I was 13 when I was pushed off to a boarding school. What seemed like a pretty normal trajectory in any teenager’s life, turned into a bit of a wild rollercoaster ride for me. Besides, of course from the requisite classes that were bunked, boundaries that were “busted” (that’s school speak for jumping the school boundaries), and illegal food that was sneaked into school, a still bigger faux pas hovered over my illustrious year in school. Within my first semester I had landed smack in the eye of a storm. Actually I am not going to lie, as much as I consider the storm had a tea-cup type placement, I did pretty much, single-handedly create, stir and brew this storm. Living up to everything any teacher past or present would think of me.
Essentially, I’d sneaked into school something that turned out to be our teacher’s worst nightmare. A book. Not any book, of course, a book by an American author Nancy Friday, which was a compilation of interviews with women, discussing their sexuality and fantasies. It was devoured by my batch mates, all of whom were between 12 and 13 years old. The youngest amongst us was just about 11. It was sent down the whole length and breadth of not just our dorm, but every other dorm in our batch. It was read aloud during lights’ out. It became a great barter, exchanged for “tuck” (school speak for outside food), other not-so-racy Sidney Sheldons, for people doing me favours (again speak for seniors sending juniors off on errands) and even for being let into the queue for a hot shower first (something more dear to me, than probably my Walkman back then).
We were hungry, not, as a potentially perverted thought might assume for sexual gratification –but for another kind of gratification, our curiosity. No one was talking to us about sex. Notwithstanding how liberal or not the families we came from, our school was definitely not telling us much.
I am not going to say no one was talking to us. There were talks. But all anyone wanted to talk about was “Bad Touch”. No one was telling us about good touch.
My co-ed years were no better. We stumbled around our first kiss, our first hand holding, our first sexual experience, battled the highly dramatic ups and downs in our relationships, all sans guidance. The most we were told about “life”, outside the sphere of academic lessons, were part of a moral science class offered by our principal. Admittedly it was one of the few classes I enjoyed, with anecdotes and storytelling, all with inevitable moral endings. But life wasn’t just all Aesop’s Fables – what about a woman’s body? What about masturbation, protection, pregnancy and all of the risks and rewards that can come with an active sex life?
Dropcap OnAs young girls, no one took it upon themselves to tell us this stuff, except for our biology teacher. But just because you can point out on a cold, impersonal diagram where the uterus and “reproductive organs” are doesn’t mean you know about sex. Yes. Yes. We were all smart enough to have debunked the theory of the stork, but then what? We were young girls in the 90s, growing up without the internet. Enough said. Even back then the boys had their treasure trove of knowledge (cough cough Playboy), though outwardly frowned upon, was okay, because you know, boys will be boys. And the girl’s got nothing. Just the basic, simplistic frown of “purity”, cause you know – any talk of sex, would make us impure. And who would marry us then?
But hold that for a second. I am not going to say no one was talking to us. There were talks. But all anyone wanted to talk about was “Bad Touch”. No one was telling us about good touch. That, it’s okay to like boys (or girls, if that’s what you want), and nothing’s wrong with that, but, make sure you like and respect yourself too.
No one told us, we would one day have sex, sometimes with people we’d fall in madly, deeply, and heartbreakingly in love with (who would with all probability break our hearts) and sometimes with people we felt just a fleeting momentary attraction to. And both were okay.
No one told us that in the years to come, we would have to deal with the many complex, multi-layered nuances of sex. That, with its good, would also tag along the bad. That our brains would battle our hearts, our libidos would argue with our hearts and that the boys were as clueless as us. No one would tell us, sex is constitutionally problematic.
Why are we so afraid to talk about sex? Why do we have issues with sex talk? Not sex-ed, with the same clinical drawings and condoms being passed around, instead just an easy conversation about sex, a woman’s body and those parts-that-must-not-be-named.
Eve Ensler, who was recently in India, talks about women reared with unrealistic expectation of womanhood, where these is a demise of healthy sexual curiosity. Repeatedly, in her cult book and play, the Vagina Monologues she talks about reclaiming the words Cunt, Vagina, and Clitoris; body parts that are either used as insults or shied away from. What are we afraid of? Why the word Dick roll of our tongues, but Cunt has such a whiplash effect? Oh, and forget Vagina! That’s just a total no-no. However, ironically for a country that worships the yoni, it is barely able to allow its women to reclaim its streets, let alone the word vagina or the act of a healthy sexual life.