By Avnika Barman:
As a child, I don’t recall ever speaking to my parents about sexuality. Only recently did I find out that they had expected and assumed that my school would fulfill the duty of giving me sexuality education. Needless to say, my school did no such thing – and my first understanding of what sex was came through a random reading of an encyclopedia, which illustrated sexual intercourse as something that was done for reproduction.
The first time I menstruated, I thought I had pooped my pants! My mother, in basic terms, told me what my body was experiencing. It wasn’t until class 10 biology lesson on reproduction (five years later!) that I learnt why some people (which my textbook described as ‘women’ – I later found out, it’s more complicated than that) menstruate. There was just no concept of educating people on these issues during my childhood, either at home or in school.
During my teens, a bunch of us in school would often search through dictionaries to learn the meaning of words such as ‘sex’, ‘sperm’, ‘condoms’, etc. We used slang to make it easier to talk about all the things we were curious about. We did know about words like ‘penis’, ‘vagina’ and ‘breasts’, but there was always a sense of discomfort in using them openly. Even though we would talk about all of this, we never actually spoke about our own desires, or what we thought sexuality meant for ourselves.
It was much later, when we were around 18 or 19, that my friends and I began to openly discuss our sexuality. It’s only through our years of learning and talking to each other that we learned to be comfortable talking about masturbation, being open about our sexual lives and experiences (especially as women) and understanding the rights our bodies. Most importantly, we developed a clear understanding of consent, one of the key fundamentals of learning about sexuality.
Today, I feel that I have taught my parents more about gender and sexuality than they ever taught me.
I look back on my school years – and think that I could have spent all that time being comfortable, and not awkward, about my body and sexuality. Having realised this, I feel that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is extremely important and should form a part of every child’s education.
It should not only be limited to the teaching of the issues of body anatomy, contraception and prevention of infections and pregnancies. The word ‘comprehensive’ means that sexuality education should also incorporate talking about rights, relationships, the emotional and mental aspects of sexuality and violence and nurturing a ‘positive view’ of sexuality (because we do not talk about ‘pleasure’ often enough). All of this will allow more people to enjoy their sexuality and explore their bodies without guilt or shame, unlike my friends and I.
The author is a TYPF Youth Advocate and Peer Educator.
The YP Foundation’s KYBKYR campaign 2.0is a continuation of the Know Your Body, Know Your Rights campaign that we ran in 2010–2011. KYBKYR 2.o focuses on the need for young people to have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information that is fact-checked, evidence based, and sex-positive. The campaign provides resources that assist young people to advocate for access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) with the decision-makers and authority figures in their lives, including family members, teachers, and administrators in educational institutions.
This post was originally published on www.theypfoundation.org.