By Geetika Seth, Founder of HSpot (a mental well-being app), and Volunteer with Super School India.
In a country like India with a population of 1.35 billion people, talking about sex in the form of sex education maybe a smart idea after all. If you’re not convinced, hear me out. India has the highest number of unwanted pregnancies amongst unmarried women in the world, and an estimated 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 — with most women taking the risk of self-medicating at home. While abortion isn’t a bad thing, it points to a larger problem: These unwanted pregnancies are a result of a lack of comprehensive knowledge and sensitization around safer sex and contraceptives. These stats trouble me and so, alongside my job, I volunteer with Super School India as a sex education facilitator. I work with 800 underserved young women, and through my interaction with them, I have learnt how necessary proper sex ed classes are in our education system. As we found out, most of the girls we taught had been exposed to some information related to sex from their friends, partners, parents, TV, and the Internet, however, a large number of them did not know that it is the act of sex that leads to pregnancy.
Here are some of the misconceptions that we tried to dispel with proper clarifications through our interactive (and honest) workshops. Read on to see if you learn something new!
MISCONCEPTION 1: An effective way to not get pregnant is “Don’t worry, babe, let’s not use a condom. I’ll pull out in time.”
Clarification: The best way to not get pregnant is to not have sex! The second best way to not get pregnant is by using a contraception (e.g. condoms, birth control pills, or IUD/Copper-T). So, you’re wondering why the ‘pull-out method’ doesn’t work? During sex, there is a risk of pre-cum (which is not in anyone’s control) from the man which carries sperm. This pre-cum is created before the main ejaculation. So, even if he pulls out before he ejaculates, his pre-cum may have already entered the vagina, and this leads to the risk (although low) of getting pregnant without knowing it. And come on! Putting pineapples on your pizza is a risk you can take. But a risk like this is not worth it.
MISCONCEPTION 2: iPill or Unwanted 72 are the same as birth control pills.
Clarification: iPill is an emergency birth control, which can only stop the fertilization of the egg if taken by the female within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. If the egg has already fertilized, the iPill cannot stop the egg from getting fertilized and may cause problems. It’s an emergency pill, so it should only be had once or twice in one's life — if at all. Zero times is the best number of times one should take it, though. And it, most definitely, should not be the reason one allows themselves to have unprotected sex. Birth control pills, on the other hand, are oral contraception pills taken by women that contain hormones and need to be taken daily after consulting a gynaecologist. One needs to start taking them before they start having sex. Beginning the course of treatment after having unprotected sex will not prevent pregnancy. Special note: If your girlfriend/wife/partner consumes any of these for the sake of your protected sex life, please try to understand what these pills are, their various names, the differences, benefits, and risks.
MISCONCEPTION 3: Love between two people increases after sex.
Clarification: Sex is only an act of physical intimacy and not a proof of love. The act can only help satiate one’s sexual desire and not be the reason one falls in love with the other. Love between two people increases with things like mutual respect, trust, and understanding of each other’s life goals and needs.
MISCONCEPTION 4: Girls don’t masturbate.
Clarification: Masturbation is an act of satisfying your own sexual desires by touching your own genitals — feelings that most human beings have. It’s about pleasing yourself and learning more about your body. It is perfectly normal for all genders to do it. And yes, girls do masturbate and do experience the pleasure of an orgasm on their own. So, ladies, if you’re comfortable, explore your own body and what it likes. Remember to always wash your hands before and after to avoid infections.
MISCONCEPTION 5: It is a norm and is expected that a couple must have sex on the suhaagraat and after marriage.
Clarification: No one has the right to tell you when you should have sex.
Repeat after me: Mera shareer, mera haq!
You have the right to say no to sex or anything being done to you (physically or emotionally) because it’s your body before and after marriage! Just because Bollywood shows that a couple has sex on their suhaagraat, IT does not mean you have to, too. You may be tired, uncomfortable, on your period, or just not ready, or you just may not want to. Take your time, communicate with your partner, and remember: sex is only enjoyable if both, you and your partner, want it.
MISCONCEPTION 6: The man should carry condoms.
Clarification: It is the responsibility of both (or all) partners to carry protection. Ladies, it’s empowering to be equally responsible for protected sex. If your partner, or anyone at all, judges you for carrying a condom, then feel free to cut them out from your life (after delivering a fiery monologue on gender empowerment). Partners should always discuss contraception when they start a sexual relationship.
MISCONCEPTION 7: “I can never get an STI”, or “My partner will get offended if I ask them to get a STI test”.
Clarification: Everyone is at risk of getting an STI if they have unprotected sex or share/use needles (knowingly/unknowingly) that have been used by someone else. Some effective ways to prevent STI-transmission are:
Checking with your partner and getting a basic STI test done before engaging in sex.
Getting regularly tested for STIs — even if you’re monogamous, and especially if you have multiple sexual partners.
Using a condom while having sex.
Ensuring you use fresh needles, be it for blood tests, injections, or tattoos.
The responsible thing is to always ask for an STI test from your partner, and to tell your partner about your test results. Some STIs, like HIV/Aids, do not have a cure. (But they're working on it) So, be informed and responsible!
The best part about conducting sex education workshops with Super School India was that after each volunteering session, most of the girls were going and talking about the things they learnt and dispelling misconceptions among their parents, siblings, friends, and partners.
And we hope you do, too, because sharing [information] is caring.
If you live in Delhi NCR, do you want to be a sex education volunteer and empower girls, and educate boys on gender respect? Be a part of Super School India's initiatives by contributing here, or volunteering with us by applying here.