Here’s Why South Asians Need to Improve on How We Talk About Sex

by Anita Nanhoe

It happened when I was just a girl of 14 years old. Early in the morning, I walked into my parents’ room to get the hairbrush. That’s when I saw them, as I wish I never had. 

A voice in my head screeched Bollywood-dramatically,

Nooooo, don’t do this to my mom!

My whole world trembled, as did my head and soul. I was shocked and frozen, paralyzed, nailed to the ground. Yes, I wanted to rip him away from her! With a lot of violence! But then again, he was so much stronger than I was (as he’d proven now and then). And who wants to get beaten early in the morning? No, not me! As soon as I could move my legs, I closed their bedroom door and rushed off. 

On my way to school, with my uncombed hair, I thought this disturbing sight over. My above-average intelligent brain needed to analyze this experience to create an explanation. But I hardly had a reference cadre to do so in an appropriate way. I felt as if I had just seen a horror movie, a horrifying movie in which my father was possessed by a very, very evil spirit and doing horrible things to my mum. And my mum was, of course, cooperative out of fear. She must have been the victim that would be killed otherwise. Yes, that was an acceptable explanation for what I had seen. And of course, this could not have been my father himself, doing this atrocious act.

[Read More: #BrownGirlsTalkSex: Dear Sweet Girls, Believe Me That You Deserve More]

I and most other Hindustanis of my generation share an absent sexual upbringing. Internet did not exist yet, and I had never seen people even kiss each other passionately – ot on the television (we had to close our eyes till the channel was changed) and not in reality. So I had to make something of this disturbing image that was now imprinted in my mind. It took me till my 25th year to acknowledge and tolerate that maybe my parents had sex now and then (as they produced five children) and might have had it out of their own free will.

It’s funny how persistent we can be in regarding our loved ones as untouched and ‘pure’ while we ourselves have already sinned all the way. By the time I was 25 I knew all about the birds and the bees. Yes, I had five years of experience, had done it all … etcetera. Of course, I didn’t realize back then, that there was so much more out there than just the limited world I had experienced. But still, the image of my parents was ‘pure’, especially my mum’s. I could accept that the devilish spirit possessed my dad occasionally and made him chase other women. And thank god, because then he would at least leave my mum at ease. One way or another, she remained pure in my eyes until her death. And even now, whenever I think about her, I efficiently block the visual images of that traumatizing morning during my childhood. 

But the Internet changed our lives. I realized this clearly when I recently heard my son voicing sexual remarks to his online friends. And when I discovered that my younger son – my 12-years-young baby – had watched porn on the internet. Although the images were rather educative to me, today I’m puzzling over what’s the bigger trauma in my life: the evil spirit that took possession of my father or the internet that took possession of my sons? 

[Read More: Ladies, Mommies, Aunties…Can We Please Start Talking About Sex With Our Daughters?]

Times have changed. But even nowadays, I observe a sexual phobia among Hindustanis. Sex is something we hardly talk about. Sexual education of children, if any, explains sex as something that’s dirty and should be avoided. Especially when it concerns girls (read more about this here.)

This sexphobia in our upbringing created generations of innocence and misperceptions, whereas sexual knowledge is necessary for our self-determination in everyday life. While most parents are still puzzling whether we should sexually educate our children, society completely changed over two generations. The topic of our puzzling needs to change from ‘whether we should educate the children on sexuality’ to ‘how we should teach them the difference between porn and reality’. At least before they start pulling their first girlfriend’s hair and hitting them with a leather whip during their first real-life sexual experience.

The Surinamese-Hindustani Anita Nanhoe migrated to the Netherlands with her family in 1975, when she was 3 years young. Anita studied Developmental & Educational Psychology and Clinical & Health Psychology at the University of Leiden (Netherlands). In April 2012 she defended her PhD-study on the success factors in the educational carriers of immigrant and native academics from lower classes in the Netherlands. Anita has worked in various disciplines in the social and psychological health sector. Since 2002 she works at the municipality of Rotterdam on several social fields including migration, emancipation, education, sexual diversity and domestic violence. She works as a researcher, coordinator in cases of small-scale incidents and sexual offenses, visiting lecturer at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, chairman of Develop Today (developmental work) and chairman of the Rotterdam Pride.


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