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An arranged marriage, marital issues, sexual ignorance, and so much more – Netflix series Unorthodox tells a story many Indian women know well.
Unorthodox is a German-American drama series that is debuted on Netflix recently. It is based on a 2012 autobiography of Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.
Esty, a girl like you and me, has been told by her Grandmother (Bubbe) that marriage is beautiful and that it defines a woman’s life. Esty like any nineteen year old girl believes her. She is a loving and an obedient girl. Her marriage now is arranged with Yanky Shapiro. Are they compatible enough? Does Esty like Yanky? Well, who cares?
But marriage is not a cakewalk in traditional set-ups. Especially if a woman comes from an ultrareligious community, there is plethora of rituals that the girl needs to follow. The wedding day which is expected by us, girls, to be a day of loads of joy is, in reality, a tiring and overwhelming affair and so was it for Esty. She had to go through so many ritualistic rules and keep chanting continuously till the marriage took effect. On the other hand, the guests, the groom and everyone else rejoiced.
Esty and Yanky’s married life started deteriorating because of vaginismus. It is a condition which makes the pelvic muscles contract, making penetration painful.
Like Esty, many Indian girls suffer from this problem but are not vocal about it, sex being a taboo and all!
The society is not ready to talk about the importance of foreplay and how it can help get rid of an issue like vaginismus. Most Indian women till date do not even know the reason why it hurts while the man penetrates them. And when this happens, it doesn’t allow comfortable sex – forget enjoyable – and what is most unfortunate is that the sufferer is the one who is blamed for it.
In a scene, Yanky’s mother blames Esty for the situation and asks to rectify it otherwise “his son will lose confidence because he is very sensitive”.
There is another scene where Esty just before her marriage discovers that she has more than one ‘hole’ in her vaginal area. The scene makes one ponder, if a girl is not aware of her body parts, her sexuality, how can she be expected to partake in any sexual act? Can such a sexual act even be considered as consensual?
Esty like most Indian women in arranged marriages bears it all, goes through what should be called a marital rape. A coerced yes amounts to No and thus such penetration comes under the category of nothing less than a rape.
On a different occasion, when she is about to reveal that she is finally pregnant; she gets to know that Yanky had been planning for a divorce. This becomes a turning point and she decides to flee her world and look for a new one, far away from where she came from.
Esty is the courage we as women need. She embraces herself and redefines her existence, which we should. She, now, is in a new world, to pursue her dream of a vocalist and a musician. She has made new friends, has sex that she enjoys with legs wide opened without any contraction of the past.
Be a witness to Esty’s journey and walk ahead along with her.
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Artist, Law-Graduate, Intersectional Feminist, Social Activist, Mental Health Warrior
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