Sex, TV and Maya Khan


Good riddance?

“In Bombay, European prostitutes were concentrated at Cursetji Sukhlaji Street in the Kamathipura area. Here, the missionaries who formed themselves into a vigilante midnight mission to stamp out the nefarious practice found themselves, whilst patrolling the street, showered with water and oil and other unpleasant fluids by prostitutes occupying the upper loots of the street’s buildings,” Coralie Younger writes in her provocatively titled book Wicked Women of the Raj.

“In response, the midnight missionaries changed their attack and decided to man each end of the thoroughfare in order to harass the men who attempted to enter and patronise Cursetji Street’s brothels.”

The missionaries complained that the verbal abuse and discomfort of drenching fluids and the assault by enraged clients was nothing compared to women missionaries’ having to suffer the indignity of being mistaken for the `unfortunates’.”

But, “equally distressing was the fact that many of the prostitutes did not consider themselves ill used at all and did not want to be rescued”.

One Malcolm Moss had a tricycle on which he “follows home the carriages of some of the aristocratic official frequenters of the great European vice market of Bombay, finds their names and addresses, then sends them through the post letter of religious advice, tracts and purity literature”.

But it was not just the missionaries who were upset with this violation of morality. In a note to the deputy governor, the council of the East India Company wrote:

“Whereas some of these women have grown scandalous to our nation, religion and government interest, we require you to give them fair warning that they do apply themselves to a more sober and Christian conversation.”

Although prostitution had been seen as disturbing the English society and detrimental to the empire for long, so were drunkenness or blasphemy. Prostitution and other sexually immoral acts were not elevated to the special status of a great social evil until the 19th century.

This change was a byproduct of the Enlightenment approach. Michel Foucault speaks of a “need to take sex ‘into account’, to pronounce a discourse on sex that would not derive from morality alone but from rationality as well.” In his History of Sexuality, he said, “It was sufficiently new that at first it wondered at itself and sought apologies for its own existence.”

But it did continue. Science continued to theorise sex, and had soon taxonomised those who did not fit into the reproductive norm: the homosexual, the prostitute, the pervert, and so on.

Pakistan’s own recent “Enlightenment”, associated with former military leader Pervez Musharraf, has been a subject of controversy. As Musharraf opened up Pakistani media and society, the channels through which the society talks to itself increased. Like the objective ‘observation’ of Victorian science, the penetrating gaze of the Pakistani TV camera now intends to bring into discourse everything that it sees, including sex and dating. But it is apologetic.

In my previous column, I had implied that Maya Khan – the TV host who was fired after public anger over her date–busting – is neither a soldier of Islam nor a hypocrite going after ratings. Her morality, like that of the rest of Pakistan bourgeoisie, is Victorian.

“Do your parents know you are here?” she asks couples hanging out in a park. “Do your parents know you are here?” a popular website asked her as it published pictures of Maya Khan partying with men. And then there was some public anger at the website publishing ‘private’ photos.

The Victorian bourgeoisie built the family and its sexuality around the demarcation of the public and the private spheres. And those who violated the distinction were seen as threats to the social order – the prostitutes, those who watch pornography on the Internet, and those who date in parks.

At the time when the British Raj was dealing sternly with prostitution, Younger writes, “extramarital relations as a practice were not scorned by a society that saw its women take flight every hot season into the cooler climes of the morally relaxed hill stations. In Simla, Mussoorie and Ooty, it was taken for granted that married women and men on leave were free to indulge their passions as long as they were relatively discreet. For example, at the lavish balls, dinner parties and receptions held at the maharajah of Kapurthalas residence in Mussoorie, the best wines and champagne flowed freely…The maharajah’s military secretary wrote that evenings concluded with men and women taking advantage of the privacy afforded by the Chateau de Kapurthalas large and densely planted gardens.”

The private lives of the Pakistani bourgeoisie are no different. But in the public life, we expect protestant work ethics from a nation that does not want to work but lay down and philosophise, and we expect propriety from women who wear wrap–around skirts, smoke Hookah and fornicate in Sugarcane fields.

Maya Khan – like you and I – is among the last remnants of the British Raj in Pakistan. And while some are wary we have no social structure to replace it as it erodes, others are ready to say ‘good riddance’.

The writer is a media and culture critic and works at The Friday Times. He tweets @paagalinsaan and gets email at [email protected]


  1. Is it not a free country and is it anyone's duty to criticise anyone who is out for a walk in a park.
    Shame on you Maya Khan one day you would have been young and maybe indulged in this.
    But all you want is the publicity associated with this stunt.

  2. @ sabber….:)

    sufficent punishment for our valiant moral maya
    "…. one day you would have been young and maybe indulged in this. "

  3. Last Para "Like You and I" doesn't make any sense. If it is addressed to the relatively affluent of this society, than it makes some sense. Otherwise in a society having such disparity as ours, fragmented between a myriad of classes, sects, ethnicity, geography etc. your comments do not apply and make sense to many. There is a visible difference of opinion on moral values and ethics and events like such i.e. Maya Khan debacle gives rise to different voices with different perspectives. You cannot be judgmental and oversimplify matters when it comes to such cases.

  4. Our culture is like the telephone. The grandfather would subscribe for the connection and the lucky grandson would get it. Telephones, cars are still called 'luxury items' – their ubiquity irritates the privileged few. The privileged few travelled abroad to boast about extensive freedom there. When they find out that the same freedom is being asserted here, they have nothing left to boast about – so they join bandwagon of the likes of Maya Khan.

  5. Your writings lack substance and quality. Its seems as though you flick through pages of a thesaurus in a meagre attempt to sound intellectually sound… Whereas your composition and overall content is appalling. Above all… Get over your obsession with sex and nudity. There is far more interesting and intriguing subjects that us readers wish to learn about. Not everyone shares your sexual frustrations.

  6. I agree with the comment of Visionary. Really poor writing skills and there was any depth in the article as well. Real a piece of crap!!!

    • Thanks Farid… I wish there was some sort of crap filter… so we would waste less time on reading such articles. @swaqar… lol I dont think I am Farid Ansari… unless I have some sort of multiple personality disorder which I am un aware of 🙂

  7. Poorly written, it's not that I didn't get it, but a normal, sane person CANNOT.
    It's just a flood of words and punches which u threw on PT page, with thesaurus in one hand and insanity in the other!

  8. Highly Stupid show tha maya ka., Koi date mar raha hai ya nahee mar raha ya jo b kr raha hai, Who the hell are u to ask k who are u or not or what are u doing here. highly stupid act by maya.

  9. While saying that, Maya Khan's way of going after and showing of some of our 'act of freedom' was indeed of bad taste, I would certainly like to know, what is individual freedom, and what is its limit! While many in the west, the originator of individual/personal freedom, are now finding it hard to digest all these unbridled freedom- the father/mother of promiscuity – the exhibitionism of boobs and bums, and lamenting heavily on loss of all family values, we here are trying hard to import all such evils in our lives through the right to personal choice, personal freedom etc. etc. We should think rightly, act rightly and do rightly before the things go totally out of hand, and we start lamenting for the mess, mishaps and misplaced sense and demand for freedom!

    We must also keep somewhere in our back of mind that, where law, law enforcement and rules of law are very, rather very very strong, and visible and feelable, there can be all sorts of nonsense of freedom! On the other hand we don't have any 'workable' law at all to protect us from any mishap. So, keep the values intact, how much stringent and regressive those might be. Don't flaunt them under the bright light of idealism of foreign distant lands!!

    • Bravo! Very well written… I totally agree with you Mr Hussain. I would have much rather read this piece than the jabberwocky written by the author.

  10. Very lousy article.writer does not know clearly what he wants.Hira is right that a sane person cannot understand this article

  11. Maya is really great lady, she is open the actually disguised face of our society
    we should help her & support enthusiastically, everybody want to see her live morning show
    Maya i solute your personality don't hesitate & just defend yourself we will always with you
    Thanking & regards
    Shakeel Ahmad ch.
    Lahore – Pakistan

  12. very good maya ji ap thek ho ap ny jo kia hy bohat acha kia hy ap paryshan na hu allah ap ky sath hy

  13. Haris, you know why all these guys are so angry? The keywords of your title (Sex & Maya Khan). They all just stumbled upon this article and got really frustrated for not finding what they were expecting. It reminds me of a billboard in america; it said SEX in a very large font which could be read from quite a distance and then when you got closer it said McDonalds Next Exit. Good catch buddy.

  14. @author So what is your point after all the bull? Muslim Pakistan is not about to turn into your la-la land anytime soon.

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