Sex Ed for me was basically guesswork!
I first learned about periods in primary school when one of my classmates suddenly got hers during the first period in school. There was a lot of chaos, and some seniors were helping her. When my friends and I asked her what a period was, she told us that after a certain age, girls secrete some sort of liquid from down "there" (which according to me was the clitoris - I didn't even know there was something called a ‘vagina’). We started wondering about the colour of the liquid. I remember making wild assumptions with my friends about how the liquid must be white, blue and green, and we started fighting over who was right.
Since talking about topics like this was not supported in my home, or at school, I did not know what colour the ‘liquid’ was until my periods started.That was also the first time I learned that ‘the liquid’ was in fact blood.
My experience of learning about sex was not very different. I knew that ‘sex’ was something you filled out on a form, and it had something to do with babies being born. The facts, in my head, were something like this:
In order to ‘sex’,marriage was compulsory
The woman had to wear a mangalsutra around her neck everyday.
Once she wore the mangalsutra, she would probably have a child soon.
This hypothesis appeared to be proven by the newly wedded couples that I saw in my childhood. So, one day, when I playfully put on my mother’s mangalsutra, forgetting that wearing the chain could make me pregnant (according to my beliefs), I wound up having my first pregnancy scare!.
When I shared some of these assumptions I had made about my body and about sex with my friends, they laughed at me and began mocking me. It was only after we studied the chapter on reproduction in our NCERT textbooks that I got to know that I had gotten the facts all wrong! But, even the textbook wasn’t entirely upfront about how reproduction really works.
On the whole, my understanding about topics related to sex and reproductive health always took shape in the same way - not by learning about what they were, but by figuring out what they weren't.
Subhalakshmi is a student of Sociology in Ambedkar University. She is a volunteer under TYPF's Know Your Body, Know Your Rights Program.
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