By Veda Nadendla:
I grew up in New Delhi, the fast-town of Urban India. My parents are from Andhra Pradesh and we stayed in Delhi for 17 years. I studied among equally diverse peers from the naval fraternity and this is where I thought I learnt everything. But I was wrong.
Till the age of 14 I didn’t know about the existence of that particular three letter word. By 16, I’d both heard about and said it out loud a couple of times, only to hear my friends shush me up. I had also read about the reproductive parts in my Biology textbook after skipping school on the day that particular lesson was being taught. I was too embarrassed to sit in a class full of boys while my teacher lectured in a strictly aversive tone about our ‘girl parts’ and ‘boy parts’. I was 18 by the time I knew what sex really is, how it happens and between whom. This, I learnt from an article in the newspaper, not from my friends, not from my teachers, and definitely not from my parents.
I still remember my mother, asking me to turn away with one sharp tone every time a kiss scene played on the TV, my dad getting fidgety and my little brother and I being horrified with embarrassment. How many times has that happened to you? Have you ever been told not to use the ‘S’ word? Have you ever heard anyone tell you what sexÂ is really about? I haven’t, and to my misfortune, I learnt from newspapers, books and porn.
Sex happens all around us, you and I were born because of sex, and yet, in our country, we treat it like it’s a taboo. Everyone I know has tip-toed around sex all my life. They call it sex education, but really, sex is smeared with coal, sat on a donkey and paraded around like a criminal who should not be unleashed on our world. Imagine if your parents sat you down and told you, beta, sex happens between two people and it is completely natural. I would bury my face in my backside out of embarrassment, but I know that I would thank them someday.
I used to think that making out could make babies. Only later did I realize the monumental extent of my lack of knowledge. Sex should be talked about more in India. Not just by the media, or on Facebook. Parents need to accept that the country is on a modernization spree and sooner or later, their kid will learn about sex; isn’t it better it came from them first? If you reprimand your kids to act responsibly, give them all the information they need to make those responsible decisions. Only when parents explain what sex really is will a child know the repercussions of engaging in it. It’s a common trend among youngsters to learn about sex from porn, which is a devastating source of knowledge. Porn is around for pleasure, not for facts about sex and definitely not to learn values about the important emotion that it is. Yes, you heard me right, sex is an emotion shared by two people, which could go horribly wrong if not understood properly.
We are thriving in a decade of sexual awakening, when more and more books are being written about people’s sexuality, sexual experimentation is rife in India and people are becoming more open about underage sex and multiple sexual partners. We are transforming into a post-patriarchal society where women are stepping into the limelight and taking life by the horns, and men are respecting that. At this juncture, it is important for us as a collectivistic culture to dump the negativistic attitudes we hold about sexual intercourse. If we are doing it, then so are others around us and eventually our children will too. Let us ensure that we are giving our children all the information they need to be well-rounded individuals.
I have a dream, that one day; textbook printers will be printing a book on sex education and awareness, the day when awareness of sex becomes formal in India. When children don’t have to rely on Game of Thrones and Mills & Boons to learn about the act of intimacy between two individuals. However sex education does not necessarily mean ‘talk about sex’. Sex education refers to holistic view of all the aspects of sexual intercourse, both positive and negative. Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children about important matters like the various body parts, good touch and bad touch, which areas are private and should not be touched, how to respond to a bad touch, to always tell when someone is misbehaving and then finally that no one can force anyone to do anything they don’t want to. Children need to be sensitized from a young age so that they themselves will be vigilant and build an awareness of those around them.
Sex is not just about the act itself; it involves two people and their acceptance to share a moment so personal and special that they are most vulnerable. I understood this only after I experienced it for myself, but it shouldn’t have to be that way. We need to empower those around us to accept and treat sex like doing our morning duty and brushing our teeth. We are wired that way, can we help it? Changing a pattern is difficult but possible; changing a mindset is what has taken our country centuries. Let’s take it one home at a time. Why don’t you start with yours?