The Asian community tends to steer clear from discussing taboo subjects such as sex and periods in family households. It’s so hush-hush that it’s almost like these topics don’t exist, and because of this, there is a lack of communication between parents and teenagers, causing a barrier. It can only be expected when impressionable youth aren’t able to speak openly and ask questions regarding these subjects.
Almost everyone learns about sex education and the menstrual cycle in school, which is expected and thankfully useful, especially for those who are completely blindsided by what is going on. However, parents cannot just rely on school education to teach their kids about these topics. How is it that we go into school to learn about biology and healthcare and yet it is such a no-go zone at home, a space which is supposed to be a sanctuary?
Often enough, culture and religion can clash, which perhaps plays a part in what is being communicated. In Islam, sex before marriage is forbidden, and dating itself is also not allowed; however, that hasn’t stopped young teenagers from wanting to pursue a relationship. Like me, you probably also know a few people who have kept their relationships a secret, not just for religious reasons, but also to hide from judgement and shame that may be brought upon their family because of culture and tradition.
Let’s Talk Periods
In Islam, Muslim women aren’t able to pray or fast when they are on their periods. In my household, not being able to fast or pray is a constant undercover job that myself and my mum have been undertaking in a home surrounded by four boys. I dislike this sort of lifestyle of constantly having to lie about myself and what I’m going through on a monthly basis just to “protect” men from knowing what they are already aware of.
I believe that boys, regardless of if they have any sisters or not, should be informed about what periods are, so that they are aware of the sensitivity of the matter. tweet
When women don’t fast during Ramadan, they are constantly asked as to why by men who should remember that the act of fasting is between the faster and Allah. It isn’t their business to ask! The menstrual cycle isn’t something to be ashamed of; it is a part of life, and something young boys (and grown men) need to understand.
I believe that boys, regardless of if they have any sisters or not, should be informed about what periods are, so that they are aware of the sensitivity of the matter. For example, they may shame a girl who bleeds in class, rather than helping her and having a little compassion whilst she’s feeling shy and embarrassed.
This openness applies to mothers and daughters, too. As close as many girls are with their mothers, often enough, the topic of the period still doesn’t get hashed out in an open and honest space. Most girls go through it knowing a little about it from talking to friends or learning about it in school. As far as they’re concerned, this indicates that their period is something to hide, which does nothing to help them and their self-esteem.
Sex and Marriage
There’s a blurred line between the discussion of sex and marriage. Becoming part of a new family and looking after the household is often what ladies will constantly hear, but parents tend to skip a few steps and not really mention sex. However, some of what marriage entails — the act of sex or love-making — becomes a clear no-zone for both the parent and teen. Does that mean teens don’t have questions regarding sex? Of course not! What it does mean is that they may turn to less safe spaces to get their answers.
We have questions and are curious about the subject of sex because we live in a society where it’s everywhere; most often seen in television shows or films. However, what we see is not reality. This representation of sex is fake. It’s been presented in a way that looks good, so a lot of young people have expectations that are completely unrealistic. After all, their minds have been filled with unrealistic presentations of what sex means, which again, is something that will disappoint them when it comes time because they aren’t being exposed to the realities of it.
It’s funny how our elders are able to discuss marriage without actually having to talk about sex, and yet somehow, they are comfortable mentioning procreation…minus, of course, the part how we get there. tweet
Your parents may try approach the topic of sex, but have you noticed how it’s always indirect and never straight forward? It’s like a mind game where you have to figure out what the subject at hand is, based on some wayward conversation where you have to look for clues in order to decode what is actually being said. Why can’t we just be straightforward? It’s funny how our elders are able to discuss marriage without actually having to talk about sex, and yet somehow, they are comfortable mentioning procreation…minus, of course, the part how we get there.
I find it so unusual that Asian parents are so quick to want their kids to get married without preparing them beforehand. There are things that really should be discussed in a safe environment as kids are going through puberty, yet parents want to put a cloak over these taboo topics. I suppose the expectation is that if their kids remain unaware, they won’t pursue sex and will be on their best behaviour. Unlikely, parents. Whilst the education system has helped many teenagers understand the basics of what sex is, there is so much more that parents can help with, such as the emotional weight and vulnerability of sex, for example.
I know many people will agree that the birds and the bees aren’t exactly something you want to discuss with your parents, but if your parents aren’t being forward with you about taboo topics such as sex, then it prevents discussion on other life-altering issues surrounding the topic, such as consent.
And consent is already a topic that isn’t discussed enough. There are many ways for you to say yes or no to performing sex. You can begin with wanting to act on your lustful impulses, and then halfway through you can say no. Yet somehow, rape culture has somehow convinced us that once you’ve given the okay beforehand, you aren’t allowed to change your mind. Even if you don’t want your kids to engage in the act, it’s always important to teach them that this isn’t true, and that you can change your mind at any point. It’s important to talk about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control to give them a better chance at making smart, informed decisions. Parents, you need to stop hiding and keeping your kids in the dark about such serious matters.
Whether the parent or teen makes the first move, it doesn’t matter, as long as information is being shared in a safe and honest environment. tweet
I can understand that guarding these taboos was normal for many of our parents growing up, but in this day and age where exposure is rife, this no longer works. Parents need to open up and be comfortable with talking about these subjects because it’s only a matter of time before their kids find out more about it themselves. Having a parent to share and talk to openly is a great way to learn more in a safe space.
I know it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but we should be able to talk to our parents or at least, our gender-equal about these subjects. So, get a cup of tea, sit down, and talk about it! Whether the parent or teen makes the first move, it doesn’t matter, as long as information is being shared in a safe and honest environment. Stop shying away from real topics. Start educating and learning from each other.
For more from Sharin Hussain, follow her on Instagram.