Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sex and the Kids
the knowledge of sex in Indian children

The latest post over at Indian Homemaker provoked me to write this:

The scenario of sexual maturity in India is very vague. You can never really know which kid is sexually matured and which kid isn't. Which kid has had the right sex education and which kid hasn't. I will talk about this from my own point of view. A couple of months ago, during a chat with my partner, he told me what he thought sex was, as a kid. He thought that if a man and woman get married, God blesses them with children. I realised that I wasn't the only one who was under this assumption as a kid. Both of us, being 90s kids belonged to the same school of thought. This was clearly because of lack of proper sex education. I remember this instance when I was watching television with my mom. I was probably 11 or 12, I think. We were watching this soap where an unmarried girl is getting thrashed and locked up inside a room because she is pregnant. Now, please note that pre-marital sex and pregnancy is suicidal in India. It's something which is not done explicitly even by our film stars. If a girl gets pregnant before marriage, she has bought shame to her entire family. That may be some irrelevant, lower middle class family living under an asbestos roof. But still, every Indian family, rich or poor has a name, an honour and pride which should be protected by the women in it. It is actually quite ironic. While the males are said to bring name, pride and honour, the females are said to spoil them. Before I get sunk into the never-ending topic of misogyny, I will come back to our point. I turned and innocently asked my mother, "Why are they hitting the poor girl, maa? It's not her fault if God chose to give her kids before she got married." My mom pretended as if she didn't even hear the question.

I was pretty confused and had a lot of questions, but nobody to ask. Then I hit puberty and eventually started menstruating. I was certainly aware of menstruation. My mother did a good job of teaching me how it works with an illustrated book called "Woman". It's a wonderful book actually. She obviously didn't go to the "sex section", but I did. Truth is both me and my sister have been very curious about that book. I vaguely remember as a kid, I would stealthily take it and browse. But after looking at the first few pages, I would snap it shut and guiltily keep it back and make a vow to myself that I would never look through it again. But then curiosity made me go to the book. This happened a few times, but I never really went past the first few pages. Curiosity and guilt plagued me simultaneously. I know, so Freudian, right?!

At the age of 14, the year I hit menarche, I was sent to a boarding school. Now, boarding school is where all my informal sex education began, though without any practical classes {giggles}. Boarding school was a completely different place compared to the school was attending before. I was in a day school until 8th grade and we kids were completely asexual beings then. I know, that the hormones hit in full form usually during 9th grade, but still, in the day school we never had a boyfriend-girlfriend phenomenon or anything. So, I was completely sex illiterate. The boarding school was situated in a hill station in the middle of jungle and you can guess how cozy the atmosphere was. Hormones where flying furiously in all directions. This doesn't mean it was a sexually liberal atmosphere. The authorities segregated the sexes all the times. Boys and girls were not supposed to talk. So, obviously, like regular teens, we rebelled. We had secret meetings, formed "friendships" with sexual overtones etc. But we still were not properly sex-educated. We all were bunch of curious, excited kids. I remember this one night when one of my closest friends and then classmate got a text message from her then boyfriend. She was 14 and he was 15. Now, that guy was a jerk and inherent pervert for one thing but either way, his text (sext) message indicated how ignorant all of us were. I don't remember the entire message, but this line was a part of it: 
Guys get all the fun, girls get all the pain.
All of us reacted to it in unison, i.e., giggling shyly. We all were blissfully unaware that sex is tool for pleasure for both men and women. We girls were growing up to be masochists, practically {with n number of paraphilias}. We thought boys were the predators and we girls were the preys and for some reason, we liked the idea. I'm not saying that BDSM is wrong. But what we felt and thought was not bondage games. We didn't know that lovemaking, a conscious beautiful expression of love, even existed. We thought the act of sex itself is something like that; guys getting all the pleasure and girls getting all the pain. And we also knew that we were supposed to act as if we are deriving pleasure. We are conditioned to fake, naturally. I also remember how intrigued I used to be with rape scenes. In Indian movies, rape scenes are actually very funny. It used to be something like this:
A dirty middle-aged thug enters a room (place the situation anywhere you like) where a 20-something woman  is resting or simply sitting. He initially tries to build fear and she consequently begs him to leave her alone. However, he eventually pounces on her. They are in the missionary position. This usually happens on the bed, but sometimes on the floor too. Now, remember that both of them are fully clothed and to the viewer, it appears as if the man is trying to simply squash the woman while simultaneously attempting to kiss her on the lips (or at least it appears like that). The rest is left to the viewers' imagination as the screen gets blurred. Accompanied by a dangerous background sound, the screen flashes red and green (this is typical 80s Tamil film rape scenes, folks). It is all so ridiculous and random that you can never really imagine what happened. The next thing we see is the woman crying, her head buried in her hands and the villain zipping or adjusting his pants and giving a triumphant grin. And a while later, they show that the woman is now pregnant. Oh, then she ends up marrying her rapist because a vagina is entitled to one man only.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, what the hell actually happened? As a little girl, I never really knew. But for sometime, I really did think that kissing on the lips will make you preggo. Also, rape is not portrayed as seriously as it should be. To know the seriousness of rape, one should watch the 1988 Jodie Foster starrer The Accused. A rape scene is supposed to induce disgust and it should be disturb because rape is not a good thing. But Indian rape scenes are always awkward. They induce curiosity, rather. Women always get victimised. And they never rebel because of that invisible thing called honour. And because both rape and sex appeared to painful experiences for women to me, at that time, I thought both were one and the same. Girls were to endure pain and guys were to derive pleasure. For me, rape seemed like a make-believe thing where women pretended to suffer when they actually enjoying the pain. It was all very confusing and yet in way, exciting.

Anyway, this was how we 90s kids got sex-educated. Mostly, all knowledge was self-taught. I have always been a person who thought independently, not someone who follows the herd. But had I been like that and given my parents' negligence regarding my sex education, I might have grown up into a woman with a lot of misconceptions regarding sex. And there are so many people, even middle-aged and so-called well-educated folks who don't know even the basics. You just have to read the daily sex advice column by Dr Mahindra Vatsa in Mumbai Mirror to know how ignorant people are.

I wonder what do the prepubescents in this century have in mind regarding sex. My 14 year old sister has sex education in her curriculum but do they teach right? She seems to be aware of sex. She seems to know more than I did at that age. But I'm still doubtful. Is her awareness of right kind? I don't know. The media still influences the kids. Sometime ago, in an Indian village, a 11 year old boy raped a 9 year old girl or may be it was a 9 year old boy who raped and 6 year old girl. Either way, this shocking news was published in The Times of India and simply cannot find the exact article now. In such a scenario, is it appropriate if a bill lets 12 year olds to indulge in non-penetrative sex without facing any legal consequences? I personally think it would be disastrous, especially in a country where child marriage still exists. In UK, a 13 year old boy sets the record of being the youngest father in history. There are chances that non-penetrative sexual activity becomes sexual. There are chances that whatever sexual activity becomes violent. Do kids really know what to do and how to do it? This bill will be severely misused and the consequences will be disastrous, for girls especially because we live in a patriarchal society. What if a 12 year old boy watches hardcore porn and tries to implement on his equally young girlfriend? How many children actually pay attention and get proper sex education? How can the government ignore so many issues?

UPDATE: IHM responded to my post and may be, the new bill is not so disastrous after all. However, I still have doubts. Everything depends on the kids. The bill officially gives sexual freedom to kids. Of course they are not allowed to have sexual intercourse, but what if they do anyway. As a matter of fact, the typical middle-class urban kid is quite sexually free. The kids at my sister's school date and maybe they also get intimate, who knows. What if two 13 year olds end up having unprotected sex and the girl gets pregnant? It perfectly possible. I think that non-penetrative sex should just mean kissing. Because one thing may lead to another. It's possible. And what do they mean by non-penetrative sex? Just kissing and necking? All I can say is children should be given proper and adequate sex education. They should be told to wait at least till the age of 16 and only then have sex; to do it consciously and not due to peer pressure.

1 comment:

Indian Home Maker said...

Here's how Rakesh explained what this Bill is trying to do,

Say two 13 year kids – (boys or girls) are kissing each other, Should this be reported to the police and should the children be treated as criminals?

I guess, bullet points would simplify it further:

1. 18 year old rapes 14 year old without consent – CALL POLICE
2. 18 year old has sex / kisses 14 year old with consent – CALL POLICE
3. 14 year old rapes 14 year old without consent – CALL POLICE
4. 14 year old kisses 14 year old with consent – Call Parents Not Police

Point three makes it clear that a rape remains a rape, no matter what the age.