JBS Vol 22. Num 1. 2020 - Sexuality in Everyday Life in Bangladesh: Documenting Social Class and Generation through a Gender Lens

Umme Busra Fateha Sultana

In this paper, paying attention to age and class differences, I reflect on women’s narratives of their lived experiences of sexuality. Sexual inequalities are rising at an alarming rate globally, and studies in Bangladesh reiterate that these inequalities have a gender dimension. The contribution of this study is to provide cross-class and cross-generational analysis of “gendered sexuality” in Bangladesh. Based on 36 in-depth interviews with women from three social classes and three generations from rural as well as urban sites, this paper analyzes to what extent gender appears as a binary power relationship in the process of “knowing” and “experiencing” sexuality across the diverging age groups and class identities. Through a critical feminist analysis of women’s narratives, the paper reveals that heterosexuality in Bangladesh operates through a deeply rooted system of institutionalised patriarchy. But there are multiple other determinants: the Bengali tradition of sexual morality; notions of trust between husband and wife; an affective realm of fear, shyness and shame around sexuality; and a social vulnerability and wider insecurity for women. All these factors influence everyday heterosexual relationships differently, and some even open up spaces to allow women to negotiate and have agency in sexual practices.