By now a good proportion of you would be familiar with the love-hate relationship Malayalis share with a healthy sex-ed talk. This was evidently and cringe-worthily made visible in the comments section of a recent article that made its rounds on Facebook. The snippet on Facebook was based on P.Sathidevi’s statement on the need for comprehensive sex education within the school curriculum in Kerala.
Now a normal person would think that as the Kerala women’s commission chairperson, her comment came from a place of genuine concern. But surely enough, many keyboard warriors who were waiting for the opportunity of their lifetime took the cue to respond with their concerns:
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Problematic at so many levels, I believe that the lack of sex education in Kerala can be tackled in two ways,
- An active discussion on sex ed that would educate and detach the stigma around it. Hopefully then, people would stop demanding practical sessions and suggestive favours under public posts and private DMs.
- We might have to stick to step 1. Since the second one involves going back in time and educating the parents of such facebook poralikal on the power and necessity of condoms and other birth-control contraceptives.
It All Begins At Home
It’s the year 1996. Kalapaani has just been released and the live song programs are playing Chempoove. Before the tune even picks up, parents would be fumbling for the remote to switch to family-friendly content. Fast forward to the year 2021, Jeo Baby directs a rebellious attempt through The Great Indian Kitchen. Anyone who has watched the movie on an OTT platform and the miniscreens would know that not much has changed in terms of viewing patterns. Premiering on Asianet, the movie was censored conveniently to suit the preference of the family audience. Crucial defining elements of the movie that spoke of consent, foreplay, communication and the majoritarian male perception that fails to view sex as an activity of mutual pleasure – were all replaced by advertisements.
Almost two decades apart, not much has changed in terms of the hushed tones surrounding sex education in households in Kerala.
The change almost always begins from home. And by that, I don’t mean that you have to start playing Chempoove on max volume. It simply means that rather than switching topics, addressing sex would create a healthy channel to identify needs and emotions. For both, children and adults. Uncomfortable conversations need to come up before children turn to unethical porn and telegram links for sex education.
Combined Effort Towards A Sex-positive Switch
Institutions such as schools and media play a huge role in addressing the elephant in the room. Every time a teacher skips the chapter on “Human Reproduction” in class, a child fails to understand their basic anatomy. This builds up to a lack of understanding and in some cases, shame attached to their own bodies. If you think this is absurd, wait until you hear the “Light off aakatte?” question while doing the deed. Doesn’t seem as simple now, does it?
A sex-positive switch comes from addressing every aspect of the being from our sexuality to the sexual anatomy. It requires just as much emphasis as our physical, emotional, and cognitive growth.
Some of the ways in which parents have dodged sex education are by saying – it’s an embarrassing subject to discuss, talking about sex might make them want to have sex, or even exposure to the spectrum of sexuality might make them “not straight”. What we fail to understand is sexuality isn’t a truck that hits us like puberty, it’s a lifelong process. Children are naturally very curious about their bodies and their reactions. All you’re doing by introducing early sex ed is remove the tag of “Taboo” and create a healthy channel through which their emotions are acknowledged and nudged towards self-discovery.
If any social institution tells you that your very being as a sexual or asexual is invalid, then it’s high time we check the validity of such societal systems. And what do you lose in the process? A societal stigma that brings absolutely no good to society.
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Sex Is Not A Promise Maatha
Appropriated across ages was the idea that sex was “provided” to men by women. An extension of the societally structured gender roles which fixated on the idea of women being the ever giving character supporting the bread-winner husband. Winning mutual pleasure instead of bread was somehow out of the syllabus. Literally.
The Great Indian Kitchen served a complete meal with Nimisha Sajayan’s character initiating a conversation on pleasurable sex. A week into the movie’s release, the most searched trending keyword on Google, from Kerala, was “foreplay”. Surely though, a simple Google search alone would not do the trick of reimagining the power equations. This, again, requires initiating an informed and comprehensive conversation around sex education. Including conversations on how sex is not always a male-female gendered idea and is spread across a larger spectrum. Something that we often turn a blind eye towards.
Until this happens though, we would have a lot more media representations showing us sex as an act done solely for reproductive purposes and something we are supposed to decipher by watching the milk boil or two flowers getting romaancham from rubbing against each other. (Why would you want to watch that? Why?)
All you have to do meanwhile is kindly stop desexualising women and hypersexualising men. Both can play the game instead of just one person constantly hitting a goal towards illatha goal post.
Statistics Don’t Lie
A scaringly high number of cases gets reported on gender-based violence every second. Or even worse, they go undocumented. Names of women subjected to such violence turn into mere statistics or an outrage that lasts for barely a few hours. Undeniably then, this gets related to the lack of sex education in Kerala. The lack of healthy education facilitated in institutions – families being one of the largest social institutions.
Talks about consent, contraceptives, safe sex, masturbation, and a longer list – should start early and unabashedly. All this so that tomorrow yet another person doesn’t think that it’s their birthright to objectify or violate someone. And since nobody really walks around with a mugshot board that reads “Please enne onnu violate cheyyu”, this is the only possible explanation.
Sex education is not clickbait for shameless men to demand practical sessions. So while it sure is a sad sight, it is also a call for us to move outside hushed tones and incognito tabs.
Sexual liberation needs to be talked about. Ten times more and with a more of shamelessness voice than those asking for favours. There’s always going to be the few “progressive minds” who would lose their shit over the mention of “sex”. This is why you’re always welcome to grab some popcorn and hop on to the discussion with zero shame.