We’re currently living at a time when the ideologies on sexuality are more conflicting than ever. While on the one hand, movies and pop culture are being encouraged to be more frank and accepting of the topic of sex and both male and female sexuality (remember, Befikre just released across theatres), one the other orthodox groups are beating down on artists for nude paintings and branding them as indecent (most recently, the vandalism of a painting at the Jaipur Art Show).
But what these publicly contrarian views have done is create a space for debate and discussion – albeit not always peaceful, but at least a conversation nonetheless. Thanks to the Internet, kids these days are more exposed to information on sex than ever before, but not all of that might be correct. The lack of discussion about sexual health at the school level is a valid concern, and one that has plagued many. Most Indian parents refuse to have the ‘birds and bees’ talk with their kids in India, and if they do, it’s probably too late in life. Then there’s the almost endless list of taboos around female sexuality that aren’t even seriously discussed in hushed tones – it’s just brushed under the carpet. And that was apparently what prompted this Mumbai guy to pen down a rather unusual open letter addressed to his sister. Manik Rege, currently studying journalism in Malaysia, wrote a blog ‘Letter to my Growing Sister’, wherein he attempts to inform adolescent girls that’s it’s alright to masturbate just like guys do, and there is no shame in that.
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Rege told indianexpress.com that though he doesn’t have a sister of his own, the blog was written as “a motivation for all youngsters to bring up this subject without fearing the response, and be bold to stand up for their own bodies and minds. That’s why I wrote it – as a call for rebellion amongst the youth. We’re sick of the stigmas and taboos that plague our society. There are much more severe problems to be dealt with, so let’s talk about these issues, finish them and move to a better India”.
The Youtuber and marketing professional said he’s received a mix response on the blog. “People have accused me of paedophilia, rape, incestuous and pervert mentalities, but this hatred and cheap thinking is exactly what you and I need to change – people are so narrow-minded that reading this letter moves our archaic cultural beliefs. It is time to be bold about these topics, and speak up. If we don’t speak up, teenagers will take the wrong route”.
Comments on the blog itself have been largely positive, with one person saying, “A message so important and so obvious and yet so hard to come by”.
Here are some edited excerpts from the blog.
Congratulations on turning 15. And welcome to hell, I mean, puberty.
Know that I’m here for you throughout your journey, and that I truly love you with all my heart and soul.
I personally consider myself your parent as much as Mom & Dad do, and therefore, I believe it’s my duty to talk to you about certain sensitive topics which every parent should openly discuss with his/her growing kids.
Surely, Mom & your teachers at school have explained all about how & why your body is going to turn into a nuclear power-plant, set to explode every single month for the rest of your life. On the basis of that assumption, I’ll skip to a more sensitive topic that is often ignored or held back during the discussions on sexual health.
I’m here to talk to you about masturbation.
Please don’t react like you’re hearing the word for the first time in your life. You and your friends have surely talked, gossiped & laughed about it at school. You’ve most probably been fed the wrong information in a format & language so filthy, it must make you cringe at the thought of touching yourself, even when your mind secretly itches to explore the wildness within.
Now, before you freak out, I assure you that I don’t want to make you feel awkward or uncomfortable in any way.
I’m simply here to tell you that you’re not alone.
I was in the same situation 5 years ago, with thousands of questions bubbling inside my mind. But, unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to answer them & make me understand in the right way, so it took quite some time for me to figure stuff out on my own. And, I don’t want you to go through the same confusion, which is why I’m here to tell you…IT’S OKAY.
It’s okay to want to touch yourself, and it’s okay to have weird fetishes & crazy dreams. In fact, masturbation is not only okay, but also necessary for your health & well-being. It gives you a chance to explore your body, understand your needs, and know exactly what hurts you & what turns you on.
It gives you power over your body; it makes you your own happy boss. Maybe, that’s why masturbation, and specifically female masturbation, is still such a big taboo.
The realization that a woman, too, has certain desires & she can fulfill them without your consent, or your dick, strikes an unsettling chord in a society that has disempowered & objectified your gender since the beginning of time.
That’s the essence of the stigma of self-pleasure- it’s often, if not always, partial to us men. I mean, if boys do it, it’s just a part of the natural cycle they can’t control, but if a girl does it, it’s considered immoral, irreligious & filthy in every sense of the word.
Well, if that’s the case, and if masturbation is really so ‘unethical’ that an author had to describe it as ‘the path to Satan,’ I suggest you should waltz your way to hell if that’s where your happiness leads you, and I’ll tell you why it’s totally worth the ‘punishment’ you might receive.
Everyone is a human being, and everyone’s body commands them to fulfil certain needs…
Secondly, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do or not do it, so it’s completely upto you…
Thirdly, it helps you keep your relationships alive, because you can now let your partner know about your needs, and what he/she can do to satisfy them.
Fourthly, it relieves stress, keeps away certain infections, and it also feels good, so like, why not?
Lastly, unlike the situation 50 years ago, there’s an infinite number of books, articles, videos you can refer to for knowing how you can make the most of your ‘alone time.’ I kid you not, there’s even an app that guides you through the ‘game.’ What a time to be alive, eh?
If we adults don’t share the real facts with you kids when you ask for them, you’ll gladly forward your queries to your friends and get them answered anyways. Only this time, instead of getting the proper knowledge, you’ll be thrashed with all kinds of stupid stuff that may even scar some kids for life…
On that note, sister, I have a small request for when you become a parent one day- Please don’t avoid your children and their questions. Be there for your kids when they need you as a friend.
So answer those questions NOW- as and when they pop up. And appreciate your child’s curiosity rather than dismissing it…
Happy Play Time, my dear lady!