Women’s Reality. Some of the questions will ones frequently raised in personal conversations or WeChat discussions, and hopefully some of them will be coming from you, the reader. Email questions to email@example.com and indicate if you okay with being identified in the post, using names will be purely optional.
Question: In Tibetan culture women are expected to be “shy,” meaning women usually resist attention from men even when they are interested in a relationship. Men feel like they have to be pushy with women in this environment, what is the difference between being persistent and harassment?
Answer: The most important thing is that no means no. Men have to stop whatever they’re doing at the point a woman says no. If a man is really interested in a woman he should show her respect and give her a chance to think about what she wants. Women feel more comfortable with a man if he shows respect and is honest. So many men are quick to say “I love you, I can’t live without you,” then move on a couple hours later; women don’t know who to trust. Showing respect builds the trust that leads to healthy relationships.