‘Sex Talk’ with Friends vs Parents

In the Desi community, sex talk with parents and with friends vastly differs. We spoke to various people about their experiences.

'Sex Talk' with Friends vs Parents f

"Maybe that’s where this awkwardness comes from."

Sex talk can be awkward for some, especially in South Asian communities.

Sex education is prevalent in schools but unfortunately, many Desi parents believe that its aim is to encourage sex among children.

That is not the case, In actual fact, it aims to teach children about consent, sexual and emotional health.

Its purpose is to teach children how to make informed decisions about their bodies and the best way to protect their health.

Sex education is a basic necessity. Only if children are taught about sexual health can they look out for themselves. It will give them both awareness and confidence.

Ignorance is not safety.

In recognition of this, the government introduced The Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations Act 2019.

This act made Relationship Education mandatory for primary school children and Relationship and Sex Education mandatory for secondary schools.

While it is mandatory, parental/guardian consent for sex education is required.

Naturally, this new law was a controversial one among Desi parents.

In the Desi community, sex is considered taboo but it isn’t among teenagers.

Therefore, it is important to discuss sex education with parents and teenagers/young adults.

DESIblitz compares ‘sex talk’ among friends and ‘sex talk’ with parents.

‘Sex Talk’ with Parents

'Sex Talk' with Friends vs Parents 2

To get a well-rounded view of why discussing sex is controversial, we spoke to parents across England.

Mehwish Hussain*, a 46-year-old woman from Bradford says:

“I’m glad children are being educated on sex at school because I certainly find it awkward. I was born and raised in the UK but grew up very traditionally.

“Maybe that’s where this awkwardness comes from.

“My parents never gave me the sex talk so I don’t know how I would approach it myself. When I received the consent form, I gave my consent because it made my life easier.

“It’s a very important topic but I don’t think I’m the right person to educate.”

For Mehwish, it was never about disapproving of sex education among teenage children. Rather, it’s an awkward topic, having never been given one herself.

She feels unable to give the sex talk herself despite knowing it’s a crucial conversation to be had.

For many parents like Mehwish, sex education at school frees them of the burden of having these awkward conversations.

A contrasting view is shared by Abdul Shah*, a 38-year-old father from Birmingham:

“I don’t think I’d give my daughter the sex talk. I think they shouldn’t be exposed to such things at such a young age.

“With periods, I understand they should be taught at school but not sex. Why do they have to learn such things at that age?

“All it does is make them more curious. They can wait for when they’re old enough to engage in such activities.

“An age where children should be in education has now become an age where they call sex talk education. Just wrong man.”

Many people see sex education as a means of encouragement, therefore, they are not giving their children the ‘sex talk’ at home and school acts as a deterrence against sexual acts.

Such misinformation is easy to spread among the Desi community that often sticks to a fixed cultural understanding of sex.

In a community where sex is taboo, such discussions especially to children are a threat to all that they’ve known and believed.

Haider Khan*, a 26-year-old father from London says:

“When the time comes, my wife and I will be educating our children on this. I will give them the sex talk when they’re around 13. It’s important to talk about these things.

“In the Desi community, everyone acts like they don’t have sex when the reality is totally different.

“I remember being a very curious boy myself and my parents didn’t teach us about these things.

“I learnt it from my friends, and it was all so and so heard this. Nothing was accurate.

“I’m not going to make the same mistakes. My kids have to know what safe sex is. They have to understand there is nothing gross about a period.

“I do think most parents have their children’s best interest at heart, but sex education is a necessity.”

For Haider, sex education is mandatory as it is about protecting his children by empowering them with education.

Having been a teenager himself, he understands that children are curious creatures. He knows that teenagers speak about sex at some point or the other.

A parent should educate them, rather than rely on other children that lack the same understanding.

A similar thought process is shared by Sumaya Kareem*, a mother of three from Bradford:

“I’ve taught my children many things relating to sex education.

“Good touch and bag touch was something we taught them at a very young age because that’s important. That’s basic safety.

“We live in a world where no one is safe. Not even children. All these headlines every few days.”

Sex education is vital. Children are very vulnerable and easily manipulated. The lack of sex education is a disadvantage.

Unfortunately, children are often exploited, and they have no clue they’re being exploited. Hence, sex education is a basic necessity.

Sumaya continues: “I was taught to hide my period pads and I remember how that made me feel. My parents had this old-school mentality of keeping period days quiet.

“I want my children to tell me if they’re experiencing period pain.”

Communication between parents and children is vital for children to feel protected. A good relationship has to be in place so children can share their feelings with their parents, no matter how intimate.

Sumaya says: “I want them to know about sex so they can make informed decisions.

“And if they are ever put into a vulnerable position, they know how to protect themselves. It’s really important for me to create a safe space for my little ones.

“I’m glad schools are doing their bit in educating children because some parents clearly won’t.”

Mother of one Avneet Kaur* says: “I feel the sex talk is more important than ever. With children’s exposure to tech, it is so easy for them to be groomed and easily manipulated.

“I really think that the actual sex talk should be given at 13. I think I was about that age when I was becoming more sexually aware.”

Parents that are more in touch with their own sexual awakening often feel it is necessary for their children to be educated on sex around the same age.

Avneet adds: “My husband feels 13 is too young. He wants to give her the talk at around 15. It’s only a 2-year difference but I think it’s a huge difference.

“The level of understanding you have at 13 is entirely different to 15.”

Avneet’s husband Paramjit shares:

“I just feel 13 is far too young to teach a kid about sex. 15 is more okay.

“I’ll protect her forever. I just don’t want her to become curious about those things at such a young age. I want her to know about periods and those sorta things but not actual sex.”

Another problem with the sex talk is that parents are not always like-minded on what age is the most appropriate for these types of discussions.

In some cases, one parent is completely for the sex talk, whilst the other parent is completely against it.

While sex talk is difficult ground for a lot of parents. It is often said to be much easier with friends.

‘Sex Talk’ among Friends

'Sex Talk' with Friends vs Parents

For a lot of teenagers and young adults, discussing sex with friends may be easier than with their parents.

DESIblitz also spoke to teenagers and young adults about their experiences.

Twenty-one-year Zara Ahmed* shares:

“My parents were super old school. I don’t think I ever got the period talk, let alone a discussion on sex.

“I knew about sex at 13 or even younger. Every bloody kid does. I can’t remember exactly how it got around to me, but it was through friends.

“One friend was touched inappropriately by a classmate, and she didn’t tell anyone but us.

“Looking back, I wish I raised this to the teachers or told my parents about it. I feel like we all failed to protect her.

“We got taught about sexual assaults at school too, but it was proper like read between the lines type of sex education.”

A lack of sex education among children can lead to a distorted understanding of consent. Thus, children must be taught consent from an early age so abuse of any kind is not tolerated.

A safe space also needs to be created, so children can be children without being traumatised.

For many children, exposure to sex is not thrilling or buzzing. It is traumatising to learn about consent through negative experiences.

The parents and schools must do better to create safe spaces for children.

Speaking about his experience of sex education, 18-year-old Hamza Tariq* said:

Porn. That’s what gave me all the sex education at 14. All the boys used to watch it at school, and it gave us a proper idealised understanding of sex.

“It’s only now that I’m much older that I know the difference between porn and sex.

“My friends and I didn’t talk about it all the time but when we did it used to be crazy. A bunch of horny teenagers.”

“I never got the sex talk at home. It’d be weird, to be honest. I can’t imagine my parents saying all that.”

The embarrassment of sex talk appears to be a mutual feeling among teenagers and parents.

But in contrast to many Desi parents’ beliefs, sex is not a taboo conversation among teenagers.

Porn exposes children to different forms of sex. Not only does it present a glamorised understanding of sex but there can also be other negative consequences such as porn addiction.

Neha Patel*, 17-year-old shares: “A lot of my understanding of sex comes from books and TV shows.

“Nobody really cares about age ratings. At school, we have some steamy books that we share around.

“It’s actually a bit funny because we all know what we’ve read and crack a few jokes but never actually talk about sex.

“Even though, I know a lot of people my age and younger are having sex.”

Children are exposed to sex through various unsupervised mediums like books and TV shows. Many books that can be accessed physically through peers or online have soft porn material.

For many Desi parents, books are educational. Just not the education they had in mind.

Neha acknowledges that sex is something that many teenagers are doing.

It is important that if children are choosing to have sex, they are at least taught consent and protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancies etc.

Sandeep Ahuja*, aged 23, says:

“I can see why parents would think children are clueless about sex. Children are often perceived as innocent and ignorant.

“In many ways, I was too at that age but during my secondary school years, I became very aware of sex.

“My parents gave me the sex talk when I was around 14 but by then I already kind of knew it all through friends who got the talk.”

Many children learn about sex through friends at a very young age. It is not always to shield them from discussions and exposure to sex.

Famida Aklam*, aged 19, shares:

“My mum and dad sat me down and gave me the talk. I’m glad they did because I got a much better understanding of it all. They explained it much better than in school.

“I know a lot of my friends didn’t get this talk and I sort of had to tell them what I knew of it. There is so much misinformation out there.

“A lot of us read Wattpad growing up and that was just porn on paper. It gave a lot of people a wrong understanding of sex.

“I was given the sex talk and was told about all sorts of protection, but they did reinforce that it was by no means encouragement.

“It was a tad bit embarrassing at the time but looking back I’m so glad they did.”

Conversations that are often difficult for parents to navigate come easy to children. That barrier of shame and embarrassment is often non-existent between friends that are of similar age.

Famida is now grateful to have been given the sex talk. Not only did she educate her friends but she also cleared misunderstandings.

Twenty-year-old Junaid Hussain* explains:

“I come from a very cultural family. Getting consent for the sex education session at school was a real pain.

“My sisters had to intervene and highlight that it was important to be educated on these things.

“For me, it was just embarrassing to be one of the few in the classroom while everyone was getting the talk in the assembly hall.

“My friends would have come out and shared everything but it’s not nice being the only one that’s kind of being hidden from it.

“Like come on, everyone knows what sex and a condom are.”

The idea that children are aware of what sex is before parents even talk to them about it is a reoccurring one.

Thus, it is important to educate children on all matters regards sex education.

If you are a parent considering how to teach sex education to your children, these sources are very
helpful:

These websites will hopefully help parents provide proper sex education to their children and make the topic less taboo to discuss.

"Nasrin is a BA English and Creative Writing graduate and her motto is ‘it doesn’t hurt to try’."

*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity