Learning about Sex without Sex Education
After all the mocking on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere of Dr. Harshwardhan’s comment on sex education in India, the #YoBJPSoSanskaari hashtag trend slowed down and opened space for actual dialogue. I chose this opportunity to read meaningful content and write a post on the issue—and here I am with one.
Digging into the archives of the place where I work in Bombay, I found Bertrand Russell’s book On Education, and as curiosity dictates, I was on the index page in the hope of finding something interesting. And I did find something interesting: an essay titled “Sex Education.”
After reading Russell’s essay, I decided to write about my personal experiences learning about sex, and I hope many others share their own stories and open up a new window of dialogue.
I am strongly in favour of sex education, and I draw from my own childhood, adolescent and post-teenage experiences—how I came to know about sex—to argue in favour of the subject.
My first encounter with sexual curiosity came during the era of Hindu epic shows on television—from Mahabharata to Ramayana to Krishna, etc. I still remember a scene so vividly that I doubt if it will ever go off my memory. Here, God sends a small baby (not an embryo) through a woman’s nostrils so that she gives birth to a great baby, and everything goes according to the divine plan. Unfortunately, I do not remember which particular show this was. However, seeing a surgery mark on her stomach, I remember asking my mother how was I born. Or rather, asking: Where did I come from? I had the impression that we all came from our mothers’ stomachs being cut by the doctors. As the popular idiom had it: mere petmein tumhara bachha hai. She replied, as most mothers would, “You came from the stomach.”
Well, curiosity number one solved!
A similar incident happened with the well known psychiatrist R.D. Laing, when he questioned his mother.
Reproduced from R.D. Laing’s The Facts of Life:
RONALD: Where do babies come from?
MUMMY: From heaven.
RONALD: I know that. But how do they get there?
MUMMY: Their mummy and daddy pray to God to send them one.
RONALD: And how is one sent?
MUMMY: You’ll learn that when you’re older.
RONALD: Why can’t you tell me now?
MUMMY: You’re too young to learn that. You’ll learn that when you grow up.
That was that.
Fast forward to my adolescent days when we—a bunch of boys—used to sit in a dark corner and tell each other erotic stories.
A friend often mentioned a story about a particular lady whose husband fucked her in the arse. He seemed too obsessed with the arse. All his stories began and ended up at the same place. This led me to the idea that it is the spot, while with the other one (the vagina), I had to ask, “Yeah, well, what is the spot for?” I do not remember how my friends answered. It was only after a few years that I discovered what the vagina is!
Another stray incident in my personal sex education comes from my days in high school—7th grade, I guess. I picked up a paper ball thrown on the road. Curious as always, I decided to see what was inside. For a child, these things are of great interest for you never know what could be inside. My hope then was always to find some money.
Sadly, no money—but a used condom. And I touched it!
Nothing scared me more then than the fact that I touched a used condom. I feared that I could now be infected by AIDS. Yes, I did think that! That is because of the rumours, ill-informed advertisement about AIDS and Nirodh. It was only when I grew old enough to understand what a condom is that I realised the Nirodh advertisements were about condoms.
And AIDS? Well, I am fine. Phew!
Speaking of AIDS, I should also mention that till 9th grade, I believed masturbation causes AIDS and many ill effects to health. Those high school days of masturbation frequently led to guilt and fear.
Moving along, let me also tell you — till college I had no clue about the menstrual cycle, other than “they bleed.” Maybe because I did not pay worth a paisa of attention in my science class. But, the major factor was the absence of any dialogue on these issues. Dialogue occurred neither between adults and children nor between the two sexes.
These are only a few of the many incidents that I remember. Like me, many others could recollect such incidents about sex and related topics. Yet, there is no mechanism in place to answer our questions!
How do we normalise sex?
Bertrand Russell answers:
Parents must stop using ambiguous language to answer questions on sex, give up our obsession with protecting our children form the outer world, instead, to let them experiment and learn, and establish a public culture where sex is not looked down upon.
We all know what is to be done concerning sex education in India. Instead of depending so much on authority, we must start contributing as groups—us and them—equally. Use your talents to create dialogue: write, draw, animate, dance, etc. and most important of all, really engage with such initiatives. Democratisation isn’t limited to the sphere of politics alone. Decentralising actions such as sex education and making people the authority of it would be a step further towards real democracy, and also an example for others to start their own initiatives.
“The only alternative to reason is violence.” — Bertrand Russell
PS: I will not hide my identity because the fear of revealing our identity on such issues is one of the major reasons for no dialogue. My name is Avinay, and I live and work in Bombay. I’d love to hear your views on this. Reach out to me on Twitter: @ikaafir.