Press "Enter" to skip to content

Shush! It’s India!

In India, where sex and sexuality are such hush-hush subjects that parents hardly ever discuss it with their children, many teenagers tend to develop a skewed understanding of it. Here is a look into how most Indian teens learn about sexual intercourse

It is no secret that the list of things we cannot talk about in this country far outweighs those that we can. Subjects are declared taboo left, right and centre, and so much as the utterance of certain words or phrases attracts raised eyebrows, and the classic shaking of the head. The foremost in these forbidden subjects is the topic of sex.

In most Indian households, the subject of sex is never really tackled, whether to create awareness or educate. It’s a conversation most Indian parents consciously avoid, assuming that the children in the family will be magically blessed with this knowledge precisely when they need to know about it. But the harsh reality remains that this is a flawed system, and when our parents don’t talk to us about sex and sexuality, all that remains in terms of sources is the Internet, and our peers. Peers who most often, but not always, not entirely aware of all the facts themselves.

For us, in India, ‘The Talk’ has always been a personalised version of “God answered our prayers when he knew it was time for us to have a baby,” or a culture of keeping entirely mum on the whole subject. It’s hard to decide which is worse.

Patriot chatted with a few young school students (names changed), to find out how they were first introduced to sex. A majority of those who were approached, confessed that their first foray or exploration into anything to do with sex, was watching pornography. Here is what some of them had to say:

Abhishek, 17, says, “I did not have the guts to ask my parents about it directly. I was 11. And to be honest, it was never really an option. I’d rather ask my friends what they know and that’s what I did. They directed me towards Redtube, before it got banned.” He added, “Given a choice, I still would not approach my parents with such questions. But yes, it does have the potential to plant a very confusing seed in the minds of growing kids.”

Abhishek goes on to explain, that the things and scenarios we see displayed in porn are often painting a very unrealistic picture — “and setting standards that as kids we should not normalise in our lives.” But on the other hand, what other choice do children have if the family is a space they cannot count on for accurate explanations?

Manvi, 16, says her and her friends’ interest was first piqued when Fifty Shades of Grey became famous, they were all nine or ten years old at the time. “Our parents had never heard of it, so we thought we would buy a copy and see what it is all about. I made the mistake of highlighting some parts to take back to my mom for clarifications. Needless to say, she was scandalised.” Manvi reveals with a giggle.


She says that while she does feel bad about putting her mother in an awkward position, she really does not regret it. “It is normal to ask parents about things we do not understand. And sex is hardly something any of us can avoid.” According to Manvi, the culture of shame surrounding the topic of sex or sexual intercourse needs to go. “I would have preferred to have the right information from the outset, rather than arriving at it on the Internet and properly understanding it almost two years later,” she adds.

It is important to recognise how dangerous an effect it might have on the mind of a young child, to be introduced to the idea of sex and intercourse through pornography or books like the aforementioned series. These are laced with reckless plot lines that have the ability to confuse a child. A more clinical understanding to start with, and a conversation about safe sex is essential in the life of a child growing up in the 21st century. Both Abhishek and Manvi were initially confused, before it was discussed more openly with friends, and they had grown to separate the fact from fantasy when packaged as porn.

Shaurya,13, is very aware for his age, and credits his 18-year-old brother who explained the idea to him. “I ask him about everything,” says the boy, gesturing towards his brother. From math problems to random questions, he goes to his brother for all the answers. “Sometimes he doesn’t have one,” Shaurya interjects, “but mostly he does.” Shaurya admits that he feels lucky to have a sibling who doesn’t try to sugar coat concepts for him and tells it as it is. “I knew that telling him some made-up gibberish would translate to confusion as he grew older. I learnt most things from the Internet, and I didn’t want him to have half-baked information, or to grow into this practise of not talking about things that make us uncomfortable,” says the older brother.

So many children were first introduced to the idea of sex, intercourse and sexuality through porn, which is not at all created to cater to the understanding of young minds. Studies have proved that a skewed or incomplete understanding of the same often lead to acts of sexual violence. To avoid a time when the children will be afraid to ask their families any questions, out of fear that it will trigger awkwardness, it is quite imperative to start with them a dialogue of transparency. Especially with regard to things that are essential for them to know. Talking with children about safe sex in homes and schools is the most achievable preventive measure for sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies, and enlightening them about sexuality and intercourse, and the science of it can only help to expand their worlds to accommodate the sometimes misleading packaging of
the same that the media brings us.