Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I’m 15 years-old when I realize I can’t identify my body properly, mostly, because I’ve discovered I have clitoris and I don’t know what it is. I will go on to spend the next two years of my life ignoring that particular body part because I think that something’s wrong with me. I would only figure out what it is years later as an adult woman. But the real question is why did no one around me talk about sex?

Before this diatribe starts, I would like to give some context to the South Asian, particularly the Indian problem with sex. I was born to an Indian family from a Southern state called “Tamil Nadu” to two slightly conservative but overall liberal Tamil Christian parents. My upbringing was a weird mismatch of culture, ideas and traditions due to my maternal side being heavily Anglicized. I was expected to be liberal about Indian ideals, after all, my family moved to the desert nation of UAE in the 90s, because they wanted us to have better opportunities.

I grew up enjoying liberties that perhaps weren’t the case with fellow Tamil or Tamil Christian girls. We spoke English at home, played records by Western 70s and 80s musicians, notably ABBA, the Beatles, Elton John et al. But for all the liberties we experienced, there were still some lines we never crossed, my parents would firmly stick to the fact that we were South Indian and there were certain things expected of South Indian women (especially those from Tamil Christian backgrounds).

What further reinforced this notion was my place of residence – I grew up in the UAE which at it’s base, is an Islamic nation. While the country itself was liberal in comparison to all its neighbors in the region, school was a conservative place. I studied with boys till the third grade and after that, we were segregated in true Indian private school tradition, because that’s when we realized that our male classmates are men. And here’s where it begins to get weird.

Sex education in Indian schools, especially private Indian schools are abysmal.

I say this with confidence because I’ve never been taught sex-ed and no, I don’t count that one time my tenth-grade Biology teacher speedily taught a class full of teenage girls the reproduction system. It was an awkward experience, and we all felt like we were breaking some unspoken universal taboo.

Most of my sex education, funnily enough, came from reading the Bible because it detailed laws on what believers should and should not do. It took me a very long time to understand what each law meant because I had no idea how everything worked. I was quite sheltered growing up and under the impression that you only get pregnant if two people of the opposite sex slept in the same bed.

Not my finest moment, but I had no teacher to tell me otherwise.

The only person who gave me “the talk” or a version of it was my elder sister, who fed me second-hand information about sex to me from her friends, while we did our homework and then, never spoke about it. Of course, a lot of the things I was told, were factually incorrect but that’s how limited our resources were. We had blocked websites due to the country’s censorship laws, and if you wanted information, you’d have to read an encyclopedia or just ask someone you know.

We weren’t encouraged to talk about sex or understand how our bodies worked. We never spoke about male and female interactions – at least, we didn’t talk about them in the way we should have because that would have made all the difference.

If I had to go back to all the times I’ve awkwardly looked away from the TV when things get heated between the hero and the heroine in their “love scenes” and when I mean love scenes, I mean those scenes, where the heroine is having her belly caressed sexually or having her neck sniffed by the hero because Indians are really strange about showing two consenting adults touching. It’s easy to see why we’re uncomfortable. We’re conditioned to deny ourselves pleasure.

It’s not that Indians aren’t having sex because they most definitely are. India ranks third worldwide for being porn consumers and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re consuming porn now more than ever. So why are we so shy talking about it with our young people?

Don’t people think that we would benefit from educating people on consent, sex and how their bodies worked? Don’t people think that our society would be infinitely better if we all had useful sexual education?

Well, I do and in the words of the Salt-N-Pepa, “Let’s talk about sex.”

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Sharanya Paulraj

By Sharanya Paulraj

Editorial Fellow