Superstitious sex

30 03 2010

As we have all discussed on this blog so often and as we all know, Sri Lankan society is deeply conservative and superstitious, and matters of sex and sex education have always been taboo subjects, mostly viewed with suspicion, shame and fear. There is also the belief that sex education leads to more sex.

As a result and as we have also ranted here, there are widespread problems of inappropriate, predatory and ignorant male behaviour both in public and private situations which every Sri Lankan woman would have experienced to some degree.

It is very clear that we need massive changes in attitudes towards sex and reproduction, starting from the top – through government policy, educators and parents. And one very important factor of change would obviously be educating young people about desire, sex and sexual health so that they can be comfortable with these concepts and reach a more liberal and informed position from which to deal with these issues in their lives. This would help empower people by teaching them to manage their own desires and not resort to masturbating in public, for example!

Part of my work allows me to advocate for this. It is a very complex and controversial field to work in and very challenging as well, but I do have a passion for it.

Recently I conducted a workshop with some young people from Anuradhapura and Vavuniya. Initially the boys were very forthcoming and open while the girls were much more reserved. But on the second day things changed and the girls started talking more freely. One of the activities that helped us break through the silence was this: we asked the group to each make a list of all the myths they knew regarding the subject of sexual desire and function. We then analysed and discussed each one. What we discovered was that almost all of them were designed to increase people’s fear and caution around matters of sexual interaction. Here are some of the things I learned:

Masturbation makes you thin.
Masturbation gives you acne.
Fat women cannot give a man satisfaction.
If you have pre-marital sex you will faint away upon entering the marriage poruwa.
Eating pineapple can induce an abortion.
How to increase penis size (1): Watch the sun set into the sea very intently. At the exact moment the last rays fade into the ocean, quickly throw sand in your mouth.
How to increase penis size (2): Tie a rock to it, using string.

Feel free to comment and add to this list if you can!

Sex education = more sex?

13 10 2009

Well, that’s what people in this country seem to think. Not everyone of course, but a significant number. Like the government. And many religious leaders.

Why has it been soooo hard to get sex education into our school curriculum?

When it comes to teaching children about reproduction – forget it. My biology teacher said “You know what cats and dogs do, no? This is like that, but for people.”

End of class.

Needless to say we were most disappointed. After all, it was the one class which no one had bunked!

There have been so many attempts to try to educate children about sex and so much money has been pumped into the country for this purpose… it has been called by different names: body literacy, health education and God knows what else; but no one has been committed to take it on. On top of that, no one wants to teach it!

I read a study* recently in which parents were asked if they thought their children needed sexual health education. All of them said yes. But they didn’t want to be the ones to give it!

It really makes me wonder – as a parent, wouldn’t you rather be the one to talk to your children about sex – taking their age and exposure into consideration, instead of trusting a stranger to teach them about one of the most important things of life? And this stranger, most likely a fellow or senior classmate, very likely might not always pass on accurate information!

I was in Class 5 when I first heard about sex. My friend Gita’s parents were both doctors. She told me: “My father pissed inside my mother and I was born.” I refused to believe her and said “My parents would never do that!’

I most certainly don’t want any child of mine to grow up believing stuff like this! Would you? Imagine me, aged 10 with buck teeth and a ponytail on top of my head, thinking…so  that’s how I was born! So ugly.

What a childhood!

(More soon.)

* References:

“A collection of Research Papers on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya.
Edited by Prof. A.R. Wickremasinghe and Prof. A. Pathmeswaran.
The study referenced is titled “Sri Lankan parents’ attitudes towards adolescent reproductive and sexual health education needs: a qualitative study.”