S4, Ep 9 Sangeeta Pillai: The Price of Indian Feminism

Today on the Pleasure Podcast we welcome Sangeeta Pillai, founder of feminist online platform Soul Sutras and fighter of Indian Patriarchy! Sangeeta developed SoulSutras to be a safe space for South Asian womxn to tell their stories openly without shame or fear, connecting with one another, sharing a common cultural identity.

Soul Sutras has developed into a feminist platform hosting the award-winning taboo-shaking Masala Podcast to developing Masala Monologues, a series of writing workshops and theatre shows in the UK and US.

Sangeeta talks to us about her childhood, growing up in the slums of Mumbai and expected to follow the narrow familiar trajectory planned and expected for South Asian women of obedient daughter, wife, and mother. Sangeeta pushed against traditional expectations from a very young age, being the first woman in her family to work and decline marriage, but not without significant personal cost.

We discuss the cultural drive for purity and the responsibility of women to guard that safely between her legs. Sangeeta received the message from her family that physical pleasure is not for her, that sex will be the ruin of the archetypal good Indian woman. The strongly conditioned links between nudity and sex and shame at an early age limited access of even simple intimacy.

Having a breakdown led to Sangeeta's sexual awakening and eventually her drive to create a safe space for women to speak to each other and open up. A blog became a writing workshop which developed into a theatre space and an award-winning podcast.

We talk about reclaiming the sexual heritage of India such as the Kama Sutra for a great seductive sexual experience, and look at India as a liberal secular place of openness and possibility. We discuss the deification of boys that is endemic in Indian culture and how growing up feeling like you are somehow better is harmful for both men and women. We discuss how her more traditional extended family have responded to her work by silence, how to move forward when you are not seen as a success by your family, and how the price she has paid for the path she has chosen is loneliness.

Sangeeta keeps pushing the boundaries, recognising the importance of keeping challenging the silence and taboos in Asian culture to allow us all to normalise sex and intimacy and affection.

Learn more about Soul Sutras here and catch Sangeeta’s wonderful Masala Podcast on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts!

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Sangeeta Pillai: @Soul_Sutras

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