Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | January 23, 2015 | 7.25 pm IST (Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, a minor girl in Bengaluru jumped off the balcony of her house and killed herself. According to a report in Bangalore Mirror, the Principal of the school where the girl studied, the girl’s relations with a boy were “obscene”. The Principal claimed that she had suspended the girl and boy because it was not the first time that such an incident had happened in the school. The principal is also quoted as saying that they had to take action because the school would face flak from other parents. The police are investigating and the truth is yet to emerge, but the girl’s death has prompted a debate on teenage sexuality.) To a typical teenager, the “double meaning” of these lines would mean a reference to masturbation, even though they might not know the word for it. “Kisi Aur Ki Mujhko Zaroorat KyaMain Toh Khud Se Pyaar Jataun” These lines are from the song Sheila Ki Jawani from the film Tees Maar Khan, to which the Central Board of Film Certification gave the U/A certificate. This means that children below 12 years could watch the film under adult supervision. The song is a favourite at parties, weddings, among social gatherings, and why shouldn’t it be, considering that the beats make you want to get up and dance. But let’s not forget the lyrics of the song. Film after film, song after song is replete with love, hinted at sex, sex, semi-nude scenes (Salman Khan in all his films. But remember Kareena Kapoor hooking her bra in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham?), and highly sexualized content. There is easy access to pornographic content with the internet now as well. In short, sex is everywhere. And so is curiosity about it. But while families can go watch these films at least, together, there aren’t any conversations about sex or sexuality. Instead of leaving kids to find out about sex through films, porn and Savita Bhabhi, there needs to be an attempt to engage with youngsters about the increasing sexual content that they have access to, and in all probability do access at some point or the other. More importantly, girls need a friendly ear to listen to them when they have a crush on a boy or a girl and boys too need an interested parent who will listen to them when they have a crush on a boy or a girl.  The attitudes of parents’ aversion to thinking about their children as sexual beings is rooted in notions of purity – both patriarchal, as well as casteist.  A case in point is a recently survey done by Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness that shows that half of urban youth between the ages of 15 and 19 in 11 cities were of the view that women dress and behave in certain ways so as to provoke violent reactions from men. Read: Survey results that show just how messed up India's urban youth are One only has to look as far as the matrimonial columns in newspapers and websites offering match-making services. One finds a fairly comprehensive list of caste groups, seeking prospective partners for men and women. Despite many examples of inter-caste or inter-faith marriages, the overwhelming reality of Indian society is that parents arrange matches for their children within their respective caste groups.  Read: Here’s how the “better educated” can go shopping for husbands and wives: IIT IIM shaadi.com These factors also need to consider that girls in India along with girls across the world are attaining puberty earlier and earlier, the age having come down from around 15 in the eighties to 12 or 13 in the 1990s to as early as below 10 in the 2000s. This also means that girls would start developing breasts earlier and therefore their links to sexuality begin earlier. Have parents ever talked to girls about why their breasts develop? What do girls think about their breasts as they grow up? Are they comfortable with it or not? As they grow older too, girls and women have good (sex), bad (being taunted, commented upon), pleasant (appreciation from partners), unpleasant (menstruation and child birth) with their breasts.  For boys too, puberty is marked by a change in voice, the growth of facial hair, sudden growth spurts or not. How do they deal with it.  But generally speaking, puberty for boys is welcome, as manhood is more appreciated than womanhood. Puberty for girls is fraught with worry for both girls and their parents given its implications for their safety and also marriage.  In the late teens as young people begin to get acquainted with and explore their sexuality, it is still relatively easier for those who are straight and heterosexual, more difficult for those who many discover that they maybe homosexual or have issues with the disconnect between their biological sex and socially assigned gender. What about these youngsters, who do they turn to for advice and guidance, for understanding and friendship? For romantic love or sex?  Parents, teachers and other adults who work in close contact with children and teenagers need to understand that with each passing year, children are increasingly exposed to more information about sex and are also becoming more sexualized, but they may not have the capacity to deal with it in a healthy manner. Schools and other public places have their boundaries and teenagers need to be able to understand these.  An inadequate understanding of sexuality and the body in teenage continues into adulthood when not addressed. For instance, many Indian women simply don’t experience an orgasm with their partners and sex is merely something they have to provide to their husbands along with cooking, cleaning, bringing up the kids. Many women simply don’t know that they can have sexual pleasure and climax. To put things in perspective, Indian law does not recognize marital rape and Indian lawmakers feel that it will cause marital discord if such a legal provision is made. In contrast, a quarter of Asian men have admitted that they have forced themselves on a woman at some point in their lives. (The UN study included Bangladesh and Sri Lanka but not India) All these realities of our society are simply never discussed, never talked about. Our youngsters are simply inheriting this silence, making for unhealthy teenage sexual encounters and adult relationships.  Not knowing how to deal with sex, sexual orientations, sexuality and sexual pleasure or unpleasantness also has indirect impact on our sexual offences crime rates.  There needs to be an openness about sex and all things sexual. There are so many verses and songs written about men talking about their love for women. There needs to be more literature, more art, more films, more poetry about women talking about their love, and sexual minorities about theirs. There is some of this, but it needs to be publicly accepted, publicly celebrated. In that sense, even if one looks at Sheila Ki Jawani as a song that talks about masturbation in some parts, it is welcome. Love and sex are for everybody. Tweet
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