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  • Being Asian at University and Exploring Sex

    University is a time where many Asians can explore their sexuality. DESIblitz discusses sex at uni and sexual restraints within South Asian culture.

    Being Asian at University and Exploring Sex

    "I hide the fact that I’m sexuality active from [my parents]"

    When approaching university, it seems that we are more concerned about how our sex lives will change, rather than what modules we are going to choose.

    For many South Asians, going to university is the first taste of independent freedom.

    One of the most popular explorations is sex.

    DESIblitz explores how sex can change and evolve for South Asians while at university.

    Traditional Views

    Those within the South Asian culture know all too well that sex is a taboo subject. Despite the changing attitudes towards sex among Asians, there is still an expectation to abstain from sex until after marriage.

    This traditional view comes from the notion of purity. Asian culture highly values virginity and women, in particular, are expected to remain virgins until after marriage.

    Out of respect, many Asians tend not to stray from their cultural beliefs and some willingly agree with the waiting period.

    But those who are curious often explore sex undercover; keeping it a secret from their families to avoid shame and judgement from other people.

    Shereen says: “I kind of get why parents don’t believe in sex before marriage, especially because I’m a girl. But it’s not the way I want my life to go.

    exploring-sexuality-university-2

    “I don’t want them to think badly of me and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them so I hide the fact that I’m sexuality active from them. Starting uni has made it easier.”

    And what better place to explore than at university?

    The Real Story of University Life

    Whether it is the influence of our television screens or our hormonal sexual drive, the idealistic university experience seems to involve being sexually active.

    But can university life be just as successful without it?

    As agreed by 80 percent of students who spoke to DESIblitz: “University is an important time in life. Away from home, where hormones are raging, and people with common interests are everywhere.”

    So it seems like the perfect time and environment for people to pursue sex freely.

    Being in a parent-free space with people of similar ages often ignites a curiosity towards individual sexuality.

    Trying to ‘fit in’

    As DESIblitz investigated further, it was found that a proportion of students feel pressured into sex as a way to ‘fit-in’ with the crowd.

    Suleiman comments:

    “I lost my virginity at university. Even though I don’t think I was ready, all my friends were having sex and I felt left out. I was new into the year and wanted a way to be involved in the group.”

    The Age of Consent varies between different countries. In the UK the limit is 16, 18 in India, between 16-18 in the USA and in Pakistan sex outside of marriage is illegal.

    In western countries, the average age that people lose their virginity is between 16-18 years old.

    Coming from stricter households, the average age of when South Asians lose their virginity is higher than those from more liberal households.

    What’s the Big Deal?

    Being Asian at University and Exploring Sex

    For many, the idea of engaging in stereotypical student activity -like being sexually active- is a daunting prospect.

    Harpreet speaks to DESIblitz:

    “Looking back last year, all I remember thinking was about how and if I wanted to lose my virginity at university. Because I’ve not really been exposed to this kind of sexual talk before, I found it interesting but it scared me at the same time.”

    But this may be an indication that someone is simply not ready or doesn’t want to explore their sexuality.

    This is also normal and should be widely accepted by people with opposing views.

    19-year-old Natasha tells us:

    “[As a university student] sex becomes a natural part of the conversation. But that’s not to say it’s a requirement of being a university student.”

    The pressure to conform is widespread among Asian students, particularly as a means to ‘fit-in’ with their peers who are raised with different values.

    However, it seems that negative attitudes towards those who are not sexually active are outdated and that virgins are becoming more ‘acceptable’ in the university environment.

    One student commented:

    “People shouldn’t feel pressured into sex. I think the issue is that people put pressure on themselves for not being sexually active rather than being pressured by other people… they make it an issue for themselves.”

    It seems our attitudes towards sex are evolving as this favoured view is widespread among many students from various backgrounds.

    Maybe we are putting unnecessary stress on ourselves when really; shouldn’t this be a personal decision to make without outside judgement?

    It’s Not All Black and White

    exploring-sexuality-university-3

    As traditional beliefs are rapidly changing towards a more liberal lifestyle for South Asians, a new kind of sexual exploration is being experimented.

    Despite the growing homosexual community among South Asians, many still find it difficult or are even repressed to revealing their sexuality to those closest to them.

    Although some people from all communities who are not heterosexual find it difficult to be accepted by wider society, South Asians also have to contend with the expectations of Desi culture and the traditional pressure of having children once married.

    “When I started uni I didn’t tell anyone that I was gay because if ever my family found out, they would go mad or probably force me to get married earlier as if that would make me straight. My friend was casually talking about the LGBT club at uni so I checked it out.

    “When I saw other Asians in there, I was shocked. I met my current boyfriend there and lost my virginity to him at uni. We kept it quiet for three years at uni and even now I know I could never tell my family.”

    It seems that many South Asians with strict views on sexuality and gender believe that other forms of sexuality do not apply to their community and that it is considered a shameful sin, often resulting in forced marriages or more seriously, honour violence.

    Many Asian people are forced to hide their true sexuality and University is often the time when people discover who they are attracted to or what gender they consider themselves.

    “Since I was 16, I always knew I was different. I didn’t feel like a boy and I was bullied for behaving in a feminine way. All of my friends are girls and other people thought I was gay.

    “It was only until I turned 30 that I decided that I wanted to be a proper girl, which meant sacrificing my family. They disowned me after I told them and I’m now 35, with no idea as to how my parents or brothers and sisters are.”

    For any advice or helpful information, you can visit your nearest clinic or contact:

    • NAZ Asia; Phone: 020 8741 1879
    • SASH (South Asian Sexual Health)
    • THT Direct: 0808 802 1221

    University is the first time that many British Asians will have the opportunity and freedom to explore sex and sexuality.

    However, sex isn’t a must at university. But if you do choose to explore sexuality, remember to stay safe!

    Aneeka is a Media and Cultural Studies graduate. As a spiritual being, she is fascinated by the wonders of life and the psychology of people. She enjoys dance, kickboxing and listening to music. Her motto is: “I saw that” - Karma.

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