About the Book
This anthology is an absolutely invaluable compilation of questions and answers on the most commonly experienced sexuality-related concerns. Based on the author’s highly popular column, ‘Midlife Crisis’in The Asian Age, it covers all ages, all situations and conditions, and believes firmly that everyone has a right to self-affirming and enjoyable sexuality. It is a resource for people who are looking for information, but don’t know where to start, fro those who are confused aboutwhat they already know, those who are about to begin their sexual lives, those who might be bored with thiers those wanting to know how to have safer sex, and those simply wanting to know more.
Based on the most current and accurate information available to date, you can read it for fun or for knowledge
About the Author
Radhika Chandiramani is a clinical psychologist, and works and writers on issues of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights. Based in New Delhi, she is Executive Director of TARSHI, the South and Southest Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality, and co-Director of The Sexuality and Rights Institute. She has received the MacArthur Fellowship for Leadership Development and the Soros Reproductive Health and Rights Fellowship. She co-edited Sexuality, Gender and Rights: Exploring Theory and Practice in South and Southest Asia (2005), edits a quaterly magazine In Plainspeak, and used to write a fortnightly column on sexuality for The Asian Age. She writes a column on Sexuality for Prevention magazine.
Why are we so shy when it comes to talking frankly, openly and accurately about sexuality? We do talk about it, but always in hush-hush tones as if it is something dirty, shameful or secret. On the other hand, sexuality is everywhere--on our movie screens, on the TV, on magazine covers, on SMS and MMS messages ... but we still do not address it in an affirming manner. That is why this book.
Most books about sexuality approach the topic with clinical gloves, moralistic lenses, or preaching pedantic tones. This book answers your questions without any »f these accoutrements. It is based on real questions asked by real people about real problems they face. The answers are based on accurate information, a feminist and sexuality-affirming perspective and a dash of humour.
Accuracy is a keyword because there are simply so many myths and misconceptions that abound. Even today many women believe that during their periods they should not make or eat pickles or not wash their hair, or not go to certain rooms in the house for fear of 'polluting' them. Young men are troubled that they will become weak or sexually impotent if they masturbate. Some people still believe that if a woman bleeds the first time she has sexual intercourse she is a 'virgin'. There is absolutely uo scientific basis for any of these beliefs. As you can see, these are dangerous beliefs because they lead to people unnecessarily fretting about very ordinary things, and sometimes they also result in extreme anxiety, guilt, loss of self-esteem, troubled relationships, sexual problems, and even, abusive relationships.
If people do not have the correct information about sexuality, they are unable to enjoy the joys and pleasures that it can bring. Let's get one thing clear right at the start: sexuality is more than sex; it is about how people feel about themselves, their bodies, their desires, their preferences, their relationships, their values, and much more. So if you think that you are occupying the wrong sort of body, or that you are not 'attractive enough', or that your sexual organs are dirty or misshapen, you are not going to enjoy your sexuality at all! You need to know your body and how it functions to be able to see that you are as 'normal' as the next person and to be able to enjoy and revel in the pleasures it can bring you. This knowledge will also lead you to adopting practices that ensure you stay safe from infections, abuse, unwanted pregnancy, and other negative potential consequences of sex.
Because sexuality is most often expressed through the body, it has long been regarded as the preserve of the medical establishment. Yes, medical science has given us new insights and knowledge about sexuality, but it has also often reduced it to mere biological and physiological functions. The experience and manifestation of sexuality goes beyond biology and physiology. A feminist approach to sexuality takes into account how we experience our sexuality in the real world where power operates through social expectations, rules and gender-power relations. It acknowledges and validates women's experiences of and rights to enjoy their sexuality as much as those of men. It also questions stereotypes that imprison people into playing 'masculine' or 'feminine' roles whether in their emotional, social, sexual or professional lives. Gender stereotypes put equal pressure on men and women, and even more pressure on those who may not be sure about their own gender or sexual identity.
Having worked in the field of sexuality for 15 years, I have often been asked: What is the strangest question about sexuality that you have been asked? I have no answer because there never has been a 'strange' question. People express their sexuality in different ways. That is all. There is nothing 'strange' about it. People have their own preferences around what they like, love, enjoy, detest or find boring about sex. After all, sex happens between your ears as much as it does between your legs. As long as there is mutual consent and adequate protection from infections, there is no sexual practice that is 'strange'. If both partners agree to a sexual activity, enjoy the activity they perform together, and it causes no one any harm, who has the right to pass any judgement on that? Our sexuality forms an important part of ourselves. Let's affirm and enjoy it, rather than trying to quell it or worry about it. And let's stop worrying about and judging what other people are doing. Most sexual nosy parkers who want to know what other people are up to, are dying to know if others are having a better time than they themselves are!
Sexuality is a subject of much political discussion, academic discourse, clinical research, religious polemics, and so on. But for the most part of most of our lives, it is something we experience on a daily basis through the way we feel. And so we have many questions about our bodies, about relationships, about what we can do sexually, when, where and how. While growing up many of us have sought answers to questions about sex, and found nobody willing to answer them. So we looked up books, whispered with friends, peeked into 'adult' magazines. Nowadays, kids go to the Internet or watch 'porn' movies hoping to better understand their own bodies and the changes they are undergoing. Adults, too, do much of the same.
I know this because I am a qualified clinical psychologist who has been dealing with issues of sexuality for 15 years. I work with an organisation called TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues). We believe that all people have the right to a self-affirming and enjoyable sexuality.
TARSHI has been running a telephone helpline offering information, counselling and referrals on sexuality since 1996. Callers are assured of confidentiality and we do not ask them for any personal identifying details. So they feel safe and comfortable enough to discuss their intimate sexual concerns with us. We have responded to over 60,000 calls. They have been from people between the ages of 12 to 70 plus years. Our callers have been students, government employees, domestic helpers, drivers, business people, professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers), and so on. About 70 per cent have spoken in Hindi, 20 per cent in English and 10 per cent in a mix of both languages. Questions about sex are not confined to people of a particular socio-economic background. They come from everywhere.
To reach out to more people, I used to write a fortnightly column addressing questions on sexuality. This book is a compilation of those columns. The questions came from real people like you who wrote to the Midlife Crisis column of The Asian Age newspaper. They cover all sorts of concerns from people of different ages from different parts of the country. In those days email was not as freely available as it is now. The questions would come in inland letter forms, postcards, heavily sealed envelopes. Most often they were handwritten. Sometimes the ink was smudged. Sometimes it would be a hastily written question on a single sheet of paper tom out of an office pad. Some were in impeccable English, some in faltering English, some had illustrations when the writers did not know how else to explain their predicament. And of course, they all had postmarks to tell me that they were coming not only from the metros but from far-flung places where I did not even think the newspaper had a following! I believe that people still have many questions. Therefore, the columns have been compiled into this book to address the most common questions that people ask about sexuality on the help line as well as through letters. The information has been updated to reflect current knowledge. It is meant to be a resource for people who are looking for information and don't know where to start, for those who are confused about what they already know, for those who are about to begin their sexual lives, for those who might be bored with theirs, for those wanting to know how to have safer sex, and for those simply wanting to know more. It is not an encyclopaedia by any means, nor is it a medical text or an infallible doctrine.
This book is divided into different sections to make it easier for you to find the information that you may be looking for. You can read it for fun' or for knowledge, alone or with others, page by page from the beginning or just dip into it at random. It is based on accurate information, and for those of you looking for a 'dirty sex book', be warned, you will be sorely disappointed!
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