Taboo In Our Lives

“What doesn’t polite society, in all seriousness, want to discuss? Sex, money, political corruption, bodily functions, religion, loss and despair?

― Gina Barreca ( Partial Quote)

The seed of Taboo is sown in our minds from early childhood. It starts with the word ‘No’. If we observe, we will notice ‘No’ is one the most frequent response for a child. The imposition of that expression is on anything that people around that child don’t resonate with.

During the initial years of the child, children tend to connect with their genitals and are told that it is a bad thing, more so a shameful thing to feel or play with it. It can even be supplemented with a physical hit to inflict pain or a nasty look entailing fear and guilt. And as we grow we get such messages of shame, fear and guilt in various ways. Forwarding an intimate scene on television or movie, the aghast expression if you are ever caught pleasuring yourself, nasty looks if you are ever seen looking at an attractive person, being told you are fat, thin, dark, pale, ugly, slutty (if attractive) and the list is long. And they were all well intentioned.

Photo by Zenobia Philippe on

As we grow up, the introduction to sex is often perverse. We start with grasping profanity without understanding what it means. When someone credible in the class explains the meaning of the ‘F’ word, we turn our anger on him because it shows our parents in bad light. And we are not able to accept that we are an outcome of fornication.

Moving on, our learning in high school about sex is limited to understanding anatomy (so that we prepare to become doctors or a medical professional) and latin names. But we are yet told about menstruation or about changes in the body, emotions and mind. Somewhere between our transition from middle school to high school, through our adolescence, we become exposed to explosive porn material and competence for sexual health is built out of these movies. We often hear from peers on how he successfully engaged in a sexual act with someone older, a maid, neighbour, or sister’s friend and how it equated something fantastical straight out of the porn we watched. More often than not these are creative imaginations. But we, very obviously, are in awe of this fraudulent hero. But more thankful to him for sharing which sent our vivid imagination wild. We now had a story to climax to.

Between various sorts of exploration, we finally reach adulthood. A lot of us don’t date. Dating is usually seen as a western pervert idea and an attack on the sanctity of arranged marriage. The one who do, often don’t engage in sex because of the shame, guilt and fear of it, plus an added social expectation to remain a virgin keeps us inexperienced.And then boom! comes the much hyped wedding night and the reality strikes. Both parties have no idea what to do. Anxiety is high. It doesn’t seem to work like anything we had seen and or learnt from the perverse sources.

Ever wondered why?

Often the pre-marriage courses don’t fix the problem. India’s pride Kamasutra is a forbidden book. Conversations with parents are impossible. People who before us who had engaged don’t tell us, nor do we have enough trusted friends who can have open conversations around this. The net outcome is that something divine, pleasurable and recreational activity becomes something mundane, something to be done under pressure and almost exclusively procreational with your immediate partner.

“Stigma’s power lies in silence. The silence that persists when discussion and action should be taking place. The silence one imposes on another for speaking up on a taboo subject, branding them with a label until they are rendered mute or preferably unheard.” 

― M.B. Dallocchio

Sexless marriages are all over the place. Most of the time proactive conversations and suggestions with your partner to make it better, lands in bitter fights, negative self-validation, a feeling of loneliness, frustration and may be at some point mere acceptance of how this our lives are and should be. 

Do you think this is a problem? If yes, how we can as a society, as parents, guardians, teachers or counsellors or any other role we play, can do to make it better. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We would to hear from you.

Disclaimer : In the context of this article I have used parent as state of mind rather than a specific role parent played by those responsible for our conception. The experiences and perspectives are further in the context of India and may be extended to south Asian culture.

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