Sunday, August 12, 2012

LETS TALK ABOUT SEX


 Ahh… I am sure many of you are wondering what this is going to be all about?

This post is inspired by a discussion I had with one of my friends this morning. We were talking about how “stupid” ( read “uninformed”) we were about some vital facts of life when compared to what our kids know today.

We were in class IX and eagerly awaiting the Bio class. Not that we cared  much about the subject or Mrs Nair our teacher. What we were really waiting with bated breath was the lesson that she was going to teach us – the human reproductive system! So obviously there was a lot of commotion and whispers as she settled down. But the sly woman that she was ,she suddenly feigned annoyance and asked the class to “stand up” because we were being unruly. “I am not going to stay  a minute longer in a class full of hooligans like you. You can remain standing and we will have a test on this chapter tomorrow” she said as she stormed out! Our disappointment was now coupled with an added worry about that blessed test! We found out soon enough that reading about sperms and ova, testes and ovaries for a test all by ourselves was really a bore!

“I am sure it is not all so technical and scientific ” – I remember a friend complaining before that test.

But then that was how we were “informed” -in scientific language where it was difficult to differentiate  zygospores, anthers and stigma  from testes and ovaries.

The nuns who taught us realized our curiosity and tried to deal with it during moral science and religious instruction classes. So, they went on and on about it in their own round about way. One of the nuns who handled moral science for our seniors apparently kept a drop box on the table so that girls could write out questions that they were too shy to ask. I am sure that box must have been filled to the brim in print writing. One of them shared recently on face book about how Sr. Marcelene once told their class to “thank the lord for giving us so many eggs!!!”

But the curiosity of a teen is further aroused when such “beating about the bush” kind of statements are made. We sought for information with a perseverance that was close to the Buddha’s search for “Nirvana”. We used to read those “Mills and Boon” romances. Unfortunately those days the maximum that those books would describe would be a kiss! Even that was something that we tried our best to understand. I was firmly under the impression that only foreigners kissed. I mean one did not see it in Indian movies and of course we never saw parents ever indulge in something like this. We used to read  those pages over and over again until they were book marked by sheer use! One could open a M&B and get straight to that kissing place.  

I , being the information freak tried to rummage through those old science journals in the school library while my friends read through the “ Ask the doctor” or the “Agony Aunt” section in a magazine called “Home Life”.  I am sure the librarian knew about this research that being conducted but she never did anything to help. Actually, I am thankful that  atleast she did nothing to put an end to it !

Finally, I got some idea about what “it” might actually involve and used this information to hold court with my peers in our neighbourhood. Soon, I became some sort of expert on doubts that might arise on the topic. I remember a friend once used a unisex toilet. She asked me if she could have become pregnant because she had used a soiled toilet seat ( I am sure you know the nasty habit that men/ boys have when they use the toilet). I was not sure but since I had been identified as an expert I said “I think so”. But privately I wanted to clarify from another neighbour- a much older girl who was in a medical college. When I explained the matter to her she n howled with laughter! I still remember her saying “The man does not piss into the woman you fool”. I was terribly embarrassed when I found that she had told many of her friends about this stupid idea of mine and they in turn often asked me about my views on unisex toilet use. 

But jokes apart, if I were to point out a major lacuna in my upbringing I would say it was about the lack of any formal sex education. I do remember my mother explaining to me about menstrual hygiene and the need to stay away from “boys and men” but nothing that actually was about the act of procreation ( or pleasure?). She did try to “talk “to me before I got married. But I found it  too awkward to discuss it with her.  I sometimes think that may be today, I know more than her about these matters? I am sure she has no idea about homosexuality for instance ( or may be she does but has classified it in her mind as a sort of perversion).

We have tried to maintain an open dialogue with our daughter about this. When compared to mine, her school is definitely more encouraging in terms of getting children to talk about these matters. Then of course there is the media which provides access to information much more easily than it did during our days. But the point is to help children sift the information they receive from these sources so that they know what is a piece of information and what is a myth. As times change, I think there is also the subtle difference in the way sex is being viewed – it has moved from being something to do with procreation to something that is to do with pleasure. It is important I guess, to let children know that it is not a taboo but something that they would discover and experience when they are old enough for it. Ofcourse while we are at it there is no harm in also mentioning about contraception. Thankfully, in our home the later is a topic of drawing room discussion due to the fact that my late mother in law was the District Family Planning officer for Chennai. There are many hilarious stories about her inability to meet the vasectomy targets. We try to use humour to drive home the point. The daughter is very comfortable with the topic but I just  hope she is not too hurt when she tries to talk about this with ease in a group that still has discomfort discussing it.

As part of my work with the communities in the villages I have found that while girls have some knowledge about the issues around reproduction boys continue to be clueless. Their source of information seems to be still drawn from those dog eared porn books that they pass around. It is therefore quite strange that many programs around reproductive health continue to target women and girls. No point in giving women information that they would never be able to  use. I mean few men in our patriarchal society would listen to his wife if she suggested  birth control measures  His answer would be “how do you know all this?” And from there would creep in the doubts about the poor woman’s “character”

But there are some progressive programs that NGOs are implementing around this whole issue of sexuality and couple communication in a marriage. With a good facilitator these programs we find are becoming extremely popular. Many of them also contribute subtly to empowerment of women! Couples who have been part of such programs have often been known to come back and tell some of our colleagues how life for them is so much happier!

It is sad that the country which is home to the famous “Kamasutra” should today have become so “screwed up” when discussing sex. Many people still go to quacks who claim to cure “private diseases” and put their life at risk.  . I am inclined to agree with Khushwant Singh who once said in an interview that “Indians have sex in their heads and not between their legs” We think about it all the time, many of our actions around it are so furtive that it almost seems like something dirty and most importantly we refuse to “talk about it”- when are we going to change?



14 comments:

thatandthisinmumbai said...

I remember my own so called "sex education" class. I was in a co-ed school and the swaggering boys and giggling girls were led to separate rooms for the LESSON. And what was it? A slide show about boy meet girl, and both go on bicycle ride. Then the last slide was something called the marriage contract ! I look back and laugh at this 'education' but then it was mighty confusing.

anilkurup said...

Agreed,.
But M, let me assert a point, if not for the pleasure that sex has , who on this earth would think of going through all those ennui filled exercises leading to copulation and want to procreate?
I do recollect the giggles ,cat calls and hushed talks when the chapter on reproductive systems was taken up in school.

And Kushhwant Singh was right. It is a pity that a culture that gave forth the most informed thesis on sex and has some of the most inspiring and explicit sculptures of yore right inside temples , must feel ashamed and peeved when the subject of sex is mentioned.

The joke back in college was that the PT master was so enraged with a little fellow in the first year when he wrote "male" against the requirement of SEX in an application. He allegedly admonished the boy and commented,"little rascal you want sex at this young age, strike off what you wrote and write "Sex- Nil"

Rahul Bhatia said...

The world has moved fast and at least most children are better informed than their parents were. There is still a lot to be done to discuss this as openly as any other subject to clear the myths and misunderstandings:)

Jack said...

Meera,

Very factual post. Educating children on this issue is a must as per their age. Parents need to be more open and approachable.

Take care

Rahul said...

LOL..:-) I had a wonderful time reading this...He hehe...Maan...you write in a pretty engrossing manner..I must say..:-)

Meera Sundararajan said...

Thanks to both Rahuls and others for your comments.

@ Thisandthatinmumbai - I can very well imagine that film - must have been like the "Nirodh" ads of the 1980s :P

@ Anil, the urge to procreate is a primeval one though the pleasure is probably an added bonus- so let us not get into the chicken and egg situation on this. LOL - that fellow and his PT master! There is a movie called "Mumbai Matinee" which deals with a young fellow's desire to rid himself of his virginity!! It is actually quite funny and deals with our repressed mores around sex and sexuality

@ Jack and Rahul- thanks for the comment. Reassures me to know that what I am raising is being acknowledged as an important issue

@ Rahul - glad you found it funny. We were quite hilarious in our ignorance!

dr.antony said...

I have to agree with what all you have said.I also agree with what Anil commented.The pleasure in sex is not a bonus,but the most important ingredient,if not, many wouldn't think about having children.In fact ,how many are in the planned parenthood?Most children are accidental byproducts of the pleasures of sex.

And about Indians and sex, there is no way to put it better than what Kushwant Singh said.We are so secretive about sex and most of us are kind of perverts.We talk a lot about morality ,but are the most immoral.We talk a lot about women and their chastity,but use every opportunity to touch and fondle them,even in public places. Our men wait all day long in front of police stations and court rooms to get a glimpse of the prostitutes or the girl who had been molested.Not out of sympathy,bet because of a sadistic and perverted pleasure.

This is an asylum..No more better words.

Bikramjit said...

Well when i was growing up the constant saying dont do this , dont talk to girls and especially the worst thing, all girls are like ur sisters thats what parents would say.

Nowadays kids know about it all, a 12 year old asked me a few days ago if he could kiss a girl and I was like WHAT, I did not know what ot say so i referred him to his dad ..

I never had that education or maybe i missed that lesson, it was always hush hush and here in uk it is taught when you are 11-12 ..

It is important to have education , excellent post and I liked the comments by ANIL , how true that is ..

Bikram's

SuKupedia ™ :) :) said...

I agree that schools today are much more proactive when it comes to discussing such subjects than few years back...I remember we had a class with our principal who was a lady about maintaining personal hygiene..and we kept giggling all the time whenever she mentioned 'private parts'... they did not even refer it by organ names ...

Divya said...

I am so glad to be reading this :) I am a counsellor and trust me, those technical sex education classes do no one any good - it is indeed a shame that we still shy away from discussing sex...Sex education is introduced in some schools as late as 9th or 10th standard - by then, I'm sorry to say - most children can lecture the teachers on that topic and unfortunately, the information they have might not be from the appropriate sources...it would be so good to have parents having such healthy discussions on this topic at home :)

Cloud Nine said...

Good one, Meera. Unless we find it comfortable to discuss sex with our children in drawing rooms, they are never going to move over their inhibitions. Schools these days are doing a better job. Still, in rural areas, discussing sex is a taboo...

ashok said...

totally agree..great post!

ashok said...

a well written post with lot of wit and content...
fortunately we had an over enthusiastic biology teacher in school :) ...

Gayu said...

The most controversial topic. I feel that no matter how much we as parents wish to talk to our children, would the children want to listen about sex from their parents??

I mean, how comfortable will be a son/ daughter to discuss such things with their parents??
a friend of mice recently told me"How much ever parents try to be friends with their children, its seriously not possible for them to be a FRIEND. A friend is a Friend and parents are parents."

Need your view on this.

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