“Pssst…. Turn on chapter 9 of the science book”, I heard my friends whispering to each other. Ninth grade brought lots of excitement to my classmates and me. After all, our science textbook had that chapter on adolescence! On the first day of the 9th standard, my friends opened the ‘Adolescence’ chapter with excitement. Though the chapter had words ‘Sex’, ‘reproduction’, ‘puberty’, etc., we never had proper sex education.
At home, my parents often switched the TV channels to avoid awkwardness during a condom or sanitary napkin advertisement. I do not remember how and when my teenage mind learned to consider sex and sex education a taboo. I remember once my cousin, while watching a condom ad, asked my father if it was chocolate? Credit goes to the various flavors that the ad film mentioned. My father scolded him for not learning the spellings and tables. Poor boy.
Back in 9th standard, one of my friends kissed his boyfriend and was worried if she would get pregnant. Please do not laugh. I was worried for her because that’s what movies had taught us about romance and pregnancy. Actors kiss each other and then announce the arrival of their baby. Since our parents never gave us a sex talk, movies, magazines, and taboos shaped our thought process.
Soon, we read Chapter 9 and our fear ended. We finally got to know that a kiss does not make anyone pregnant. But at that time, our excitement and curiosity about sex were heightened. We wanted to know everything and anything about sex, the human body, menstruation, and whatnot.
Sadly, we had to wait for one more year to read about the reproduction chapter in detail. So, in the 10th standard, our science teacher taught us the chapter. I must say, nobody missed classes for that entire week! She tried her best to educate us about adolescence, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases. Still, we had our share of doubts and curiosity with us.
Today when I look back, I feel there should have been a dedicated session on sex education. Instead of reading out from the textbooks and turning down our doubts, a healthy discussion could have taken place. And when I say so, I mean discussions on the following things:
Physical Development: Emphasising puberty, changes in the human body, sexual orientation, and anatomy. Making us comfortable to accept those changes and healthily carry them.
Personal Space: Knowing and accepting one’s body, setting boundaries, and understanding the importance of relationships with family members, friends, peers, neighbors, etc.
Communication: Being able to voice our feelings, thoughts, doubts; discussing things with someone trustworthy and mature, being open and direct. Seeking consent of the other person.
Sexual Behaviour: A spectrum of behavior and actions through which people express their sexuality and sexual needs. They may have different sexual orientations and gratification.
Sexual Health: Having sound knowledge about pregnancy, menstruation, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, abortion, and sexual hygiene.
Society and Beliefs: Being aware of the stigma and taboo related to sex and virginity widespread in the society Understanding how society, culture, media, power, and beliefs affect one’s sexual identity.
My younger cousins had sex education classes which were more like passing chits containing questions to be asked. For example, how to clean genitals, whether or not to remove pubic hair, whether sex is good or bad, etc. Their doubts were answered followed by laughter and collective embarrassment. What seemed disturbing was the fact ‘having sex brings risk and shame to you and your family’!
I wonder what those naive girls grew up thinking after that session. Every time they grew closer to someone, they might have thought ‘everything is at stake’, apparently. Maybe post-sex, they take the risk to gulp down medicines and some toxic product to terminate the non-existential pregnancy. Why? Because the sex education they had was just a formality, or maybe it was more like a ‘counseling’.
Whatever, it was, it made us feel that unless you are not married, sex is a no-go-zone. However, no sex education can tell you whether your spouse will make your sex life a happy one. Even today many of us do not know what to do with our body or with someone else’s body. Perhaps, therefore, incidents like rape and eve-teasing have become so prominent.
One of the things that sex education must include is the awareness that a woman too can have desires and needs. Even today society slut shames women who seek pleasure. Prime example, Beena from Mirzapur web series or Devi from the Bollywood movie Masaan. We all have seen how these two women were portrayed and what they went through for seeking pleasures. Sadly, many people often perceive women as desire-fulfilling and baby-making machines. They believe it is only a woman’s body that indulges in intercourse. They need to understand that mind and heart also have their fair share in this game.
In addition to this, it is important to tell boys and girls about why sex shouldn’t be forced in any manner. Whether it is physically, mentally, or emotionally forced sex, it is wrong. No one should influence them for having sex with any person. Instead of preventing young boys & girls from having sex by scaring them, we should teach them to wait and grow.
They need to know there will be a time when they will feel ready to become intimate. They must not hurry or get influenced by peer pressure.
Some institutions prioritize sex education but the results will be fruitful when parents come forward. Sex education should begin at home. Children need to know that sex can at times be amazing, confusing, disappointing, and memorable yet consensual. They need to know all the risks associated with unprotected sex and falling into any escapades. Instead of shutting them down, let them know how sex is important and what to expect in the future.
Apart from this, they must be told how one’s sexual orientation can differ from others and that’s okay. Sex education should also throw light upon sexual harassment to protect our children from predators.
My parents never taught me anything about sex, menstruation, sexual health, identity, or orientation. I could have put my trust in the wrong person and then regret for an entire lifetime.
Many parents pretend as if sex never exists when it comes to their children, especially teenagers. But they will expect to have a grandchild as soon as their children get married. Why is it so?
I know sex is a thing for adults but why don’t we explain it to children like adults? Why don’t we answer their doubts like adults and a trusted friend? Though I never had this kind of sex education, it should be given to every child that hits puberty. I will make sure that it goes on and on. Will you?
Prerna loves to write and shower love on animals. She enjoys reading and exploring places. Though sweet in her pictures, at times, she is difficult to understand. Being a strong believer in hard work and karma, she loves solitude and peace. Apart from this, she loves petrichor and harmony and wishes to achieve her one and only ataraxia for a lifetime.