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My story is the story of every woman out there. I wrote this book, Sex Is, for those in sexless or abusive marriages, loveless relationships, and suffering from the ill effects of lack of sex education.
I am an Indian female sex educator. In India, I am an exotic species, a woman who freely, openly, and pleasurably talks about sex.
Of course, this is not how I had planned things in life – I started off as clueless about sex as most of us; I did not even know what sex scientifically, accurately meant back when I was a teenager. I had a bunch of vague ideas borrowed from films, magazines hidden carefully in my father’s closet, and peer gossip.
Sex is a very strong and basic drive in all of us, and arouses curiosity, especially when it is painstakingly hidden from any open discussion. This lack of knowledge, lack of vocabulary, and a lack of a healthy attitude towards sex leads to a whole gamut of problems in the sexuality of a person at all stages of life – childhood sexual abuse, puberty related confusion, unhealthy relationships, guilt around masturbation, and flawed sexual communication.
This journey is typical of nearly every man and woman growing up in this society where we are left on our own to figure “it” out and learn after having had our fair share of mistakes.
Why can’t we have access to good quality sex education that tells us not to be ashamed of menstruation? A world where children can reach out to their parents should they have any query about crushes, bodies, and sexually explicit media?
This is what I am striving for. By choosing to pursue sexuality and pleasure education, and helping people deal with all sort of problems that have been created due to repression, shame, and the lack of sex education.
I wrote this book to shake people out of their comfort zone. My inspiration came from the hurdles faced in my own life, and this is when I decided to share my journey of sexual emancipation in my memoir Sex Is. The book traces my life from being a shy, timid teenager, to a wife in a sexless marriage, to finally finding my sexual voice, and regaining my sexual confidence!
Much of the content of this book is something that women tend to hide behind their dupatta and pretend it never happened. Especially if you are a mother, this is not at all expected from her. Mothers are desexualized in our society, as opposed to our idea of a ‘sexual being’ The dichotomy of goddess or whore. She is like this, she wears this,… it’s like either you can be a good mother or you are a sexual being.
I break this taboo in my book which also calls out ageism related stigma, and reinforce the fact that a woman with passing years and more responsibilities can still choose to hold and flaunt her sexual identity, her sexiness.
While sex is a taboo subject in India, when it comes to the sexuality of women, it is even more discouraged.
I get emails from women where they say that they are not considered marriage-worthy because they have indulged in casual sex. I get mails from people who have trouble with self-pleasuring or even with giving their partners pleasure.
This guilt around masturbation, consensual casual sex, and many other aspects is a moral construct played by a patriarchal society to keep the woman from having demands. This hush-hush attitude against a woman’s sexuality is purposefully held up to keep her ignorant about her own pleasure and rights. And to make it worse, our media portrays women as sex objects for the male gaze.
That is exactly what I am here to change.
Because of the fact that there is no one willing to teach us about sex, most of us go to porn sites to learn about the intimate human act. Porn is anything but real. Because more men than women watch it – as per the studies, most women dislike porn because of its disgusting portrayal of women as mere sex objects and completely ignoring other parts of intimacy that comes with sex.
Men who ‘regularly’ watch porn get conditioned to think degradingly of women and desire sexual violence against them. It has been proven scientifically that men who watch porn become slowly normalized to real-world sexual violence against women. As a result, there is no understanding of the woman’s body or mind. Any serious talk of consent, intimacy, and safe sex never occurs to them
My sexual experiences are not atypical and almost everyone has gone through them. But in the absence of proper knowledge, about sex, relationships, lack of a safe and trusted space to talk about it, I was not able to protect my emotional and physical well-being. I am sharing my personal story to bring the attention of society and people to the plight of young people who are misguided by sex consumerist media, porn and misogyny that makes sex a score, an obsession. When you see sex through those corrupted filters, you are setting yourself to become the subject of many emotional and physical issues.
“All my life I ran away from men, their proximity made me tremble. I sighed looking at other girls who could easily make friends of the opposite sex. I never thought I could ask a man for his friendship. And here I was all unrestrained and amorous. I thought it would be a sluggish, soft kiss. But as it turned out, it was a breathless kiss. I was sheepish at letting a man access my modesty but was enlivened with the feeling of being loved for the first time in my life.” – Sex Is (page: 46)
In my book, I talk about the long term suppression of my sexuality, my sexual and relationship mishaps, and the eventual resurrection from the troubled past. I consciously chose to write this to bring attention to the unacceptable part of our social lives that many of us are living, breathing every day, that is leading to problems like marital infidelity and sexual dissatisfaction. I particularly remember yielding to a man even when I was not ready because of the pressure put on me by the man to have sex with him. I was not even aware that consent is important in consensual romantic relationships. It is only when I got educated in sexuality that I realized the power of autonomy that I have.
We need to have a long overdue discussion about the never-ending list of sexual issues that can be avoided if people are given sexuality and sex education. The education that I refer to here is not only about using a condom or birth control. It’s about consent, intimacy, safe sex, and sexual pleasure. When these things are withheld, it results in a generation of men and women who crave sex but do not understand it, and are ashamed of their own selves.
Child sexual abuse
Several child sex abuse victims are not even aware that they are being molested. Many children feel shame and guilt that further stops them from coming out with their story. People who suffer from porn addiction are unable to accept it as they will be scorned by society. The same society that denied them sexual satisfaction in real life.
“I am 17 years old. My mom usually goes to the village to take care of our grandparents and live there for weeks. During this period, my dad comes to our room to sleep by making an excuse and he chooses my elder sister’s bed as I always deny him to share my bed. Many times I have seen unusual things happening under the blanket. Once In dim light at night I saw my father rubbing her back and chest by showing towards me and by giving a gesture of inviting me to join them after ten minutes they covered them with a blanket and again unusual things started happening under the blanket. I can’t tell my mother because it would ruin our lives.”
This is a case of incest and molestation. But the teenager is unable to say anything due to the sexual nature of the crime. The hush-hush nature of sex is preventing her from escaping the sexual predator that is her father.
Unsatisfactory marital sex
“Pallavi, I am a married woman with one child. Though I had a love marriage, I didn’t have any sexual relations prior to marriage, to the extent I had also not attempted masturbation. My husband is not satisfied with the sexual life, as I am having trouble keeping up with him. I do get aroused when he is aroused, but my vulva dries up fast. He also goes on for too long, and I get tired and ask him to stop. Such issues are affecting my marriage and we are growing more distant.”
This is yet another story of women not knowing about sex or not willing to explore themselves before marriage, and never knowing what they like in bed. She doesn’t know what she likes or what stimulates her. Because of that, she is unable to guide her husband to receive sexual satisfaction. There is also the responsibility of the husband to try to find out what she might want, which he isn’t doing; again due to the silence he must have faced in his life about all matters sexual, and not knowing that his wife needs it as much as he does. She feels like an outsider in her own marital bed. Unfortunately, her story reflects the real lives of so many men and women who go into marriage, completely ignorant about their own pleasure, and that of their partners.
So why was there a need for me to talk about my sexuality in the book?
Because no one else did that for me. When I was a younger woman just stepping into the world of love and sex, no one was there to hold my hand. I longed for a friend or a confidant who could guide me along the uncertain paths of the adult world as a woman. I was alone, directionless, and as a result, experienced many unpleasant things that I did not have to.
Even though we do not talk about it, my story is the story of every woman out there. I wrote this book for the men, women in sexless marriages, loveless relationships, and to talk about all the sections of society who are suffering from the ill effects of lack of sex education and sexual repression, inspiring them to find their sexual voice.
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Image source: Pallavi Barnwal Facebook and book cover Amazon
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A TEDx speaker, intimacy coach, sex educator, Pallavi Barnwal can go by varied titles but
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