Janis Hetherington – Part 14: "Arabian ladyes"

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Janis visits the BBC Oxford studios to talk about Gaza

Janis Hetherington was the first UK woman in an openly same-sex couple to be artificially inseminated. In this, the 14th part of her exclusive autobiographical series for Biscuit, Janis discusses the continued bloodshed in Gaza – and recalls the lesbian and bi “Arabian ladyes” she met shortly after the 1993 Gulf War…

My last Biscotti ended with the horrors of the first Gulf War and how our little group of resistance fighters managed to find humour with a blow –up doll and gossip from Top Plod.

Then there were no instant pictures, just the propaganda machine that gave us wall-to-wall coverage of Kuwait in flames and US-flag-waving emancipators.

The devastation on our own troops here resulted in Gulf War Syndrome, which was a side effect from the multitude of drugs pumped into service personal and post-traumatic stress after the sheer magnitude of the combat fought in the full glare of TV footage.

For the first time it made real war a theatrical drama played out in our living rooms, reminiscent of some heroic epic filmed in Technicolour by an ancient Hollywood mogul.

The new atrocity in Gaza came as a huge shock to those who thought the propaganda machine could once more be applied and an enemy clearly defined. Only THIS time every family had their own pictures – and censorship was dissipated thanks to a brilliant network of Facebook friends, with parents showing their own children being ripped apart. The rules had changed in favour of people power.

For those who have followed my Biscotti offerings you will know my involvement went back some 40 years and this gave me a unique insight into the reality of Palestine and the true plight of the Palestinian people. I was so proud that my own BBC Oxford asked us to relay that truth on the 30th July. The links to that compilation are at the bottom of this article. For that reason and because you can access it if you wish I want to explain WHY all this is important to a bisexual magazine.

Well… easy-peasy. How do you think a rampant dyke like moi had forged amazing friendships with the ladyes – and some blokes – from the Middle East?

Janis in Kuwait after 1993 Gulf War

Janis in Kuwait after the 1993 Gulf War

Yesses you guesses!! We are all one sexual hot pot when it comes to creeds and races. The fact that some religious groups – whether far-right Christians or far-right Muslims or just too-far-left Commies – would have anyone that orgasmed and actually failed to procreate, crucified, dead and buried alive means those of us who openly declare our sexuality must do everything in our power to save our silenced brothers and sisters.

For me my memories of exotic Arabian ladyes evoke wonderful aromas of rosewater and sandalwood… cardamom and gyrating hips moving sensually to a woman’s love song.

Of nights spent on scented pillows where the pent-up passions of denied lust erupted into an orgy of expertise practised behind closed doors and shuttered courtyards. Where the danger of exposure would mean expulsion from the all-powerful family unit and possibly worse.

I, who had been so exasperated by Western gays who refused to come out of their plywood closets, learnt to enjoy this double life and hide my feelings should I be embroiled ( as was often the case) in hob-nobbing with my various ladye’s inner circles. Often including their husbands and even children.

They in turn marvelled at the freedom of my house where they could eat, drink, smoke, and debauch with total disregard to their own “house rules”. They’d bring hubble bubble hookahs drenched with concoctions that seemed to mesmerise or do quite the reverse and loquacious dialogue was interspersed fits of childish giggling and the urgent necessity for sweet meats and sickly confectionary. We would eat from each others’ mouths and profess undying love.

Some (mainly the younger, more educated lovelies) who would now be in their late 40s would envy our emancipation and vow to fight to change their “lot”. The older and strangely even more passionate ladyes would be far more politically cautious and often resigned to the wretched fact that their own sons would be the deciders of their fate if they were widowed or their position usurped by a younger wife. And yet a small enclave of special women from the very area we are now seeing on our screens as part of a sectarian war in Iraq had a tradition of lesbian lovers going back generations. They sometimes included close family members in their “harem”, even sharing their brother’s spouses or their own husband’s second wives. They  seemed to have evolved a sublime ignorance of sexual jealousy. It was really difficult for my English or European friends who formed relationships and even fell head over heels in lust or even love with these wonderful creatures for as their long summer vacation came to an end like all our exotic summer birds they preened their feathers and left for their winter homes. Satiated enough for another year and rarely keeping in contact unless disposed to political vibrations and those were fraught with danger. A danger they shared with their heterosexual soulmates who also enjoyed the ambience and freedom of our house  – but with a much different bedroom agenda although an equally fiery commitment to changing the confines of a restricted hierarchy.

Our evenings were spent not just in the most delicious embraces but in poetry and writing, in comparisons of art and even discussions on gynaecological problems since quite a few had studied for that profession and had refused to carry out the stitching procedure requested by many women after giving birth. It was assumed by some of their less educated patients that without this vaginal tightening procedure their husbands would find them no longer “attractive”. It was frightening to hear these barbaric tales yet realise that for thousands of woman it was a necessary practice.

I learned to respect how very brave it was for those who did question and oppose. It was hard not to fall in love with them and their ideals, but fatal to allow yourself the indulgence of ever thinking you could become a “couple”. For me, being polyamorous, it was not a problem but I did witness several heartaches as goodbyes were said, promises that could never be met sworn and months of tortured silence ensued.

I weep that some of those who graced our life will now be frantic in their search for blood supplies and prosthetic limbs to mend the broken bodies and shattered dreams.

I write this now in ardent hope that when we meet again you know we really tried to show your tears. We will tell the world… We will be your voice.

You can hear Janis’s BBC Oxford interview here: https://vimeo.com/channels/791791

Janis Hetherington, Part 13 – “Blow-up dolls and secret cells”

Janis Hetherington, Part 12 – “Major Ronald”

Janis Hetherington, Part 11 – “Fatwa”

Janis Hetherington, Part 10 – “Split personality”

Janis Hetherington, Part 9 – “Eccentricity”

Janis Hetherington, Part 8 – “Polyamorality”

Janis Hetherington, Part 7 – “We still weren’t ‘normal’…”

Janis Hetherington, Part 6 – “The publicity years”

Janis Hetherington, Part 5 – “Meeting Biscuit”

Janis Hetherington, Part 4 – “The custody battle”

Janis Hetherington, Part 3 – “The death”

Janis Hetherington, Part 2 – “Breaking the rules of 70s family life”

Janis Hetherington, Part 1 – “A graphic sexual voyage”



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Janis Hetherington

Outrageously, rebelliously outspoken. Sexually incontinent. Avid supporter of lost causes: ever hopeful they will be transformed, ever fearful that once they are they will become the monsters that trampled them. Janis is the author of "Love Lies Bleeding: Memoirs of a Sexual Revolutionary".

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