I was traveling in a local train in bustling Bombay, chit-chatting away with my friend. “I want to try a vibrator”, she said, “but I’m a little nervous, I’ve never used a sex toy before.” I’d hardly said a couple of words in response, when we noticed an aunty sitting across from us, shooting disapproving looks our way — first at her, then at me, and back at her again.
Talk about awkward! To avoid any further embarrassment, my friend quickly changed the subject and started babbling about some random assignment.
"Shush beta, we don't talk about 'such things' in our culture."
How many times have you heard a more or less similar version of this line? How many times have you experienced judgmental glares after you dared to utter the word "sex" out loud?
We're expected to navigate through this confusing realm of sexuality on our own, with minimal/no guidance. Our so-called sex education boils down to two basic topics: reproduction and menstruation — and even those get covered in the most hush-hush manner. So, here's the million-dollar question: Where are we expected to find the real scoop on sex education?
I spoke to 5 people to explore this very question - let’s see what we’ve got!
Aryavrat | 22 | Goa-based student: ‘Reddit all the way!’
“There’s a subreddit called ‘Ask Me’, where people can ask all sorts of questions. Naturally, sexual queries come up too. I find gems there - tips to spice up sex, ways to please your partner, and the best sexual advice ever shared. It's like a treasure trove of information! Thanks to Reddit, I’ve learned the basics: the importance of foreplay and that it's not all about reaching the finish line but cherishing the entire journey.
Another crucial source for me has been my conversations with guy friends! You know how it goes — late night hangouts, beers in hand, and conversations about who we made out with. Believe me, that’s like a tiny crash course in itself. They’ve, overtime, become my unofficial sex education professors, they just don’t know it.”
Nirali | 49 | A homemaker from Bombay: ‘My daughter is my daily sex education dose!’
"I never knew of a concept like ‘sex for pleasure’. Sex, was only after marriage and only for reproduction - that's what we had been taught. My daughter first started talking to me about homosexuality, which then moved into conversations around sex. I admit, it did feel a little weird at first.
I was brought up in a small town in Odisha; we couldn’t discuss these things openly with our closest friends either, let alone someone who’s related to you! But recently, conversations about sex over my daughter’s cup of coffee and my cup of chai has opened up an entire new world for me!”
Kriti | 28 | Social Media Analyst in Amravati: 'A heart-wrenching way'
“The first time I ever received any kind of sex ed, it was far from pleasant. The media was then buzzing with an explicit coverage of a horrific rape case (I was very young, I have no memory of the name now, thankfully).
At that time, I didn’t even grasp what the word ‘rape’ means. Confused and curious, I turned to my mom for answers. At that very moment, she asked me to go to my room. I now realize that it was probably cause dad was around, sitting with a newspaper in the same room.
That night, she came and took a seat beside me. She delivered, what I like to call, my first ever ‘clean words’ lecture on the subject of sex. And that is how, before delving into the beautiful side of the birds and the bees, rape became my starting point. Before even grasping the broader concepts of sex, I delved into the heartbreaking realities of power dynamics of sex. This has shaped my understanding of the complexities surrounding sex and consent.”
Priyam | 31| Kochi-based Engineer: 'By doing it'
“Before I actually had sex for the first time - porn had been my only source of information. I dated this girl when I was 19. My girlfriend and I lost our virginity to each other. Both of us learnt only by practicing, a lot. Full blown confession : we were very horny teenagers. With every next time - we started understanding what we liked, what we didn’t. The more the sex, the better we got! Ah, old times.
However, I’ve recently begun to realize that sex education is a lot more than just ‘being good in bed'. I’m quite familiar with concepts like consent and boundaries. But there’s a huge gap in my understanding about different sexualities. I’m trying to read up from multiple articles and sites on the internet at the moment.”
Aditi | 18 | A student from Delhi: 'All over the place'
"Oh, my sex education journey is like a wild treasure hunt! There's no one-stop-shop or a single "aha" moment. I gather tidbits from various sources, bit by bit, piece by piece. It's like I'm building my own personal library.
What do I even begin to talk about? There's a whole lot of online platforms and Instagram pages that dish out valuable insights. I follow very cool sex educators - like Seema Anand and Dr. Cuterus. And let's not forget the silver screen—I learn a thing or two from movies and popular culture references that subtly (or not-so-subtly) touch on the subject.
Literature has been another major source for me. Fiction - for how it awakens my imagination and non-fiction, to teach me a thing or two. 'The Sex Book' by Leeza Mangaldas is on my recent top list. Oh, also podcasts! There's a plethora of audio goodness out there.
There’s so much to know - a gender studies student can genuinely never get enough!"
Do you notice one common thing about these responses? None of the responses mentioned the word ‘school’ or ‘lectures’.
While my one big question to most of the people was about where they got their ‘birds and bees’ education from, I couldn't help but pick everyone's brains about their thoughts on sex education in India. And let me tell you, it was an ear-opening experience!
Everyone that I spoke to, with no exception at all, stressed on the absolute importance of sex education. It's high time we made sex ed a proper class! Yes, a whole class dedicated to understanding the dynamics of sexual intimacy - in all its glorious physical and psychological details.
But until that dream becomes a reality - I have a tiny surprise for you! We launched India’s first free, online, inclusive and comprehensive Sex Ed Masterclasses in collaboration with the leading sex ed experts in the country. You can find it right here and get started on your journey to holistic sex ed. So go on, check it out, and hopefully, when someone asks you the questions I asked people for this article, you’ll bring our name up in the conversation. Until next time!
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