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10 Things India’s Youth Need To Know About Sex

More from Rita Banerji

By Rita Banerji:

A few days ago as I sat down to my newspaper at breakfast, my eyes went straight to this small, boxed news on the front page. A 14-year-old school girl in Bangalore killed herself because the man she was in love with had forced her to have sex with him and then left her, saying he had done it only for “fun.” In her suicide note she wrote, “How can he do that to me? I am ruined and have no interest in life.” This was a man who was much older than her, a second year college student, who she was ‘friends’ with, on Facebook.


Later, I kept thinking to myself: What did this poor girl go through in the days and hours leading up to her death? Shame? Guilt? Confusion? Fear? Was there anyone she could talk to? Confide in? Trust? Was there anyone who could tell her that she will be O.K.? What this man had done was wrong. In fact because he is an adult and she is under-age in most countries this is statutory rape, even if she had consented. But she hadn’t. This was a much older man who had taken her to his room and forced himself on her. But there was no one to tell her that. There was no one to comfort her and assure her that it was not the end of the world. Most probably there was no one she felt she could trust or even talk to. The society she’s living in would condemn her. The shame and taboo of what she had done was so great that she saw this as her only way out. In fact, India’s cultural and social set-up are just as guilty of this young girl’s death as the man who raped her.

Over and over again we hear stories like this, full of despair and self-destruction among teenagers and youth in India, who are confused and ashamed about issues of sex. Yet, as a society we continue to harbour an irrational resistance to any kind of open, informed and healthy discussion about sex. Parents don’t discuss it with their children. Teachers won’t discuss it in school and college. And then how can they, when they themselves have a distorted and stigmatized view of sex?

A few years ago, the India Today magazine had asked me if I’d do a couple of online chats for them with young people on queries they may have about sex. This was organized on the back of a national sex survey that the magazine had done that revealed that close to 20% of teenagers and a majority of college aged people in India were sexually active.

There were two things I realized during the India Today online chat:

1) Even though a vast number of teenagers and youth in India are sexually active today, they are dangerously ignorant and misinformed about some of the very basic things they need to know about sex.
2) There is clearly a huge need among the youth to know, but like with the 14-year-old girl here, there is no place where they can go and in a normal, open way ask questions or discuss issues and problems.

You can read some of the online chat questions and answers I did for India Today here.

Below I’ve summarized some of the issues and topics that came up in the chats repeatedly, with the hope that it will help more young people with doubts and questions. I’ve also included relevant links that I urge you to follow if you need more information.

1. Is it wrong to have premarital sex? Or is it best to wait till after you are married?
Culturally in India, this has been made a bigger issue for women than men. But this is simply a matter of choice. If you think it is wrong, then you will feel shame and guilt if you choose to have sex without marriage. Conversely, if in your head sex is a normal need; it is the right choice for you. Interestingly, this is a bigger issue in India today than it was in the past. Indian mythology is full of stories of women, like Shakuntala and Kunti who had pre-marital sex. And more than 1500 years before the western feminists made this argument, the Kamasutras were arguing that women had the same sexual urges as men, and there is no reason why unmarried women shouldn’t learn about their sexuality and orgasms the same way that men do.

2. When is the right time to begin to have sex in a relationship?
The only time that is right is when you want to have sex. Of course your partner must want it too. If you and/or your partner does not want to have sex, then it is not the right time. Girls/young women in particular should know that it is extremely important that they feel they not only have the physical urge to have sex, but also feel mentally and emotionally prepared. If you feel — afraid, uncomfortable, guilty, ashamed, or pressurized, it is not the time to have sex. You need to make sure you know and understand your own body, physically and sexually before you venture into sex. If you are heterosexual you also need to know and understand how the opposite sex’s body and sexuality work. Use the links below. You must feel confident and in control of your body and sexuality first, otherwise you will not feel comfortable or good about having sex.

Click here for basic Information for females on sex and related questions. Also see this and this.
Click here for basic information for males on sex and related questions. Also see this and this

3. If you are not using birth control pills and/or condoms can you get pregnant if the male partner withdraws before ejaculation? Can a woman get pregnant if she is having sex for the first time but her partner is not using a condom?

You can get pregnant any time you do not use birth control, whether it is a woman’s first time, or even if the man withdraws before ejaculation. In fact there is no 100% guarantee that even with birth control you won’t get pregnant. Birth control sometimes fails, and there is a small chance that you can still get pregnant. But it is important for both men and women to minimize this risk by using birth control if you do not want a pregnancy. Using two methods together the pill and the condom reduces your risk further.

Click here for basic steps on how to use a condom
Click here for information on different types of birth control methods

4. Is masturbation “dirty?”

No, it is perfectly normal and healthy for people of all ages and genders. In fact it can be a good sexual relief if your partner is not in the mood for sex! Some counsellors have suggested that it might be a safer and healthier alternative for teenagers, who bodies may be ready for sex, but their minds need to mature. They think that acknowledgement and acceptance of masturbation as normal and healthy is one way to promote sexual abstinence in teenagers, and others who because of their circumstances, like for e.g. being in prison may not have access to a partner.

Click here for myths about masturbation everyone needs to dispel.
Also see this link for stress release in couples.

5. When is it ‘safe’ to not use a condom?
Never! The purpose of the condom is not simply prevention of a pregnancy. The most important use of the condom is prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. And there are many types of sexually transmitted diseases besides HIV that may not kill, but will create many health problems, and even cause infertility later. Click here to read about a few. Keep in mind how sexually transmitted diseases work: Every time you have sex with a person, you are having sex with all the partners he or she has previously had, and every one of the partners each of those partners had, and so on. So do the math! Whether you are a straight or gay couple the condom is a must because it is the only protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

Search for your sexual health related questions at this forum by the Society of Canadian gynaecologists.

6. Is it abnormal to have sexual feelings towards someone of the same sex?
No, this is perfectly normal. It happens very often when people of the same sex interact closely in a closed-off environment, like in same-sex schools, or same-sex teams. Sexual attraction is determined by our hormones. And since both men and women have both male and female hormones, it is perfectly possible for a person to be attracted to people of either sex. In fact everyone has some scope of being attracted to someone of the same sex, at some point in time. However, being attracted to or even having sex with someone of the same sex a few times, does not necessarily mean you are gay. To determine your sexual orientation observe your own patterns of attraction. Are you consistently attracted to someone of the same sex? If yes, then most likely you are gay.

This link offers some suggestions that might make it easier for you to work through your questioning about sexual orientation.

7. If you know you are gay when or how do you ‘come out?’
There is no compulsion to ‘come out’ if you are straight, so there should be none for anyone who is gay! However this is a personal choice and whatever you do depends entirely on whether it is something you feel the need to share with others. All you need to do is cater to your own comfort zone. To determine where you want to ‘come out’ or how, how much you want to share, and with whom, ask yourself whether or not you feel comfortable with it.

Click here for links with help and resources for gays and lesbians in India.
Here is ILGA, an international forum for gays and lesbians.
Here is ILGA’s page on India.

8. What is rape?
Any forced sexual or sexually motivated penetration of your body is rape. Penetration of the penis into the vagina, anus and/or mouth are all rapes. The penetration of an object, like a stick, in place of a penis into the vagina and/or anus is also rape.

Click Here for Pandora’s Project an online support and resources website for all survivors of rape and sexual abuse — for men, women, teenagers.

9. How do you know you’ve been raped?
Anytime you don’t want sex and you are forced physically, or forced through mental pressure or blackmail, to submit to someone’s demand for sex, it is rape. Sex where you are not in a state to give consent is also rape. So for example, if you are in a state of unconsciousness, like you are asleep, under anaesthesia or drunk, and you wake up to find that someone has had sex with you, then that is rape.

10. Are men and boys raped?
Yes, men and boys also get raped, usually by older boys or men. It usually involves the penile penetration of the anus or mouth. If the boy is underage and the woman is an adult, 18 years or over, it is still statutory rape.

Click here for a site that discusses how men can deal with the trauma and consequences of male rape.

If you have questions or things you think you want to discuss, please put your questions down below. You can write anonymously too. It important to be informed and/or clear your doubts. I am sure there are other people on-line who will also be happy to contribute to this discussion. But be warned, trolls will not be entertained here!


Featured image credit: REUTERS/Kamal Kishore
You must be to comment.
  1. brisingr

    In a party, two people meet.. the dance and they drink( a lot) .. both of them are completely drunk.. The couple then moves into a hotel room or an apartment and has they have sex .. the next morning, the woman goes to the police and says that she has been raped while she was drunk .. is that right? (referring to the point number 9)

    1. anonymus

      This is more on the part of women’s moral, if she wanted sex too and yet she complaints, it is definitely not right!

    2. Rita Banerji

      No, that’s not what #9 means. This is reference to where open a woman is given lot of drinks, or something is slipped into her drinks and then when she incapacitated, she is raped. When one person is in control, and the other one is incapacitated physically, it is rape. Often many gang rapes at parties, colleges, universities take place this way.

    3. ankita

      Is post marital affair and having a sexual relationship with someone other than your husband..right ?

  2. anonymus

    what to do if one is not happy sexually with their partner, specially in marriage?

    1. Rita Banerji

      You have to figure out first, whether there are other issues in your relationship, because if there are it would interfere with your sex life. If so, you will have to try to resolve first. A good sexual relationship depends on a good personal relationship. If you like the person and you are happy in all other ways, then you have to try to be more open and explain to each other what your problems in bed are. Sometimes it is just the shyness and embarrassment that creates barriers. And that takes time. I’d suggest also seeking a sex-counselor, but you need to feel comfortable with that approach, and you need to make sure you find a counselor whose approach and personality both of you are comfortable with. But this is the last step.

  3. Archana

    I recently had a conversation with a young teenager regarding Body parts, Sex, Sexuality, STI, Sexual Abuse, Rape, and most importantly Consent. This is a nice and very good write. But, I felt it should have covered “Sexual Abuse” and not just “Rape”. Cause, the youth are victims of sexual abuse much more than just of rape. To be forced to become naked, to see porn, to be filmed, to be touched, kissed, to be forced to touch, etc.. Isn’t it?
    Also, even though you refer breifly to consent I think it is a very CORE of this topic and we need to stress to the youth that “you can say NO, and you must respect when other say NO”.
    We also need to introduce the youth to vocabulary that they can use to converse over a sex related topic. Many do not even know the names of their body parts cause in India we simply use “nicknames” or do not refer to sexual organs. Even this needs to be addressed.

    1. Rita Banerji

      Archana — Yes, this is only the core, the basics. And I will cover more topics — like the ones you mention. They are more nuanced and will require a separate post each. When my book “Sex and Power” was being launched by Penguin, I had insisted to my publishers and organizers that I wanted students from colleges and universities instead of VIPs because they are who I am talking to. One of the issues I discuss is how astonished I was about how normal, natural the body and sexuality of men and women is in Indian history and literature. For e.g. the Lingam-Yoni. When I explained to the audience how normal this was for the society to use this an object of worship and the college students were shocked. They did not know that this represented the Penis and vulva. When I asked them what are the Hindi words for these anatomies, many did not know. Then a female professor who was with them, told me, she did not know till she got married at 29 years! It’s shocking we can call our eyes, nose, elbows by their right names, but part of our own bodies are alien to us. And that’s a point you make too. So yes, you make a very valid point!

    2. Sanjay

      In My View Indian youth is just tracking the western culture in the face of dressing up if youth is tracking in dressing style & many of other things so youth also should accept that there is no harm to accept that in western culture there is no harm to do sex if your body is demanding it & having sex before Marriage with someone to whom you like. it is not any kind of shame. it is just the need of body at one age.
      youth is not understanding it at a time when they feel the need but later they feel that they done a mistake that’s why they do suicide an all.

  4. Nicky Collins

    This article comes at the right time. Every time we advocate ‘holistic’ education, we have a habit of conveniently forgetting the topic of ‘sex’, despite the fact that sex is a normal and integral part of our lives. The moral aspect people attach to it has made it a taboo and there is hardly anybody for inquisitive teenagers to turn to, except for their own misguided peers.

  5. anonymous

    my masturbation daily does men becomes thin? and gets any problem in future?

    1. Rita Banerji

      @anonymous — That is a concern a lot of people have. But these are all myths! It is not unhealthy and does not affect your health negatively. Do read this link for more information

  6. Mithlesh

    In above case of 14 yrs kid there are two factors of responsible for her death. One is sex which very.well explained but other part is about Betrayal which she felt in her relationship with that boy what about it? Nobody talked or clarified this point.

  7. Gaurav

    the best course of action is to abstain from any kind of relationships or sex. this is a difficult path and there might be times when you are distracted but if we can master our desires and control them completely then we can truly becomes masters of our own destiny, men need to understand that it is not normal to have sex in a country like india. the west has a different understanding of sex and it is alright for men and women to indulge in sex in north america or europe or even in other parts of Asia and other regions of the world but sex is looked down upon and should be avoided at all cost. there is social stigma attached to sex and the same rules cannot be applied to a nation like india where abstinence is way of life. most men would be distracted at least a few times in life but we can easily overcome this distraction by doing yoga and by learning to focus on a task at hand. it takes time and effort to control your sexual urges. there is nothing natural in have a sexual urge and we should learn to control it. the more we watch tv or internet or read magazines the more confused it make us. we should shun all this overload and practise self control and restraint till we become experts at abstinence and then nobody will be able to abuse us or call us immoral. by learning to control the sexual urges men can earn respect. look at our prime minister. he has led a single life devoted to the nation and the nation only. he has successfully controlled his sexual urges and every woman respects him. we men have a lot to learn. and in the event of us men not being able to control our urges we should move out of india and go to a place where it is ok to have a relationship with a woman including sex. this is something that all men should think carefully. the biggest source of trouble of men is that we tend to get distracted and although most men are able to restrict themselves to getting distracted , some men actually are unable to control their sexual urges and get carried away. this has been happening a lot more in the recent years and we men need to pull up our socks and stop thinking about women. women also should avoid the pitfalls of getting carried away by sexual urges and abstain because ultimately it will lead to the downfall of humanity. the golden rule is do in rome as romans do, which means every human being should do what is morally acceptable in a society, in indian society sex is a dirty word and hence should be avoided. additionally we should not start something which we cannot finish. in short sex and relationships are not considered to be normal in indian society and should therefore be avoided at all cost. not only is it ugly and dirty, it is disrespectful and downright degrading to allow your animal urges to guide you in life. hope men will learn to focus and will not get distracted. best of luck to us all

    1. Vaishnavi

      Sex is a basic human need.It’s not something that was brought into this country by the western culture.Speaking of the Indian society,it consists of people like you and me,it’s not a third dimension.Their views and thoughts can be shaped or changed.We should stand for what we believe in.If we like something then we can pursue it till its not harming anybody.

    2. D Gill

      “there is nothing natural in have a sexual urge ” What? Then why were all human beings made to have them then?
      “look at our prime minister. he has led a single life devoted to the nation and the nation only. he has successfully controlled his sexual urges and every woman respects him” And who made you the expert on Modi’s sex life? You don’t know what he does behind closed doors.

    3. Sameera

      *Too many insults clogging the brain!!! Don’t know where to start from!!*

  8. Gaurav

    it is important to mention that any attempt to seek a relationship by a man or a woman in india is considered immoral, a sign of frustration and disrespectful to women. arranged marriage is the only outlet in a society like india and that too has been allowed just to ensure that things do not get out of hand specially now that 70% of the population is young and if no exit strategy is made available the youth might become immoral and might take to crimes of passion. in other words indian society is retrograde and there are no recognized forms of social interaction in primitive societies like india it is important to create a fall back just to ensure that those who are not able to control immoral urges to have sex or for that matter those who want to be in a relationship can be tackled effectively.

  9. Saurabh

    Excellent article. Its really sad that its okay to show “double meaning” jokes in movies but talking about sex is not okay. I feel there is a huge gap between, children and adolescents, and adolescents and adults. Very few parents want to tell their children about sex. Few schools have sex ed programmes. And everybody winds up watching porn to learn. Porn is entertainment, it does not teach any real facts about sex and instead misleads the watchers into thinking that anyone can have sex with anyone and its acceptable to try and get physical with someone until they give in!

    We really need to work on making sure Sex is not a dirty word. Only then will people be more open about, willing to talk about it. As long as its portrayed as a bad thing, these incidents will keep happening and people will not want to discuss it. Sexual abuse is very common in Indian households. Its a shame that the victim in most cases cannot approach anyone to protest, either due to lack of awareness, or because the victim feels he/she will get blamed. Sexual abuse by family members is rampant and it makes it even more difficult to talk to family members who might even be willing to discuss sex but not believe their own siblings or uncles have committed such an act.

    Attitudes need to change, mindsets need to evolve. We’ve gone from Kamsutra 200 years ago to this today. It does not get worse!

  10. XYZ

    2 months ago my dad somehow saw my phones web history and found all that stuff there [btw i am gay and i have had told him so …he could not except it earlier but later he said that he has no problem if i don’t want to get married and its nice to him if i am going to stay pure and gave examples of Narendra Modi and Ramdev Baba etc etc (i didn’t realize but he was indirectly saying u have to practice celibacy and control your urges )] that morning i got beaten up by my dad and he was really like mad …devastated for what i did…he kept saying “didn’t i told u that u cant do this all” “u were not supposed to do this” “u have got spoiled” and so on.

    Now since last month things have really become awkward and depressing. He keeps his eyes on me.. my phone…i cant touch them without telling him….In order to control my urges he forces me to do yoga (and i don’t think its helpful). if i wake up late in morning he asks “what were u doing at night …watching films?”

    i didn’t get expected marks in JEE so he said in front of every one (my mother , younger brother and sister) that he already knew what my results would be and that i have got spoiled and this (he used the word ‘Gundi Films’) has lead me here. Now even my family knows.

    Its so depressing and shameful. i can not even face him and my family members. What do i do. How do i tell him that its normal… to be gay and to watch these videos that i m not any different from other straight teens they also do it.

  11. Vishwas

    Hey friends!
    The Humsafar Trust, Mumbai started this online petition so that it can be submitted to our PM Narendra Modi to amend Section 377.
    SIGN this petition and share it in your timeline please.
    You can appeal people to read this small article that how even straights get affected by non-acceptance of gays.

  12. Biren

    Nice Write-up. I am rating it, 3 out of 6. However, the issue presented by author, is very surfacetical. Even though she had tried her best to outline majority of sex and rape related issues, with due consideration of, both myths and realities of post-sex and pre-sex attitude of people, She failed in highlighting and projecting the important underlying processes, related with ‘gendrical issues’ of human being related with sex and rape. I believe, Unconsciousness as well as Insensitivity towards gendrical issues of human being, is major and most important ingredient, which requires strategic exploration, in order to spread awareness among people. Especially teenagers.It seems, the triad of Gender, Sex and Rape are very intermingled in each other. There exists a very complex relationship between gendrical issues , sex related issues and Rape related issues. The Youth of today, must explore this complex relationship in order to remove misconception about rape and sex.

  13. gautam govinda

    i have only had oral sex with one partner in my life. And she was damn good at it. The problem is i developed this rash on my glans and it doesnt go away, i am afraid to tell anyone since nobody knows i am sexually active. I don’t earn so i can not go to a doctor by myself. moreover i don’t even know what kind of specialist i need because it is a skin problem on my sex organ. so i need a sex specialist or skin specialist?
    Its doesn’t seem harmful but i have it since 10 months now, it doesn’t go away.
    P.S i havent had sex since half a year.

    1. sarab

      “i have only had oral sex with one partner in my life.”

      *cough cough* bro, you don’t mention here 😛 there’s a chance you could get booked under sec 377 . Yes , it does applies to heterosexuals as well and Yes , even if you do it with your wife , even if with her consent .

    2. D Gill

      I’m no doctor but that sounds like a sexually transmitted disease and the longer you wait the worse it can get. Find a way to get to a doctor as soon as possible and next time use a condom. You should ALWAYS use a condom. Just go see a regular doctor for now they will refer you to someone else if it’s serious. You don’t have to give your family all the details just tell them you need to see a doctor for some other reason. I could be wrong but I doubt the doctor will tell your family what the actual issue is.

    3. gautam govinda

      using condom in oral!!
      its weird..and no enjoyment comes from it.
      Also, i know oral n anal is criminal offence.. that’s why i am using fake id for commenting.
      I think i wil get myself checked for std or something. God help me. Please support me all.

  14. Anand Philip

    Dear Rita,

    I’m very happy to see a frank conversation covering some very important aspects. I am, however, uncomfortable with your explanation of how someone can be gay, sure, hormones have a role, but one’s sexuality is NOT determined by one’s hormones. Truth is, we do not have a good understanding of why some people are gay. I also feel that your comments about rape could use a little more explaining; while technically rape is unwanted penetration, it might be good to include the idea of consent here.

    Tl;dr: Good job, technical error about homosexuality, and please discuss consent.



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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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