Seeking Accountability In Romantic Relationships

 interfaith marriage

When bell hooks speaks about the radical potential of sisterhood, she is informed by her experience as a Black woman in a white-dominated feminist space. When Virginia Woolf asks for a room of one’s own, she not only points to the condition of women within Victorian morality in general, she also reiterates her own lived experience as a woman in that particular socio-cultural context. Her individual experience of being a woman, with all its complications, told us the absence of spaces of writing or leisure. Their lived experience as women as well as feminists informs their political assertions.

It, then, begs a question that whether one’s individual lived experience be extended to understand how sexual politics is being restructured, let’s say in an Indian metropolitan city? The feminist and/or women’s movement in India and across the globe has not only underlined the importance of women’s autonomy but it has also destigmatized women’s control over their own sexuality.

The radicality of it lies in the fact almost all of us (by ‘us’ I mean women in general, and cis-het women in particular, in heterosexual relationships in a city like Delhi) have carved out spaces for ourselves where we can sing, dance, debate, have multiple sexual partners and be in multiple romantic relationships. Our honor, for us at least, is not tied to our vulvas any longer (I am also aware of how choice and agencyare contested categories and thus warrant a separate debate).

A control over one’s own sexuality also gets extended to the means one can use to find a suitable partner. Occupying a space on a dating application is one such example. There has been a massive change in which one seeks a romantic/sexual partner in the last ten years which also means romantic relationships are more complicated than ever.

A lot has been written about the contemporary dating scene. A nuanced look at the way in which one occupies a space in a romantic relationship underlines one’s location within the hierarchy of structural power. It is not to say, however, exceptions aren’t there and no matter how much one tries not to generalize, it is bound to happen in a society marked by so many differences. Anyway, to eschew from digression, let us get back to the point about women’s sexual liberation. Women know what they want and they actively/consciously make decisions keeping their own desires in mind while they transgress hitherto rigid boundaries.

However, the surface of it gives an illusion of equality, that how men and women are finally on the same plane (at least that is what men seem to be lamenting about). But it disguises how socio-historical structures continue to be replicated, especially when men decide to end a relationship. It is the endingof a relationship that I am interested in, the wayone ends a relationship. I, however, do not intend to say that men cannot not end a relationship but the way in which a consensual relationship is dissolved is what is problematic here.

Men abandoning their wives, families and/or their romantic partners have been normalized as well as romanticized in societies marked by the patriarchy. Rama, Buddha, Nanak and he who cannot be named, are some such examples of men who left their families and wives in the name of enlightenment.

Not that their contribution is not important but what about the women they left behind? What about their hurt and stories of abandonment? Men and their desire to grow and progress has a social sanction which no woman can ever make claims to. One, however, need not say anything on how a woman is perceived when she leaves her family behind.

The terrain that I am dealing with is tricky as one has to constantly remind themselves to remain objective, to not let one’s own past experiences interfere in the way in which they try to delineate an empathetic choice to end a relationship froma blatant refusal to accept any accountability for replicating power positions. It also comes with a fear of rendering women as non-agential subjects. But how does one mark a boundary between men’s liberatory sexual choices and reproduction of oppressive power structures by them? They have been given a historical and cultural sanction to have multiple sexual partners at the cost of their partners’ emotions. How does one, then, demarcate between grief which belongs to an individual woman or grief as women’s collective experience? My idea here is not to give any answer as I have none. But the aim is to illuminate questions that all of us are dealing with and desperately seeking answers for.

Relations seeped in power have a way of reviving themselves,may be under a disguise of liberatory sexual experiences. I feel seeking accountability for abandonmentis as important as seeking accountability for an unjust relationship.

About the Author: I am working as a Programme Associate at Institute for Social Democracy, Delhi. I have been part of the women’s and Ambedkarite movement for the past one decade. I finished an Mphil from JNU, Delhi and was part of an Ambedkarite student political group called BAPSA. I can be reached at [email protected] and @ravneet_param on instagram

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