Sex has long been thought of as a topic cloaked in fantasy, privacy, and kept between the sheets of consenting adults. That is, unless you look into any mainstream media. Movies and advertising might have you believing that sex not only sells but that it should be something that comes easy to anyone engaged in the conversation.
Uttering the word sex often comes with feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness when in a group of people, or worse, with parents. Sex has always been associated with unpleasantness, dirt and immoraity.
Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “Sex shouldn’t be a secretive thing that you learn when you’re old enough to understand. It isn’t a hard concept and if there was proper education on the topic there wouldn’t be such a stigma surrounding healthy conversations about sex. Why don’t we give our children real answers about sex without lying to them? Why do we have to speak in hushed tones while talking about it with our friends? Why does bringing up sex in class discussions cause people to tense up? While taboos are often used to suppress instincts, cultural and societal oddities, etc. this taboo about sex seems to only make it grow larger. The more secretive we are about it, the bigger it becomes in our heads. Kids in schools are taught the basics about sex. What goes on, how you can contract diseases, the risk of pregnancies, etc. Yet many schools don’t teach the emotional implications it can have as well as useful and in depth discussions about the reproductive system or how to take care of your sexual health.”
Though sex is something that humans indulge in time to time, it is still considered as a taboo in many parts of the world. But despite the ubiquity of sex and sexual thoughts, many people are extremely uncomfortable talking about sex, even with those close to them. Frank discussions on topics related to sex remain taboo in many areas of our society. It seems strange that a topic so fundamental, so important, is still so taboo in many cultures. The shame and silence surrounding sex is because of society. In order to encourage sex positivity and educate ourselves and future generations, barriers need to be broken and that means tearing down society’s preconceived notions about sex that continue to be engrained in us. For whatever reason, people have learned that sex and reproductive health are not natural topics; that we should not discuss them with others and that we need to keep a cone of privacy around them. Young girls are sexualized for wearing even the modest of dresses. We sexualize young boys and girls when we say, “o gola sentle.” We sexualize women when we put them on the front pages of magazines. We fetishize and objectify bodies so often that sex becomes a sensitive topic. We don’t like to talk about sex with other genders because we are afraid of the objectification and shame that comes with it. We don’t like to talk about sex with people of other ages because we are afraid of it sounding odd or coming off as flirtatious or awkward.
Dr Sophie Moagi, clinical psychologist in Gaborone says, “Oftentimes, you hear young people having hushed conversations about serious issues in sex. These topics should’ve been discussed in school. Young people shouldn’t have to rely on hushed conversations in passageways to get information about their bodies and safe sex habits. Especially because many aren’t having “the talk” or any talk about sex or sexual health with their parents. If we have healthy open conversations about these these topics, maybe our society will mirror these conversations. Perhaps we will evolve and disregard the stigmas of promiscuity and virginity. Maybe we’ll have better sexual health and finally teach women about their bodies and various disorders female reproductive systems can have.”
Deemed as massively inappropriate, society-structured cultural norms and values hold out that sex should never be talked about in front of anybody. Since it is a very private act where two people share compassion, many cultures do not allow open discussions or depiction of such instances. It is mainly the society’s projection of how talking about sex is such a vile thing to do, that schools and parents often fail to impart sex education and adults don’t openly talk about their sexual health or preferences. The societal culture deems sex as a means for married people to produce babies and those who have sex before their marriage are seen as improper and a disgrace to society. In extreme cases, it is called cheap and vulgar but if the discussion shifts to marriage, it is pure and holy. Such hypocrisy is the result of singular, narrow-minded people who try to implement their ideologies and beliefs onto others as well.