CHAPTER 1

SEXUALITY
Click through the titles for their respective Instagram post

INTRODUCTION

Sexuality is more than who you have sex with and the frequency you engage in the act. ‘Sexuality' is a holistic term that encapsulates sexual behaviours, feelings, thoughts, attractions, likes, dislikes, kinks and preferences. You may find other people physically, sexually or emotionally attractive, and all of these components compose parts of your sexuality.

Sexual orientation is one way of identifying oneself to sexuality, but it should be noted to be as diverse as it is deeply personal - it’s unique to you and there is no right or wrong in sexuality, it's about what's right for you and how you wish to express it.

Hence sexuality can be seen as dynamic, fluid and ever-shifting, it doesn't remain static as you grow and discovering it can be a very liberating, exciting and positive experience. We at MERAH HAREM would like to share this journey with you; in a consensual manner, of course.



 

KISSING

Our lips are loaded with a high concentration of nerve endings, 12 cranial nerves in fact, where the slightest sensation on it yet alone locking lips can cascade a rush of biological signals to the brain. The act of mouth-to-mouth kissing involves the exchanging of testosterone-filled saliva (or spit) that enhances our sex drive. It also concocts a chemical cocktail of the brain’s ‘pleasure’ hormones - dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin - which are central to feelings of bonding and attachment.

Kissing also involves the sharing of breaths: the breathing in of oxygen and exhaling out of carbon dioxide. The lovers in the photo depicted wrestled the existential limits of kissing where, at first sight, it may seem like two lovers sharing an intimate kiss, but they then continued to share their breaths until only carbon dioxide was exchanged. The two lovers began to sweat, move vehemently and wear themselves out, and after 19 minutes they climaxed into agony and collapsed onto the floor unconscious. A stark illustration of two lovers’ capability of absorbing and destroying the life of one another through an otherwise intimate act.



 

RELATIONSHIPS

Are you in a committed relationship: boyfriend/girlfriend, engaged, married, cohabiting, civil partnership etc.? Or are you in a non-exclusive relationship with no strings attached: open relationship, casually dating, friends with benefits, fuck buddy, booty call, one-night stand, swinging etc.?

We at MERAH HAREM celebrate all kinds of monogamous, non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships, even those of you who are not in a relationship / not seeking one and are invested in self-love / -development or are in a relationship with their career or cat.



 

SEX WORK

Sex work is regarded as one of the oldest professions in the world. Humans have exchanged money and goods for sex as far back as ten millenniums ago - any society that developed material wealth soon developed some form of sex work.

Sex work, a service almost exclusively provided to men typically by women, initially started off as concubines and brothels. The common image of sex workers shun as outcasts only came about during the Victorian era, when they were blamed to be the bearer and spreader of venereal diseases. Fast forward to the 21st century, sex work still persists across cultures and political systems. In CHAPTER 2: FEMININITY, we will re-visit the topic of sex work, particularly looking at the phenomenology of sex workers.

"After we were done shooting in Thailand, we decided to have a fun night out and went to the red light district to a strip club. I saw one of the dancers and was just mesmerised by her, until I saw a tattoo on her back - it said 'ALONE' literally in the goth font I drew. I was blown away because in my head I just thought that was really sad and then decided to draw it out because I could never forget that memory'.



 

LOVE LANGUAGE

What is your language of love between: (1) quality time; (2) words of affirmation; (3) physical touch; (4) acts of service; and (5) receiving gifts? Are you fluent in one love language in particular or bi- / multilingual?


 

CONDOM

Wearing a condom is arguably the preferred and most convenient way to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A condom is a form of barrier contraceptive made from latex rubber (polyisoprene or polyurethane) that is worn by unrolling it from the tip of the penis; there are also female condoms available.

Condom selection varies by brand, size and preference - most would opt for comfort fit, lubricated, thin (‘feather-light’) or ribbed / dotted condoms to enhance sensations during intercourse. There are even heat-activated, cooling-sensation or flavoured condoms (which are great for oral sex, Malaysia even has flavours like nasi lemak, rendang or milk tea) if you’d like to spice things up further. Latex-free, non-toxic and pH-compatible options are also available for those with sensitive skin.

Condoms often come lubricated, but you may want to use water-based lubricants rather than oil-based lubricants (e.g. lotion, baby oil), which can break latex condoms. If the condom splits during use, you should replace it immediately or use emergency contraception (i.e. emergency pill) if necessary. Practising safe sex and choosing the right condom for yourself is sexy.



 

BEDROOM

It’s inevitable that most sex happen in the bedroom due to the comfort, familiarity and convenience one associates within those four walls. Allowing for both partners to relax and be more in-tune with one another whether it’s a quickie or longer full-blown session they engage in. If it gets all too familiar, play it up by using a mirror.

Another form of bedroom that partners tend to frequent is the hotel room, where studies have shown that having sex there can cause a rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are even hotels designed specifically for this purpose, namely love hotels. So, whether it’s by putting on the ‘do not disturb’ sign, feeling liberated from responsibilities while on vacation or using it as a destination to culminate role-playing in, the hotel room’s interior and ambiance oozes with sex appeal.



 

SEX POSITION

The ABC’s of sex positions - are you a creature of habit or a seafarer of exploring between the sheets? Refrain from being that one-trick pony in bed and dial up your imagination and sexual exploration by discovering new sex positions that can stimulate novelty and excitement, which in turn promotes attachment, intimacy and trust with your partner.

In fact, spicing things up in bed can be essential if you suffer from injuries or if one position feels more painful than another. Your sexual exploration may not need to be as intricate as Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra (an upcoming topic by itself), but a quick internet search (where one source even cited 151 positions to try!) can visually depict the various lying down, seated, standing up or pretzel-shaped sex positions for you to connect with your partner. Which sex position is your favourite? 



 

ORGASM

Otherwise known as climaxing or coming, an orgasm is a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity. Sexologists Masters and Johnson outlined the sexual response cycle through 4 stages: (1) excitement: being turned on; (2) plateau: repetitive motion that feels pleasurable; (3) orgasm: the burst of pleasure and release; and (4) resolution: muscles relax back during the afterglow.

🚺  During clitoral or vaginal orgasm, an intense pleasurable release of sexual tension is accompanied by contractions of the genital muscles. The female orgasm typically lasts longer than the male at 13-51 seconds.

🚹  An orgasm makes muscles contract and semen containing sperm spurts out of the penis to form ejaculation. An average male orgasm lasts for 10-30 seconds.

Orgasms can be experienced as explosive and in multiple phases or small and just once. However, it’s important to not treat orgasms as the end goal of sex or compare one’s experience to others, as the journey towards climaxing is a deeply personal experience and involves trial, experimenting and communicating. Allow yourself to soak in the sensations of the pleasure process just as much as the finale.



 

SEXUAL CONSENT I

"Can I kiss you?". Obtaining sexual consent can be as simple as asking (questions) prior to initiating sexual activity. Just ensure that the response is clear, on-going, coherent and voluntary (with dashes of enthusiasm) before proceeding.


 

SEXUAL CONSENT II

There has been much ambiguity concerning consent and what constitutes sexual assault or rape, recently driven by the Me Too movement. In its clearest definition, consent is a voluntary, enthusiastic and clear agreement between the participants to engage in sexual activity.

Perhaps the conflict arises in that those incapacitated by alcohol or drugs cannot consent, when such circumstances are what drive most casual sex incidences. The boundary remains in that when they are too incapacitated or intoxicated, the partner would be too impaired to consent and taking advantage of that situation as ‘drunk sex’ or through power play is inexcusable.

Therefore, it’s crucial to obtain consent that is clear, on-going (the partner deserves the right to ‘change their mind’), coherent and voluntary. As an initiator, ask for consent before engaging in sexual activity (e.g. “Can I kiss you now?”, “Do you want to have sex?” or when they’re under the influence of alcohol, “Do you feel clear enough to make decisions about sex?”). Continue to communicate to ensure consent is obtained and that your partner is comfortable, rather than to justify the situation or their actions through mere assumptions. And just because your partner has consented to having sex before, does not entail they would automatically consent to having sex again - always ask.


 

PORNOGRAPHY

When one thinks of sex, one would immediately think of porn, as watching it grants viewers access to the many titillating aspects of sex from the comfort and privacy of their own screen. The fascination with porn could be driven by it being taboo (fun fact: the stricter the rules to police porn - whether due to governing or religious reasons - the higher the viewership), having every possible fantasy, desire, kink or fetish represented and seeing human bodies engage in sexual acts.

It's absolutely normal to be curious about porn, however it's important to note that mainstream porn isn't real sex - the porn industry capitalises through various pornstars, websites and mediums that may not represent sexuality in an accurate or healthy way. What we would like to shine a light on is ethical pornography, which shows porn through equal compensation and consent for and between all performers, safer sex strategies (with value and respect for the pleasure of everyone involved) and a more accurate representation of body, gender and sexual diversity.

Ethical or ethically-made pornography represents sex in a more authentic experience, eschewed from the male gaze and featuring real pleasure, eroticism, tenderness and emotions bundled up as all the beautiful moments (and awkwardness) experienced in human sexuality and intimacy. Some of our favourite advocates for ethical pornography include indie filmmakers Four Chambers, XConfessions and AORTA Films.



 

BODY COUNT

Asking someone on ‘body count’ infers a dual meaning - the number of people who have died in a particular event and the number of people they have slept with, the latter however is unnecessary.

Not only is it demeaning to those who don’t ascribe to a particular sexuality (i.e. non-vagina penetrative sex if you’re LGBTQI / non-heterosexual), it often carries a double standard of prideful male promiscuity and shameful female promiscuity.

For men, they are often viewed as 'legends' by their peers for racking up those numbers, whereas for women they are often slut-shamed or labeled as 'whores' no matter their prerogative to be sexually open. We use body count as an unfair and unequal assessment of character based on one’s past sexual experience, we may be better off judging each other based on horoscope signs.


 

HENTAI

Hentai, an abbreviation of 'hentai seiyoku' (sexual perversion), is a genre of Japanese manga and anime characterised by overtly sexualised characters and sexually explicit images and plots.

Hentai can depict the mundane and impossible - across every conceivable act and situation - no matter how fantastical through its comics and animations. Distinguishing itself as a popular genre from mainstream pornography and captivating both Eastern and Western consumers. Recently, hentai was the most searched term in pornography (Pornhub Annual Report, 2019).

The animated pornography often illustrates exaggerated sexual acts and disturbing fetishes like monsters, demons, animals etc. raping cartoon women - embodied as stunning characters with often contrasting body parts (tiny, petite frames with large breasts) and blurred imageries between woman/teenager/child.

Many hentai fans argue that animated pornography is safer and more ethical to watch as it is not linked to issues associated with non-animated pornography like sexual exploitation and human sex trafficking. However, even if pornography may serve to be an escape from reality, perhaps such fans could take a reality check before forming an unhealthy addiction towards entertainment that eroticises and normalises sexual violence, animated or not, and skews the perception of real women and relationships.



 

ONLINE DATING

The 2000s (specifically 2010 onwards) has brought about a huge influx of Internet and online dating apps, the more popular ones being Tinder, Bumble (dubbed the ‘feminist’ Tinder) and Coffee Meets Bagel. There are even Muslim-friendly options such as Salams (formerly known as Minder) and Muzmatch.

YouGov Malaysia revealed dating apps users as accounting for more than 30% of Malaysians who have used them and this rises to ⅓ of millennials. More than 50% of Malaysians know a couple who have met online and, chances are, you may already have someone in mind.

Gone are the days of snail mailing love letters or traditional courtship, now this phenomenon caters for those who have a deck of matches to swipe left or right to their fancy, and to substitute that sheepish bar talk with a witty (or not) opening line. It’s absurd to think that one would then willingly agree to meet with a stranger on a date judging based on their photos, bio and chat chemistry - what would our parents think!