Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sex and the stigma

Note: This post is based on a state-level discussion I have been part of. The topic was "age of consent for sex". Here are some excerpts from panelists (who I do not wish to name here). What will follow will be my thoughts on the topic. Please note that I'm no expert on this topic. But, will give my opinion as a listener and an observer. (Opinions are personal).


Psychologist: "Before we look at this, we need to understand that biologically and mentally, the body only matures during the teenage, for some even earlier. Considering these factors, 12-13 seems to be the age for puberty. So, there is a need for schools (teachers) to give the right information. And, for parents, at home to impact sex education. When kids make informed choices, that becomes the right age. Whatever, whenever it is."

Child Welfare Committee Member 1: "Sex is emotional. According to our Indian culture, we only have sex with the person we love. It is against our tradition to have casual sex. We will be destroyed emotionally and cannot think of having casual sex. It is not part of our culture. It is a bonding we developed with our partner. Given that Indian laws say 18 is the age when a girl and boy become major at 18 and 21, respectively, the age of consent should be just that."

Consultant: "Given my experience of working in America and Europe, I have seen schoolkids become mothers due to unwanted pregnancies. These schools have day-care centres for the children of young moms. That is when I realise how India is in a safer position and that sex education at a later stage, say when the child turns 18, is right. So, age of consent as 18 is right." 

My thoughts:

Why do we need to coin terms like "age of consent"? There shouldn't be any age of consent. Isn't sex an individual choice? I do agree with the psychologist's view on the biological development of body. But, is biological development in our country being linked to the mental/emotional development too? No.

For example: Most schools in India have lessons on human genitals starting in Class 8 or 9. But, aren't our kids already bombarded/ exposed to/with information on sex or pornography by then through various sources (such as peers, media, ads, billboards, hoardings, Internet,etc.) even before the school textbooks talk about them?

So, how do we control this? Or rather should we control this at all? Why can't we give the information at different ages in different ways, based on their understanding, so that we don't end up deciding an age where our kids can have sex. Obviously, your child is not going to tell you the first time he/she experiences sexual intercourse.  

Isn't it imperative for us to first talk to them and tell them the difference between sex and sexuality education and give both to them, so they make informed choices and be responsible with their bodies. For example: One of the panelists was talking about how she enjoys watching romantic songs and cannot stop her kid from watching it. And, then went on to blame the cinema for it.

So, is it her fault or the child's or the cinema's?  In this case, the parent can control her urge to watch the romantic song if she sees it as something harmful to her kid. Second, why is intimacy seen as something dirty?

It is these misconceptions and lack of understanding that make kids do what they are prohibited from doing. So, what is it that you shouldn't do as a parent when you kid comes up to you to ask the meaning of "intercourse" that he or she heard somewhere?

  • Don't freak out or hesitate in uttering terms like Vagina or sex or penis.
  • Stop telling kids that sex is bad or dirty. You should realise that it is a human need. (Trust you babas and then, they'll exploit you sexually and call themselves abstaining from sex!)
  • If you do not know enough about sex or sexuality education, be willing to read. And, then impart whatever is necessary to your kids. 
  • Give information to your child at various stages in life, depending on his/her understanding. To begin with, tell them what parts of the body are private to them (This doesn't mean other parts are a public property — tell them this too ). 
  • If your kids come up to you with doubts or terms they heard somewhere, don't freak out and scold them. (Remember they heard it somewhere). In such cases, find out the source of information, tell them what is right and wrong. It doesn't end here,. Ask them about what they understood.
  • Don't ban them from watching TV. Let them watch what they like (it also depends on how you stop getting used to your daily dose of TV serials.) If they like cartoons, make a habit of watching it with them. 
  • If your kid is throwing tantrums about not staying with a relative or at your friend's place. Don't dismiss it as bad behaviour. (Your friend or relative might be a child sex abuser). So, find out why the kid dislikes their company.
  • Give your kid the freedom to talk to you about anything under the sun. Even if it is to buy a condom. (If your kid is asking you about the condom, you obviously will be flummoxed but you can be proud that he is making an informed choice) 
  • Finally, keep religion, culture, caste, race or other influences (you have), away from your kids when you are talking to him or her about sex. (Remember that you never thought of your religion or your culture or your colour when you were having sex with your partner. So, don't spread the disease).
  • Remember, sex education is biological and sexuality education is individual. 

  • And, DON'T thrust the evil thought of "What the society thinks of you" on your kids. (Remember that you won't think of any of it while having sex, either for pleasure or to give birth to a baby!). At the end of the day, the point behind bringing up you kid is to make him or her a good. informed and a socially aware human being.



    Raj said...

    Tejaswini, you are a brave girl, with lot of passion and commitment to the society, few points that u mentioned are worth food for thought

    srinidhi said...

    Hmm.. The whole age of consent thing is actually very messed up. Marital rape is 15. But otherwise consent is 18. So double standards for sure.

    I do agree with the sex talk but. Too often we dont have them. Making it something not to be spoken of, makes the problem larger. Sex ed might not be the only way the conversation can be brought out. Good touch and bad touch for instance is also not done. So around sexuality itself too little talk.

    Well written.