S*x education is a controversial issue in India


SEX GURUSex education is a controversial issue in India, but one man has done more than anyone to promote discussion of the subject. Dr Mahinder Watsa’s unusually frank and funny daily newspaper column has become a cult hit. But why does the country that gave the world the Kama Sutra need a straight-talking 90-year-old to teach it about sex?
“Sex is a joyful thing,” says Watsa, “but a number of writers tend to become rather medical and serious.” Rather than taking the scientific or moral high ground, he prefers to put the reader at ease with a witty one-liner. As a columnist for the past 50 years, Watsa has been privy to the deepest, darkest sexual fears of his countrymen and women.
His replies are short, sharp and to the point – occasionally bruising, often hilarious. But whether he chastises or reassures, with every shared reply he educates his readers. “I’m talking their language, they accept it better,” he says. “The man talking to you is one of you.”
Q: Two days ago, I had unprotected sex with my girlfriend. To prevent pregnancy, we bought an i-Pill. [emergency contraceptive] But in the heat of the moment I popped it instead of her. Can it cause any complications for me?
A: Next time round please use a condom and make sure you don’t swallow that too.
Q: I have heard that any kind of acidic substance can prevent pregnancy. Can I pour some drops of lemon or orange juice in my girlfriend’s vagina after the intercourse? Will it harm her?
A: Are you a bhel puri [snack] vendor? Where did you get this weird idea from? There are many other safe and easy methods of birth control. You can consider using a condom.
Q: After having sex four times a day, I feel weak the next day. For about five minutes, my vision goes blank and I can’t see anything properly. Please help.
A: What do you expect? Shouts of hurray and I am a champion all over town?
He gets about 60 letters and emails a day and responds to them all. “People who got married and are unable to consummate, or women writing they are no longer in love,” he says. “I try to help them.” Over the years he reckons he has answered more than 35,000 queries – long enough to spot the fake ones. “One knows when someone is trying to pull your leg or whether they are really genuinely in trouble,” he says.
Q: What First Aid will we require after having sex for the first time? My fianc?e and I have had oral sex many times. How safe is that?
A: You need not join the Red Cross; just visit a sexpert for some pre-marriage counselling. Oral sex is safe and healthy, and she will not conceive through it.
Watsa was first asked to write a Dear Doctor column back in the 1960s by a woman’s magazine [Trend]. He was in his late 30s and had recently qualified as a doctor. “I didn’t have much experience, I must confess,” he says.
For the first few months the questions were of a general medical nature – about childhood diseases and so on – but then a different kind of letter began to arrive, from distressed young women in remote areas.
They told him that an uncle or an elder had interfered with them when they were teenagers, and now they worried that they would not be married because they’d lost their virginity. “Many even suggested that they’d commit suicide,” says Watsa. “This thing about the hymen being intact is very important in this part of the world.”
He realised there was a lot of shame and need for advice out there. “These women had no-one to turn to, so they wrote to the magazine,” says Watsa. All he could do was tell them not to panic about the wedding night.
“I had to advise them to just remain quiet,” he says. “Don’t worry, your husband won’t notice. Nothing will happen.” Nowadays Watsa can be more explicit. He explains that the hymen can break in many ways, including physical exercise or some kinds of masturbation – but at the time he couldn’t use such plain language.
He realised that many of their problems stemmed from a lack of sex education, and this set him off on a life-long mission to provide it, first through the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and later through his own organisation, the Council of Sex Education and Parenthood International, (CSEPI). Throughout it all, he carried on writing.
He still receives letters on the subject of broken hymens today. “That inflames me,” he says. “Unfortunately it is still very prevalent.” Any men who write in to cast doubt on their partner’s virginity get short shrift.
Q: My family is demanding that I get married. How can I ascertain if the girl is a virgin?
A: I suggest you don’t get married. Unless you appoint detectives, there is no way to find out. Spare any poor girl of your suspicious mind.
Q: My girlfriend and I are 22 years old. We had sex a few months ago, for the first time, but she did not bleed. How can I identify if she is a virgin? Please help. I am confused.
A: Is this the way you love your girlfriend? You are a suspicious person. Haven’t you heard that there are several other ways by which the hymen can split, such as by playing a sport?
Watsa wrote for women’s magazines for years until he encountered an editor who censored questions on sexual health. He switched to other publications, including a men’s magazine called Fantasy, which featured photographs of naked girls, and later for websites, some aimed at newly-weds.
But most successful by far has been Watsa’s latest column – Ask the Sexpert – which he began 10 years ago, at the age of 80, in the Mumbai Mirror. It was the first daily column in an Indian newspaper that addressed readers’ sexual anxieties head-on.
“Until we ran the column Indian media rarely – if at all – used words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’,” says Meenal Baghel, the paper’s editor. It immediately garnered a lot of attention – not all of it positive. Baghel has had to deal with accusations of obscenity, lawsuits and hate mail, but she feels the benefits of running the column far outweigh any of the troubles the paper has had to go through. “He is undoubtedly the star of the newspaper,” she says.
Like most people, she can quote a favourite letter. “Someone once asked him – the gazillionth question on the subject – if their penis will shrink from repeated masturbation. His response: you talk a lot, does your tongue shrink?”
It’s a credit to Watsa’s wit, inventiveness and endless patience that he finds new ways to reply to the same questions that he has been asked for decades.
Much of his work involves something known as permission-giving – reassuring people that their sexual behaviour is normal and harmless. “The real problem is still masturbation,” says Watsa. He gets endless letters from anxious men who worry that masturbation will cause them to lose their strength, their hair, or their ability to have children. The belief that losing semen is detrimental to a man’s health is reinforced by traditional belief systems. As a consequence, Watsa has to dismiss a lot of quackery.
Q: I have a small penis and I can’t seem to satisfy my girlfriend. My astrologer has advised me to pull it every day for 15 minutes while reciting a shloka [prayer]. I have been doing this for a month but it hasn’t helped. What should I do?
A: If he was right, most men would have a penis hitting their knees. God doesn’t help gullible, foolish men. Go visit a sexpert instead who can teach you the art of making love.
Q: In the last semester, I failed one subject. My parents got worried and took me to an astrologer? He asked me to remove my pants? He said the ejaculate after masturbation is equal to 100ml of blood, hence my weakness. Is all of this true? Should I stop masturbating and avoid my girlfriend? I am regretting showing him my penis. Please help.
A: The astrologer is a hoax and completely ignorant of sexual matters. Masturbation is completely normal. I suggest you tell your parents you will not visit such frauds again. Not being able to hit bull’s eye at academics each time, is normal. Visit your college counsellor.
Q: I’m a 30-year-old man. I have seen a newspaper advertisement that claims some Ayurvedic medicine increases the length and the size of the penis, makes you last longer and can straighten out the penis too. Is this possible? I have had sex 10 times with my girlfriend in the last six months, but I never feel satisfied because I ejaculate too early. Also, how can I increase the size of my penis?
A: The advertisers are just waiting to fleece gullible people like you. None of their claims are true. Learn the art of love-making, which will give you greater joy, than looking for enlargement, which is not possible.
Traditional thinking can cause all sorts of problems, says Watsa, who remembers an army doctor telling him how his soldiers would often return from leave in their native hill country with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – it turned out they thought living in the plains affected their potency, so before catching the bus home they would have a sexual experience, just to check everything was in working order.
But Watsa has also witnessed massive changes. “India is a very different country now,” he says. “Thirty years ago there were very few women writing in. Now it’s changed, many women are getting in touch with me.” And they don’t just have practical questions about how to get pregnant or not – in the past few years they have also started asking about sexual fulfilment and masturbation. He replies with the same humour.
Q: My friend thinks that her breasts are getting larger because of masturbation. Is this possible?

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