Adding programmes that simplify sex and sexual health in Indian school and college curriculums is still considered taboo; often done in a hush-hush manner using euphemistic terms. This is reason enough to confuse youngsters, who then turn to social media for information on concepts related to sex.
A recent research conducted by PLOS ONE, an open-access scientific journal, mentions that incorporating pleasure in sex-ed programmes can help improve positive attitudes around sex.
To make digital platforms a safe space where one can find the right answers, a few social media content creators are uploading engaging information to spark conversations around matters of sex and intimacy.
Short videos such as Instagram reels have become a popular tool in disseminating information that is ‘taboo’.
Not a secret anymore
The stigma attached to sex has led to several people clinging on to false information. Malvika Gulati (21) from Pitampura recalls, “Back in school, I used to believe that eye contact could also cause pregnancy (laughs)”.
Others like Gulati have believed in similar myths. She says, “There was never a space to ask teachers or parents about your body; it was considered wrong and shameful.” Like many Indian youngsters, Gulati now depends on sex-positive content creators on Instagram such as Leeza Mangaldas (@leezamangaldas), Dr. Tanaya Narendra (@dr_cuterus), and Seema Anand (@seemaanandstorytelling) for information.
Pallavi Barnwal, a sexuality coach from Noida, adds, “I ask my clients ‘When did you first hear about sex?’ and most of them tell me that their knowledge did not come as education, but as a shock.”
Barnwal, who has been working in the field of sexual wellness for five years, translates her interactions with clients into informative posts on her Instagram account (@coachpallavibarnwal) to educate her audience. This includes busting myths, suggesting practical tools, and giving an insight into issues to normalise such conversations.
Niyati Sharma, founder of Pratisandhi—a volunteer-run youth initiative that works towards sexual health education—and her team focuses on introducing topics of importance to their audience via reels on Instagram (@pratisandhi).
“We try to give a bird’s-eye view of complicated topics. Our reels emphasise consent and explain practical tools that people can use. People often ask follow-up questions, which is great,” says Sharma.
Let’s talk about it
Prachi Nirwan (21), a copywriter from Karol Bagh, feels that the access to sex-positive content on social media has allowed her to embrace her body and her needs.
“There was a time when I was discussing queefing with a colleague and how it is embarrassing. Later, through a reel, we came to know that it is common and there’s a scientific reason behind it.” She further adds that she became aware of tools such as dental dams, female condoms, and Copper-Ts through sex-positive content creators.
The presence of such content on a free domain like Instagram has helped normalise such topics, especially for sexual and gender minorities. “Sex-positive content has given more space to gender minorities to talk about concerns that affect them disproportionately,” shares Sharma.
Barnwal also feels that now, women are talking more openly about their sexuality. “When I started, it was more of a back-door response. People, especially women, would be shy so they would drop a text. But, over the years, people see that a bunch of women are talking about it [sex] openly, and that prompts them to take this seriously as well,” she concludes.