Thursday, July 29, 2010

To do or not to do. Decide well.

There are precisely three reasons I chose to write this blog.

1. A sex-crazed friend who now claims that he is ‘changed’.
2. The print promotion for Udaan in Mumbai Mirror.
3. The article ‘Sex get younger’ dated July 25, 2010 in Times Life!, Mumbai Edition.

The media references above give statistics and changing opinions regarding the attitude towards sex in India. My friend gave me a headache. More about that later. The ‘Udaan’ display ad claimed that 9 out of 10 boys and 7 out of 10 girls are ok with pre-marital sex. It did not state the number of youngsters surveyed, their age and socio-economic groups or the cities surveyed. The Times Life! article presented uninhibited outlooks of 20-somethings with regards sex and how more and more Indian teenagers are becoming sexually active at earlier ages. Being a 20-something myself, I wasn’t taken aback by any of it as I know what our generation thinks like and wants in life and yet I found certain things worrisome. Do I plan to moralize in this blog? No but there are certain fundamentals that do not change irrespective of your age, socio-economic class, era, skin colour, religion, caste, race, nationality and location. That is what I plan to rant about.

It is my childhood friend mentioned above who made me concerned about the state of affairs of the people of my age group and socio-economic class who are well-educated, well-travelled and who have excellent access to information from across the planet thanks to the internet. My friend and I, until recently, had argued on a regular basis about India’s ‘conservative, closed and regressive’ stance towards sex and sexuality. These arguments continued even after he shifted base to live with Uncle Sam for graduate education. Do not think that we do not talk about anything else but this buddy has a knack for bringing any conversation on to this track. Most of our arguments would commence with his complaints about Indian girls being very traditionalist about sex, our refusal to satisfy our ‘biological urges’ (whatever that means!) and our ‘hypocritical’ wait for marriage to lose our virginity. I resisted and fought the urge to use the much employed “Will-you-like-it-if-your-sister-practices-what-you-preach-?” rhetoric for the sake of propriety and our long-standing friendship. It is none of anybody’s business when or why someone (male or female) decides to lose their virginity to. It is an extremely personal decision that shouldn’t be taken just like that. Before our last and final argument, I had often tried to reason with him the dangers of casual sex and multiple partners as date rapes, MMS scandals (remember DPS scandal?), the spread of salacious rumours, damage to reputation and psychological scarring. He always rubbished these arguments and seemed convinced that such things only happen to others. I would get accused of not being open-minded. Clearly his definition of open-minded and my definition of open-minded were not the same. If his understanding of the word is correct, I would rather not be open-minded at all! Once, I had to make my stand very clear about a few things. The personal life of any adult is none of my business till the time that person is doing it behind closed doors (windows and roof) and that his/her partner(s) is (are) consenting human adults! Keep very quiet about things and I won't take. Juicy details don't get out without the partners making it public! The involvement of minors or animals in a sex act makes it a criminal offence and hence my business as people who try and have sex with animals often turn to abusing children when they grow bored of animals. At this point, I was accused of changing the topic and being too politically correct. I did not get that accusation but realization dawned upon me, albeit late, that a rational and objective debate with this character was useless.

The last time a similar argument took place (on an ISD call) he simply bowled this ‘maiden’ over. The argument this time was about India’s reluctance to accept casual flings and one-night stands. He asked me to look at how liberal and open the Western societies are. I firmly held my ground. I told him that we ought to look at and emulate the 10,000 excellent aspects of industrialized societies and avoid their problems. I do not think casual sex and one-night stands are immoral nor should it be illegal for adults to indulge in these things but I personally find them highly avoidable for multiple reasons. He asked me to explain my hypocrisy. This enraged me but I kept my cool. For the first time, I got down to extremely practical issues. I asked him to spell and explain the terms ‘Chlamydia’, ‘Syphilis’, ‘Herpes’ and ‘Gonorrhea’. Here are his responses.

‘K-L-A-M-I-D-I-A’ – Sounds like some worm.
‘S-I-P-H-I-L-I-S’ – Must be another worm.
‘H-E-R P-E-A-S’ – Don’t know.
‘G-O-N-O-R-I-A’ – This is definitely an earthworm.

I was simply stunned. For those of you who are and who are not stunned, read further carefully. I brought it to his notice that these are STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). He replied by saying that such things only happen in books! What is the next thing that we are going to think up for shouting out loud? The sex education seminar held in our school (St. John the Baptist High School) has been completely wasted on him. I had cut the call immediately as I had nothing left to say and neither did I want to hear further rubbish. We haven’t heard each others voices since.

Here was a high-scoring engineer, who had missed the merit list in class 12 by a very slim margin, who spoke like an idiotic and irresponsible person, being precisely the kind ‘Rancho’ from ‘3 Idiots’ criticised, well-trained but not well-educated. That telephonic conversation left me disturbed. I decided to ask a dozen more friends to spell and explain the terms ‘Chlamydia’, ‘Syphilis’, ‘Herpes’ and ‘Gonorrhea’. All of them hold at least a Bachelor’s degree and are well-travelled, nationally and internationally. I drew zilches everywhere. There was only one girl who correctly said that Herpes is something that gives you boils. To worsen the situation, one guy actually revealed the height of anatomical ignorance when I brought up the topic of STDs. He called the vagina an ovary. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This moron had obviously learnt everything he knows about sex only from porn and porn doesn't teach you anything important. The gravity of the epidemic of ignorance of sex-related issues hit me real hard that day.

The media is constantly telling us about how adventurous we, the youth, are getting about sex. Well, tell us something we don’t know! Give us the basics for heaven sake. A lot of practical information can be given out regularly in the media about sexual health for although most people know that HIV/AIDS can be prevented by the use of condoms, most don’t know that condoms don’t provide 100% protection. (For their credit, Mumbai Mirror and Bombay Times ran one article each in the last 2 months.) Only abstinence does. In fact, there are nearly 30 odd STDs and condoms don’t work well for all of them. Herpes can even spread by just kissing on the mouth! In fact in the USA, the country my crazy friend adores for its supposedly liberal attitude towards sex, 1 out of every 4 teenage girls contracts a STD and Herpes affects 1 out of every six people. Apart from AIDS, other STDs probably don’t get talked about because a Parmeshwar Godrej and a Richard Gere do not make a song and dance about it. The truth is that they exist, became curable after the discovery of penicillin (except Herpes) and are now becoming incurable about a century later.

There are other things too that need to be kept in mind before getting adventurous. Some people consider anal sex harmless as it cannot lead to pregnancy. That’s right but it can lead to tearing of the rectum and penile fractures. Gentlemen, you can fracture your penis even if there isn’t a bone in it! And lastly, everyone, please get the names of the male genitals and the female genitals right. There are 3D body maps on the net to help you out! I highly advise all ignorant fools to check out how pregnancy takes us from being miniscule embryos to kids and how puberty takes from being kids to adults. This is the 21st century for heaven's sake! In fact, even in the USA, responsible citizens are hopping mad about ignorance and the fact that unsafe sex has stopped being scary for some people.

The problem of AIDS in India is very different from that of industrialized nations. In those countries, the problem arises because their citizens have more than 5 sex partners on an average in their lifetimes. In India, these diseases are greatly restricted to MSMs, migrant workers, truck drivers, CSWs, drug addicts and the spouses and children of these people. We can do our Health Ministry a favor and keep things this way. I have a strong hunch that the revolting sights of babies born with congenital syphilis and herpes and other emotional and social repercussions must have made societies across the world look down on people who have multiple sexual partners. Even Helen Keller had voiced concerns about syphilis being a leading cause of blindness in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Let us, the educated and economically sound youth (SEC A &B), take responsibility to keep ourselves away from high risk activities and not create new problems for our society. After all, we are the ones who walk around like Mr. / Ms. Know-It-All. Let’s make best use of our access to information and not be ignorant about what we are against. It’s best to make optimum use of the internet and base our decisions on modern, scientific knowledge (most of which comes from the Western world at any rate!) and behave properly. After all, the internet isn’t there just for social networking. It isn’t worth spoiling our lives over few minutes of satisfying our 'biological urges'!

Post Script:

1. As a Facebook rat myself, I got back to my friend by putting links from about Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Herpes and Chlamydia on his Wall. They stayed there throughout daytime Indian Standard Time while he slept at night, Central Daylight Time, USA & Canada. Imagine that 'open-minded' individual's horror AND panic stricken phone call that arrived subsequently. ;)

2. In case if you suspect that you or your partner has a STD, call 69999999 or 28888888 ( to locate your nearest gynaecologist (for a girl) /urologist (for a boy) and get the requisite tests done. Any delay will only worsen the situation.


Rahul Rg said...

Blog well written, but I am dumbfounded people don't have this information. If your goal in the blog is to create awareness, then I think you do it quite well. But if it is to advise against pre-marital sex, then unfortunately you do not/cannot argue that point. Just mentioning the pitfalls (MMS,STDs, etc) do not really add upto no pre-marital sex. It just shows how risky it is to indulge in it. Like most things in life and business, high risk has high degree of reward with it as well. Just depends on your risk appetite. Decide only after knowing the facts well.

Natalia said...

@Rahul, Thanks for your appreciation. I have nothing against premarital sex. I am only against ignorance and having sex just for the sake of it! It is indeed very, very risky and one has to be sure what one is up against. If someone is in a committed relationship, I see nothing wrong in it, but people left, right and center seem to be ignorant, irrespective of age, education and income! Let's be serious here, how many people do you think are actually going in for medical evaluation to rule out STDs before they jump into bed (or couch or whatever)? A generation like ours that is so lucky in terms of access to information shouldn't be so ignorant. These are basic things after all.

Amit Padhye said...

Hi Natalia,
Read your Blog and found it very informative. Guess our generation need a Big Time alarm to wake up for these things. Hiding behind the so called "our-culture-is-not-open-for-all-this" is just insane.
Frankly speaking, i also got details about the STD's after reading your blog. Not like i didn't knew about it, but wasn't conscious enough to be extra aware of. Still, i read a lot after that.

Hey, i'm also starting to write blog here. Well i guess i'll need some help cause i don't know how to write one. Once ready, i'll publish it. Lets see. Expecting some help from u too.

Rahul Rg said...

Wrong statement - It is very very risky !! Why always do we paint a picture of a care-free world or an apocalyptic world?

Me being a consultant and finance guy, lets quantify risk. No. of STDs worldwide in 1999 was 304 million from 3040 million adults from 15-49 years. Africa is the biggest aberration to the figures and does not reflect true society. Let us presume figures from Africa are offset by the increase in 2010 figures.

Thus, the people contracting STDs (curable) are 10% of total population. That's it !! Leave it to others to consider it very very risky or risky or a risk worth taking.

Vaidehi said...

wow ok..
firstly well done..! your retaliation to an attack made by your so-called 'open-minded' friend to call you conventional was totally accomplished.. in the eager wish to get back at him[which you did very wel, btw], you actually managed to create awareness and inform..
some of the information that, i dont mind agreeing to, even i had not no idea.. you have sorta given un point de demarrage.. :D

Natalia said...

@Rahul RG: You haven't stated your source for the figures from 1999 and it doesn't make sense to quote Africa here because the problem there arises more out of superstition and exploitation than out of ignorant behaviour. Even if STDs are curable and not always fatal, they often cause irreversible damage to certain body parts. That is more than enough to deem these activities very risky. Whether it is a risk worth taking is definitely an individual's personal decision but I do not understand what kind of high degree rewards can these high-risk activities beget.

Rahul Rg said...

You should read my post again !! The figures in Africa are outliers and offset the increase that 2010 figures might have. Again with the term "very risky". Quantification of risk is the only aspect that makes it sensible. And the high degree rewards are debatable. But to each his own.

My only value add in your post would be quantification of risk. Other than that, regarding awareness to this topic am sure you have done that quite well.

Natalia said...

@Rahul Rg:
I agree that Africa has the highest number of cases and does shoot up the number of cases worldwide. Given that my friend and I, were comparing India with industrialized nations especially the USA, I had to make my point and give references within that context.

The risk related to STDs is quantifiable. However one must not forget other aspects such as defamation, assaults and unwamted pregnancies. However, writing about those is difficult and I am not quite capable of covering such a huge subject in one blog.

fawkes said...

Criticism as follows:
1.I think people who do not know much about STD's cannot be called fools because they come to know about STD's (from books) when they do not even know much about sex (around High school). I wonder what it used to mean that time.
2. Porns are for fun not for education :P (sorry couldn't resist saying that)
3. Do not put values by sex because not a guy can control his hormones on spotting a sexually feasible situation(just impossible for a male unless in a committed relationship). Values cant come into picture when brain is not working
4. Good Job I think i need some stuff to read in reference to STD's :) I am just another fool :)

Someday I will write about this topic too :)

Natalia said...

1. Those from SEC A & B who don't bother to google up HIV and/or forget what they were told in sex education seminars are BIG FOOLS!
3. NO one can be or should be judged by their sex lives. JUST KEEP IT PERSONAL AND DON'T QUESTION ME ABOUT MINE! The argument with my friend happened because he HAD (now he doesn't) a habit of bringing up this topic with every soul he encountered!

fawkes said...

O yaar tu to naaraz ho gayi.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahah luiphobia

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An infectiously enthusiastic incorrigible optimist, insanely in love with and morbidly curious about life, death and everything in between.