It is often said that change is the only constant.
What remains a question is whether the change is whole-heartedly accepted. The period of adolescence brings with it innumerable changes which affect every aspect of an individual’s life. It facilitates the development of one of the fundamental elements of one’s identity- one’s sexuality.
Puberty, which is a major landmark in the growth of sexuality, is reached during the transitional phase of adolescence.
At a time when physical, cognitive and emotional changes are at the peak, adolescents are posed with challenges they are not usually well-equipped to handle. Often, they are unable to develop effective coping mechanisms, the consequences of which can be quite harmful. The attitude and approach of the family as well as the socio-cultural influences on these changes during puberty play an important role in determining the adolescent’s sexual behaviour. Sexual curiosity after the emergence of puberty leads adolescents to want to explore and know more about their sexuality. They also develop an interest towards the opposite sex which often leads to the development of romantic relationships.
The adolescents engage in sexual activity and sexual intercourse through these romantic relationships. It should be noted that adolescence is a stage when one is expected to become a mature individual but all aspects of his maturity, especially sexual maturity are not accepted in its entirety. We often find them resorting to pornography, erotic literature, adult magazines and other forms of sexual content brought to them by the media. It is a truth universally acknowledged that portrayal of sex by the media is not always in accordance with what actually happens in real life. The adolescents remain oblivious to the reality of sex and are blinded by fantasies created by the media. They tend to lack adequate knowledge about the important aspects relating to sex such as mutual consent, setting individual boundaries, creation of safe words or codes to be used during sexual activity, contraception, teenage pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) like HIV and AIDS; as a result of which there are greater chances of the adolescent falling prey to sexual exploitation and abuse or becoming a delinquent.
Why do adolescents have to take the help of media portrayals of sex and intimacy and other secondary sources in order to discover their sexuality and know more about sex? It is because their questions regarding sex are met with harsh criticism and are usually not entertained. The idea that sex is something that should not be openly talked about in front of people has been ingrained in their minds since their childhood. Remember the giggles and hushed voices when we were taught the chapter on the reproductive system in our Biology classes? Or the awkward silence and the switching of channels when the actors share an intimate moment onscreen or when an advertisement endorsing condoms appears while you are watching television with your parents? All of the above instances highlight the stigma surrounding sex that prevails in our society.
When sex is considered as a taboo and discussions about sex and sexuality are discouraged, the young people are unable to achieve the guidance, empathy and moral support that they require in their journey of growing up and self discovery. As far as parenting goes in India, once a boy or a girl attains puberty, sex feels like the elephant in the room ; a subject that is refrained from being talked about. The concept of virginity is more of a social construct which is given undue importance by the society as a means of controlling the sexual behaviour of its individuals, especially girls and women. Often, the inability to conform to the norms stemming from such notions is met with severe criticism and punishments.
Adolescents must be encouraged to ask questions about the changes that they go through. Parents and teachers must engage in healthy conversations with teenagers regarding sex and sexuality. They should be made to realise that it is okay to not understand what they are going through. They have the right to know about their body and sexuality. They should be told that engaging in sexual activity is not wrong and not a mistake, provided they take the necessary steps to ensure that the experience does not have adverse effects in their lives. Conversing is an effective way of raising awareness about sexual abuse and exploitation. These little efforts will pave the way for a better life and a better sexual experience for the adolescents.
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Hello, I am Maniparna Sen.
I am a nineteen year old who aspires to change the world one reality check and one effort at a time. I believe that poetry and music are inexhaustible forms of magic which make the world a more beautiful place. On days when I can’t voice my feelings, my pen comes to the rescue.
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