Parents and anything remotely sexual are topics that are mutually exclusive 99% of the time. However, at one if not several points in our lives these entities must intermingle. Unless you’re Desi of course, then it might never be brought up unless you’re discussing the sex of the baby you are now pregnant with.
The birds and the bees conversation is awkward as it is, most adults don’t want to picture the fruit of their loins bumping loins with anybody else, and knowing your parents had to get it on to conceive you is a thought best left in the darkest recesses of your mind.
The sheer awkwardness is why most Desi teens and adults have never discussed, or even referenced the topic of sex with their parents. The closest is probably turning beet red and averting your eyes at the full frontal scene in Titanic (been there, done that).
The other factor is the obvious culture clash and the lack of experience most of our parents have in the dating realm. The sex talk was for all intents and purposes vulgar and irrelevant in their teen years. The relationships they had most likely ranged from writing love letters, to a chaste peck for the especially bold…maybe. Boy, have times changed.
They don’t have the tools to address the topic with us, nor do we have any desire to open it up with them. Doing so can lead to an unfavorable line of questioning that leads to them finding out about our romantic escapades that deviate far from their idea of the appropriate “rishta” path. For many, breaching this topic with the parental units simply isn’t worth stirring the pot, and I can understand why. It is far simpler and easier to remain somehow “good” in our parents eyes, and avoid feeling like a huge disappointment. The truth remains however, that we do date. Sometimes we date other desi kids, other times we don’t. We get infatuated, we fall in love, we also make mistakes and get our hearts broken, at times the usual teen angst, and sometimes it’s more serious. All of this relationship stuff leads into physical intimacy, and even if there is no sex, there are thoughts about it.
Here is my biggest bone to pick with this taboo: It is an illusion. Because of there being no conversation, no safe lines of communication on this topic, there is a vacuum. A huge honesty sucking black hole between you and the people that raised you and want the best for you.
However, there is one way to best this black hole. Enter the “Trauma Trumps Taboo” theory:
(I will totally use every excuse I can to use paintbrush, sorry in advance folks.)
After surveying a cross-section of my most brilliant and attractive friends, it appears that the only way of overcoming this vortex occurs in extreme situations where the afore-pictured taboo topics are brought to light traumatically.
Friend 1: “There was never a talk for me. I didn’t even know what my period was when I got it. It wasn’t until my sister got pregnant before wedlock when they blatantly said “sex before marriage is FORBIDDEN” no ifs ands or buts.”
Friend 2: “All our dad ever told us was NO BOYS. … I didn’t know what “fuck” meant until I was a freshman in college, and at that point I was stuck in a bad situation..I honestly think that when parents ignore things they are uncomfortable with, it makes their kids unprepared and vulnerable to the world…It’s a firm belief of mine that proper parenting means setting aside your own issues to raise the tiny, impressionable people that you’ve just brought into this world, otherwise, you simply should not be a parent.”
Friend 3: “I was in 5th grade and [my mom] said, if a boy ever wants to be alone with you and says something like “lets go into this room together” then you are supposed to slap him and run the hell away…and my dad just said no boys, no boyfriends, or even boy friends.
Friend 4: “Upon discovering my ex bf’s status as muslim a few years ago, and declaring that i was on my way to disgracing the family, they then specified that the acceptable religious qualifications were hindu, sikh, jain, or buddhist. of course, i was expected to have known all this beforehand…i was then told that its okay, everythings in the past, and i shouldnt disappoint them like that again. never talked about it again. real healthy.”
Friend 5: “My moms approach only came when she found my vibrator which I bought for kicks with a friend one night while we were bored. When I told her why is it okay for men to masturbate but not women she was boiling and called me the urdu word for “common street prostitute”- Randi- that hurt. She then said if you were so curious about sex why didn’t you ask, and sadly I said because of your reaction to me now at 23 (now 24). I mean for god sake my mom thought wearing a tampon broke your virginity…I just don’t want my daughter if I ever have one to ever feel the way I did.”
As you can see, the Trauma/Taboo theory rings true, there is generally no discussion at all except to forbid contact with the opposite sex, until a traumatic experience briefly creates a bridge across the taboo vortex. The experiences of these women are unfortunately commonplace amongst most Desis. I am certain most of us raised in the States like my friends and myself, have already came to the conclusion that when we have children we will take it upon ourselves to dismantle these obstructive walls in our culture.
As for right now however, surely there must be a better way to communicate with our parents on these topics before it is too late and the issue is foisted upon us totally awkwardly. Maybe we, as young Desis, should eventually claim the “birds and bees” talk for ourselves, or at least the “relationship talk” for starters and see where that takes us with our parents. It would require ruffling a lot of feathers, probably being condemned as a sinner or “whitewashed” for many of us, but for some of us it may lead to a completely different and more honest relationship with our parents. Now that would be a bold first step.