Health Vagina Sex Periods Std Feminism

Touch Untouched

“Children are God’s gift to Mankind” was among the most popular phrases that was told to us while growing up. Our young inquisitive minds, ever so curious, would question everything - “Ma, where did I come from?” to “Why is that man touching her like that?” as our parents would shut our eyes or the TV itself, followed by an awkward pause. 

Sex education has been a major taboo in Indian households, especially ones as orthodox as mine. As Eminem said, “Of course they’re gonna know (what intercourse is) by the time they hit fourth grade, they got the discovery channel, don’t they?” We learnt half-broken truths watching movies in hiding, reading descriptive novels, or by just growing up in school around people who knew more, for better or worse. Being introduced to the topic of adolescence in middle school with the entire class laughing in the background was extremely confusing for me. I didn’t understand the ‘jokes’, and was ridiculed for it, but I also knew that these were topics that couldn’t be discussed at home. It was crossing a line into the ‘uncomfortable’ zone, things we must not speak of with a child. Yet, when the same ‘child’ turns 21 we start looking for a life partner, get them married and immediately the family expects a child. Where will that child come from?

There are only a small number of parents that teach their kids about good touch and bad touch. It’s always limited to “don’t accept candies from strangers” to “avoid getting kidnapped”. What they don’t realise is, the concern goes beyond just that, and is much more inherent; that any form of abuse, especially sexual, is never limited to strangers. As a child, the more one is kept in the dark, ever-increasing is their curiosity when they reach their teenage years resulting in pent up trauma, and sometimes even leading them towards a self-destructive path. The most recent example that we can draw from these partial veracities kids have absorbed would be the controversial ‘boy’s locker room’ conundrum. The failure on the part of Indian parents as well as institutions to morally educate children can easily be held responsible for the gravity of the problem. The toxicity of degrading anyone, especially passing demeaning sexual remarks on another person doesn’t strike one out of the blue. It is a result of the manifestation of harassment culture and of the normalization of objectifying others, especially women based on their appearance. This culture is a result of society’s deep patriarchal roots, giving rise to noxious home environments, and conservative gender norms that children are conditioned to adhere to right from the get-go. Teaching girls to be submissive, to dress a certain way, to only consume particular content, or to play with some specific type of toys; and boys to be ‘macho’, to never cry, to be brave and unemotional, automatically labels them both in accordance with rigid categories. All of this all fuels the standards of toxic masculinity and exclusively feminine attributes such as being ‘emotional’, which collectively disrupt the personality growth of both men and women on numerous intrinsic levels. 

Like many other animals, most humans are sexual beings. Having reproductive organs and procreating is simply part of that deal, and not the entire contract altogether. We crave, desire, and deserve pleasure. As children, we explore ideas that are alien to us, not knowing what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Lucky are those can recognise any form of malpractice faced during their childhood, for most bury any traumatic experiences deep within, never letting them resurface. These buried fears and agonies influence their personality unknowingly, and lead to detrimental impacts especially to their psyche. While growing up, coming to terms with one’s sexuality becomes confusing. Teenagers, especially, are extremely curious: they seek any form of explanation available to them, often finding relief through graphic novels, pornography, etc. These, however, don’t give one any realistic ideas about sex. Basic notions of consent and protection are long lost in the tryst for lust and passion. 

Discussing relationships and feelings can often lead to healthy discussions about sex. Not to say that all sexual relationships must involve feelings, but to broach the matter of any notions related to sex, the most important prerequisites are trust and comfort. Unfortunately, no matter how ‘progressive’ a family might be, the children or young adults themselves are not comfortable to even strike that conversation with their parents. Moreover, most Indian parents avoid the matter altogether as if it is a myth. In several Indian households, it’s imperative for the girl to ‘preserve’ herself for marriage, while these rules are loose blues for the boys. However, even in the case of one’s own choice of abstinence until a certain age, basic knowledge has to be furnished to them by a well-wisher. Sex education entails the most important life lessons: emotional responsibilities, bodily changes during adolescence, sexual and reproductive health, safe sex, STIs, birth control, and various other topics relating to one’s sexuality. How, then, does one move beyond this stubborn stigma? 

It’s the little things. Something as simple as a girl being able to talk about menstruation with her father, and the father knowing how to help his daughter without any shame, buying her the required menstrual products and not wrapping them up in a black polythene bag: these are steps. Maybe a father and son talking about their emotions, discussing the mental burdens they shield behind the curtain of masculinity: these are steps. Starting small, addressing the generation gap, the vast contrast in the ideologies between the two and agreeing to disagree while taking those small steps, might prove to be effective.

 It’s never a comfortable conversation with parents, but it’s the most crucial one to have. So, watch that shower scene with your parents. Don’t shut your eyes. Don’t change the channel. Don’t skip ahead. Don’t leave the topic of Touch, Untouched.