Shhh..Sex is a dirty word..

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I remember when I was a child, Doordarshan was the only channel.  It was a complete family channel, but whenever there were ads of Nirodh (condom) or Mala-D (birth control pills), channel would be switched, suddenly everyone would become busy, or kids would be asked to fetch water.  Those ads were simple, un-raunchy ads.  Of course, every child would ask the most asked question, “What is Nirodh?  What is Mala-D?”  As usual, no explanation.  Either the kids would be asked to keep shut or the topic would be changed.  Years later, same thing would happen whenever there was an ad of sanitary napkins.  I also remember how uncomfortable parents and other elders would get if there was a kissing scene. Many of the girls of my generation believed for a long time that kissing or simply touching a boy causes pregnancy!

We are Indians and sex is still a dirty word.  Also sex is something which is strongly associated with “character”, especially of the girls.  Funnily, we are the world’s second largest population and we pretend as if sex doesn’t exist. 

I remember long back I had heard an incident where the bride on the first night of her wedding had created a ruckus because she felt her husband was a “bad man” who was trying to touch her.  Others were embarrassed, but imagine the plight of a young naïve bride who till then was told to stay away from boys as their touch was “bad” and one fine night was expected to consummate with again a stranger (arranged marriage in the 60s).

When a 10 or 11-year-old would ask, “How are babies born or where did I come from?” the standard answer would be “God gifted you to me” or again the child would be given some strange answer.  Unlike West, even in these times all schools don’t impart knowledge about body, hormones, sex, contraceptives, menstruation, safe and unsafe touch. 

When puberty hits the Indian children, they have so many questions.  Their bodies change, their minds change, and they start getting attracted to the opposite sex.  They have questions about menstruation.  But where do this confused children get the right knowledge from?  Parents shy away or rebuke them.  Most Indian parents still believe that their growing-up kids are “asexual” beings!  They ask them to study or play instead of thinking about the “dirty” stuff.  Studying or playing won’t suppress the feelings and questions, will they?  Often kids start getting half-baked and sometimes dangerous information from their peers and porn websites.  I still get to read how parents are upset and horrified when they catch their children watching porn.  Instead of talking with them, they punish the kids by hitting, scolding, taking away their mobile, or locking them in the room.

When a word is ingrained as dirty and bad in the minds of young children, it’s very difficult for many of them to relate sex as something pleasurable, natural or basic desire of human body as adults.  Many men and women believe it as a means of procreation and not pleasure.  They still don’t know or are uncomfortable opening up about their desires even with their spouse of many years.  For many women, it’s just a “wifely” duty.

As girls hit puberty, they are made to believe that their developing bodies need to be hidden, they are shamed about it.  They are made to believe that the fault lies in their bodies and not the pervert male gaze.  They are asked to stay away from boys/men and one fine day asked to surrender themselves completely to a stranger in an arranged marriage setup.

Now let’s come to another aspect, virginity.  For most Indian girls, the parents and the society makes them believe that the biggest virtue or character certificate of a girl is her virginity.  That’s her test of “purity”.  No matter how educated, qualified, compassionate, smart the girl is, nothing matters more than her virginity.  Of course, boys are exempted from this as they are “boys with raging hormones”!  Girls can’t and don’t have “raging hormones”..do they?  If a girl decides to have sex before marriage, she is labelled as loose, slut, whore, girl with no morals or values. 

Times are changing and parents are opening up with their kids, but still a large population is bound by the age-old shackles and taboos related to sex.  What stops our country; the world’s second most populated country with so many rape and molestation cases, child sexual abuse, marital rapes, etc.; to shun the taboo related to sex?  Why is the word dirty associated with this word?  What stops parents from talking to their kids about sex, body, hormones without any hesitation or embarrassment?  Our society believes that talking to the children about sex will corrupt their minds.  On the contrary, not talking to them or imparting them with the right knowledge pushes them to have unrealistic and wrong information.

I have a teen son and a preteen daughter and both I and my husband talk to them about body, sex, consent and this has helped, both them and us.  A lot of crimes will stop if female body is not made to believe just as an object by our patriarchal society, where sex still is only a man’s privilege and a girl’s shame.  Proper communication can break a lot of taboos.

Let’s break this cycle of associating sex as dirty, taboo, or a stamp of morality.  Let the children grow up loving and respecting their and others’ bodies.  Let everyone talk about sex as a normal topic rather than in hushed and giggled conversations.

The more we brush sex under the carpet as taboo, the more dangerous it becomes. Let’s break the silence..

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