Something i’ve realised is that there is a severe lack of sex education within the South Asian community-slash-culture, particularly the Muslim community. i don’t want to speak on the other religious backgrounds and sex education within those particular communities, since i don’t really know what it’s like (though i’m assuming it’s more or less the same, since well, Asians deem all talk around and about sex to be sharam.)

When we’re approaching puberty, we’re told “sex is bad, don’t do it before marriage, it’s haram and you’ll go to hell” and that’s it. This is widely problematic as it doesn’t teach us anything about why it’s haram, what it actually entails or anything about consent and how we can differentiate from what falls under assault and what is acceptable, or how to say no or even speak about the problems we have. If we can’t even talk about sex, we can’t even begin to speak about sexual abuse. All these things are linked.

Now, with sex it is more than just desires and awakening lust with changes in voices, hair growth in various body parts, periods and enlargement of testicles. It is learning more about your body, wanting to experiment, and for majority of girls, it is having to deal with harassment, catcalls, and unfortunately abuse, and lingering, creepy looks. Going through puberty as a girl to ‘womanhood’ is stepping out of the comfort and (hopefully) invisibility provided by the lack of breasts and curves, and into the rubble and storm while (majority of) boys growing into men fall under the privilege of escaping the tenuous and tiresome bullets of “why don’t you smile more? you’d be prettier” / “why don’t you lost some weight? you’re getting fat” / “being a girl means being pretty and thin with perky and full tits and a pussy that’s all one colour” / “don’t dress like that, it’ll distract them” / “but what were you wearing?” / “that’s too revealing” / “oh my god she’s such a slut” / “oh my god she’s such a prude” — I can really keep going. The list is never-ending.

These comments don’t reside just within teens and places outside of the Asian community, comments like that are made and supported by the elders in our culture, though of course in less vulgar terms. Going through puberty as a girl in an Asian community means being given Fair & Lovely to become lighter skinned, being told how to be more attractive, how to be more quieter, invisible, to dress differently, to cover up to avoid the looks of men and sin, to not be a temptation, or in Muslim terms “fitnah”, as the wallah bros call us women.

Our parents merely tell us “sex = bad” because they can’t be bothered, and find it too shameful and embarrassing, to talk about what sex really is, leaving it up to us to learn from sources outside of people who should be our protectors and answering our questions, such as porn. This is a dangerous way of learning about sex. Porn is a toxic, violent and horrific way of learning about sex. Do i really need to explain why?

Kids in school tell each other things about sex, whispering and giggling in the playground, out of earshot of their teachers, and this begins a quest of trying to learn more. Without parents and guardians actually sitting down and having a proper conversation, kids are left to try and figure it out on their own. They aren’t taught about consent or about how sex sometimes can be just sex, or how sex can be meaningful and special with someone you love and it should be something you do only when you are ready, in the right frame of mind and completely understand what you’re doing.

The toxicity from never talking about it, and viewing it as something negative and bad, leads to deeper issues, sometimes psychological. From more religious backgrounds where sex is demonised, it is harder to navigate and overcome this thought process, and then when the time comes, difficult to actually have sex, even when you’re ready to. For girls, it means not being able to get it in. The psychological impact of this takes time, and even therapy, to overcome.

For most of us, if not all, we can never have sex until marriage and then, after our arranged marriage to a person we’ve spoken to a handful of times, and even that with a chaperone present so never truly getting to know them on a deeper level, we’re expected to have sex with them. A stranger. After years and years of being told “sex is bad and a sin, don’t do it with anyone unless you want to burn in hell.”

How is this normal? How are we meant to do this?

To go from “don’t have sex” to “have sex with this stranger you don’t know but will have to be with for the rest of your life”, one extreme to another.

Conversations surrounding sex, while yes of course it can be awkward to talk about and you may find yourself laughing or blushing, and wondering how to even approach it, need to happen. It’s things like this that lead to marital rape, or thinking that sex is something that a woman needs to provide to a man, when that should not be the case whatsoever. Sex, when it is in a relationship, is something sacred and special.

Or, sex can be something you choose to do with whoever, when you’re ready for it, and being safe. Meaning using contraception, and especially condoms, to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Sex is not something that should be seen as bad, because it’s not. And we definitely need to be able to speak about it, to teach kids especially that it’s not something to feel weird and awkward about. And sex is only one, small, part of the conversation.

Sumaiya, x

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