This photo is taken in Bahawalpur, my father's hometown. Inside my room, I could be creative like this but outside my door, I had to be fully bathed in haya.
Sensuality, elevation, expression.
Did you hear of this essential vitamin growing up? Nope. I didn’t either.
Hi, My name is Chaleya and I am the last of seven children in a Pakistani family. I grew up in Punjab chasing farm animals and playing in fields all day. My earliest memory of sensuality was when I became friends with Vicky, the neighbor's boy. I was 11 and he was 13. We would play games on the road, bike around, feed my birds, and roam the fields. One day, we were sitting in the fields next to each other. I felt the urge to find out what was underneath his pants. So I placed my right hand right above his groin and pressed it. I was curious. I wanted to feel if his ‘hidden parts’ were the same as mine.
Shocked and trembling, Vicky pulled my hand away asking what I was thinking. I told him that I had never seen a boy naked. Was he like me, or was he different? If yes, how much different? He hadn't seen a girl naked. I was able to convince him over the next few meetings that our bodies were worth exploring. He and I started spending more time together watching TV. It was an obvious hiding spot. Under the blanket, we would touch and feel each other. It felt nice and different. I wondered why I got wet and why he got hard. I didn't understand but I was beginning to.
I started my period in the same year. Lots of pain and I wasn't allowed to let any boys in the home know I was menstruating. I was blooming. Looking at myself in the mirror became an enjoyable activity. My shoulders, neck, and back were silk-like sultry and it felt so nice to caress myself. Our house at the time was big with many gardens and vegetable fields. Lots of room to roam around, wink wink. I recall noticing our teenage maids having spicy fun with our drivers. Bollywood reigned our family TV time. And its romances were starting to tingle the warmth between my legs. Dare a sensual scene come up, my sister or mom always covered my eyes. I asked my mom what was the romance? How had she made me? She always either told me to shut up or referred me to my sister. My sister told me to stay away from thoughts like that.
Sex. The experiences of all senses in their kindest highest elevation through deep expressions. For my family, it was the most untouched topic. Imagine, women so modest they are angels. According to Islam, angels do not have organs, desires nor appetite.
Like many Muslim families, women in my family must protect and reinforce Sharm-O-Haya. Sharm-O-Haya is a concept where the entirety an individuals’ self-respect depends on her ability to show shame, and modesty in their community. One can be genuinely modest but if one does not showcase it well in the community, one is labeled un-modest and Bey-Sharm. Meaning without shame.
All conversation around sex, sexuality, pleasure, senses, sensuality, and desires is known as Gandi Batein meaning bad, sinful, or dirty talk. If a girl engages in them once and is caught, she is forever known to have crossed the limits and is banished from her home. Her actions may result in punishment, early marriage, abandonment, or worse.
It's all hush hush for us, Pakistani women. From our mothers, we learn that by not engaging in Gandi Batein we are pure, respectful, and angelic. We must keep ourselves clean this way if we want a good husband or heaven. We are also taught to protect the honor of our brothers, fathers, and future husbands. We are taught to please society and kill our own senses and pleasures. To me, growing into a woman felt like everything was shameful. Whatever I wanted to do brought shame to myself or my family somehow…
What was I going to do? Shut me down? No way!
How many shameful acts must it take for me to liberate myself? If it is your self-respect on the line, do you risk it for a conversation about sex? What do you choose? Your sensuality or Sharm-O-Haya?
In many of my sisters' cases, they choose to shut away from their desires, make claim to their upright modesty, and leave sex to be dictated by their partners. I have met several older women in our tribe who claim they have never conversed about pleasure with their husbands. There are girls who are never educated about their bodies and married off to make a family with a stranger. How must it feel, to have a stranger touch you where you have not touched yourself. How do they figure it out? Why is it left for them to figure out when it happens? Why isn't there a conversation built into a child's upbringing?
Sharm-O-Haya is a thief of millions of sensual beings, their desires, powers, and homes. Unfortunately, it is also fantasized.
After my mothers’ sudden passing, I moved to Los Angeles at age 14. Here, I attended a private school and spent most of my time with family, drawing, and reading books. Exploring new topics was a passion of mine and computers were magical. I spent much of my time researching on the computer in the business lounge of our building in Long Beach. One day, I came into the computer room, sat down on the chair, and clicked to open the internet browser. There it was. Porn. Wow. I was amazed. I still remember the website. www.herfirstbigblackdick.com
And watched with bottomless curiosity.
I now learned that I could pleasure myself. I remember looking for a round long shaped device in the home when everyone was asleep. I planned to try it out by sitting on my pillow and riding it. I found a hairbrush, a blush brush, and a cucumber. The Bobbi Brown blush brush was the best. It always hit the spot. It is my mother’s and 15 years later I still have it.
Riding my pillow was a lot of fun. I enjoyed myself get loose.
It felt bad though, afterward. I felt so much shame for what I had done - like I should not have ever attempted it.
Why? Why feel bad for feeling so good?
After a lot of self-study, I realized how my body was introduced to me affected how I behaved toward my body.
The people, the ideas, the ways of living, and the early teachers that surrounded me, shaped me. I was shaped to shame my body.
Immense shame was thrown at me, painted on me, and clouded all around my sexuality that even when I felt good I believed it to be evil, a sin, a stain.
With even greater curiosity and fearlessness, I have washed this paint off of me. Every time I claim my desire, I clean myself off of the shame. The more I expressed my true self full of wit and sensuality the more I flew away. I flew, climbed, jumped, dived, and free-fell into my nourishment, my body, my home in all my senses. This turned my life of sin into a flourishing tree with fruits of love.