The One Thing That Went Wrong In My Upbringing

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Often, while questioning a person’s fault, the fingers are raised at his or her upbringing. Yes, it is unfair and might not always be correct which is why it is important for us- as the ones who raise children and the ones who question others’ upbringing- to internalise that a person should be raised as an individual and not as a part of a community. However, one cannot deny that upbringing affects our lives and thought process as adults. As an encouragement for some while a nightmare for the others.

William Wordsworth had rightly said, “child is the father of man”. Keeping aside his gendered idea of “mankind”, we need to accept that a wrong upbringing will spill emotionally dented, gendered and apathetic individuals in the society. A wrong upbringing is like a wound that we incur in our childhood, the scars of which remains in our adulthood reminding us of the past mistakes. This acceptance is not because we blame our parents for not knowing the dynamics of parenting or society. But to find the roots of our problems today and fix it before the tomorrow dawns upon us and gets caught in the same trap.

I never received sex or sexuality education. I did not even know what are vulva, breasts, periods or even penis for an unusually long time.

Of course, biology had a chapter on reproduction system, but it was either skipped, rushed through or tabooed by the giggles and shame in the classroom. While at home, sex and sexuality was so much a hushed topic that I hesitated to read the Biology chapter in front of my parents. While watching a movie together, my father used to change or forward the scenes that involved even a pinch of intimate moments. And this was with Bollywood movies which already portray a repressed version of sex which is replete with euphemisms.

Also Read: Dear Parents, It Is Not Right To Ask A Child To Keep Quiet When She Questions Or Criticises

No one ever thought to talk about intimate organs, the changes that they undergo during adolescence and what do they mean. As far as I remember, neither I nor my siblings ever asked my parents how we were born. The birth stories mainly involved a hospital, the pain my mother went through (medical complications, we didn’t know where a child comes from either) and how they celebrated our birthday.

But today, as an adult woman, I realise that you cannot really stop a child from knowing about sex and sexuality. Why? Because sex and sexuality is a part of our body and our culture. It is only ironic that we continue to ignore it, keep it off the dinner table and “protect” the kids by censoring their language and TV channels. But it is inevitable for a person to interact with his or her sexuality, either as a part of changes in biology or life or, in the wrong way, as a part of the cruel world of sexual predators. I don’t intend to say that sexual harassment in any way leads to awareness about sexuality; it only makes it worse by giving the wrong idea of sexual relationship which was the ground of the harassment itself.

How then are you going to answer the questions that they raise? And if you don’t answer, and raise your and sew their lips, will the child ever disclose his experiences and pain to you? What if his or her suffering in silence translates into a dent for life? What if the child tries to explore it on his or her own and goes down the wrong path?

Thusly, I had my first interaction with my sexuality when I was sexually harassed and that too at a very young age. It was then that I knew how my vulva was not just a part of my body but a space of violence and helplessness. Even before I could figure out what I was being forced to undergo, the darkness and disgust began haunting me. And to be honest, I can still remember in detail every second of those days, the wound has healed but the disgust and fear are still fresh.

The only question that I keep asking myself and my parents is that could this be avoided? Wasn’t there any other way I could feel my vulva and also be happy about it?

Why couldn’t my parents tell me beforehand what is the difference between good and bad touch? Why didn’t they tell me that consent and awareness are imperative in a sexual experience and any kind of force was wrong? That vulva was a part of my body that has the right to desire, choose and deny? Why I couldn’t tell them about the incident in the darkroom? Just because it involved a part of life that my parents never gave words to?

I grew up internalising a hesitation about sexual relationships. More than hesitation, I began relating fear with them.

I used to get anxious when someone touched me, even though it is my loved one. Even today, I sit up at night the moment I feel someone’s leg or hand brushed against mine. For a long time, it was difficult for me to trust anyone. But if the younger me was taught that sex meant consent and not force and harassment and that harassment didn’t mean silence, things wouldn’t have been the same.

But now, I have made peace with the upbringing that went wrong because my parents themselves embody the wrong upbringing. Sex and sexuality was a taboo for their parents too. The difference is in the choice that we made, my parents chose to internalise while I question and vow to not repeat the upbringing gone wrong.

Also Read: An Unavoidable Conversation: Mothers Must Talk About Sex With Daughters

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