Do you have an experience you’d like to share? Tell us your stories about talking about sexuality and sex, and why you think sexuality education is important! Write to email@example.com with your story.
By Avnika Barman:
As a child, I don’t recall ever having spoken to my parents about sexuality. Only recently did I find out that they expected and assumed that my school would fulfil the duty of giving me sexuality education. Needless to say, my school did no such thing, and my first understanding of what sex was came via a random reading of an encyclopedia, which illustrated sexual intercourse as something that was done for reproduction.
The first time I menstruated, I thought I had pooped my pants! My mother, in basic terms, told me what my body was experiencing. It wasn't until my tenth-grade biology lesson on reproduction (five years later!) that I learnt why some people (which my textbook described as ‘women’ – I later found out, it’s more complicated than that) menstruate. There was no just concept of educating people on these issues during my childhood, either at home or in school.
During my teens, a bunch of us in school would often search through dictionaries to learn the meaning of words such as sex, sperm, condoms, etc. We used slang to make it easier to talk about all the things we were curious about. We did know about words like penis, vagina and breasts, etc., but there was always a sense of discomfort in using them openly. Even though we would talk about all of this, we never actually spoke about our own desires, or what we thought sexuality meant for ourselves.
It was much later, when we were around 18-19, that my friends and I began to openly discuss our sexuality. It’s only through our years of learning and talking to each other that we learned to be comfortable talking about masturbation, being open about our sexual lives and experiences (especially as women) and understanding our rights around our body. Most importantly, we developed a clear understanding of consent, one of the key fundamentals of learning about sexuality.
Today, I feel that I have taught my parents more about gender and sexuality than they ever taught me.
I look back on my school years and think that I could have spent all that time being comfortable instead of being awkward about my body and my sexuality. Realising this, I feel that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is extremely important and should form a part of every child’s education. It should not be limited to the teaching of bodily anatomy, contraception and prevention of infections and pregnancies. The word comprehensive means that sexuality education should also incorporate talking about rights, relationships, the emotional and mental aspects of sexuality and violence and nurturing a positive view of sexuality (because we do not talk about pleasure often enough!). All of this will allow more people to enjoy their sexuality and explore their bodies without guild or shame, unlike my friends and I.
The author is a TYPF Youth Advocate and Peer Educator.