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Agents of Ishq – Conversations about sex shouldn’t only be about abuse and rape

© AFP/Getty Images/D. Dutta

© AFP/Getty Images/D. Dutta

The narrative of sex in India tends to have got stuck on the issues of violence, rape and harassment. This is not surprising considering that India is a country in which a majority of the women face sexual violence on a daily basis.

Coupled with this is the fact that sex has always been a taboo subject in Indian society. Since it is associated with much shame and ignominy, sex education has also lagged behind. An average Indian parent believes that sex education, rather than guiding youngsters towards sex, would actually encourage them to experiment with it. In fact, the then health minister Dr Harshvardhan, declared in 2014 that sex education should be banned. With sex being associated, largely with either violence or with shame, the idea of sex as a pleasurable activity often takes a backseat.

Agents of Ishq, (lshq in Urdu means love) is a multi-media project initiated by Paromita Vohra, writer, director and curator. It intends to change all that to create a space for talking about sex in a pleasurable manner. Its objective is to make interesting videos, beautiful pictures and engaging audios about sex love and desire in India. The website engages with visitors in a very simple yet funny language, using every day terms.

School children in India © DW/P. Chandavarkar

School children in India © DW/P. Chandavarkar

Agents of Ishq is part of Parodevi Pictures, an independent media and arts company based in Mumbai, which has been engaging with social constructs of sexuality since its inception in 1995, through documentaries, online videos, and art installations.

“When we talk about sex we are usually talking about sexual violence or some kind of danger or risk associated with sex. Which makes it seem like every time you talk about sex it is in a negative connotation that increases the sense of shame and fear around it, making people less confident and less able to keep themselves safe and happy,” says Paromita. Agents of Ishq is a project that wants to change that. “It will look at sex as not different from feelings, psychology, but rather think about love, sex and desire in one place. It will also provide information about safe sex, sexually transmitted infections, etc. and the body in a fun and engaging kind of a way without being judgemental,” she says.

Agents of Ishq also wants to bring forward the experiences of women with sex with making these experiences appear provocative or vulgar. For example, the recording of a young college girl named Meera and her first vibrator – the washing machine. Titled My First Vibrator – Meera describes the ways in which she discovered orgasm while washing clothes one lazy afternoon at home. The other interesting piece is by Elisa Brune titled ‘Jewels like Flowers: About Men’s bodies and Women’s desires. It is a candidly sensuous essay on the penis’ strange invisibility. It is rare to find such introspection on the subject of sexual intercourse in the public sphere.

The website also features interesting and humorous pieces on homosexual love too, giving expression to the diversity of sexual desire and also opening a window into the thoughts of those who experience sex differently. This kind of interaction helps to break stereotypes.

 Indian couple hug and chat in a park during Valentine's Day in New Delhi on February 14, 2014. © AFP/Getty Images/P. Singh

Indian couple hug and chat in a park during Valentine’s Day in New Delhi on February 14, 2014. © AFP/Getty Images/P. Singh

The platform contributes towards balancing the conversation on sex while keeping it humorous. One example is the comic book on masturbation titled ‘Parde mein rehne do’ (let it remain behind the curtain), in which a young man from Mumbai interviews different kinds of people about masturbation. The comic strip while dealing with an intimate activity like masturbation places it in the public sphere, sending the message that it is alright to talk about it openly.

Agents of Ishq also conducts workshops in collaboration with organizations that work with youngsters, trying to develop a positive and empowered language of sex, rather than one of shame.

The December 2012 a gang rape in India sent shock waves across the world. Of course, the fact that sexual violence had to be addressed adequately could not be denied. However, the association of sex with violence and fear had to be removed. That is where platforms like Agents of Ishq step in. With their candid, friendly and simple language they make conversations about sex simple yet nuanced with the emotions, doubts and thoughts they arouse in one’s mind. More importantly, it sends the message that it is ‘ok’ to think about sex and its diverse manifestations.

Author: Elsa Mathews

Editor: Marjory Linardy



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24.03.2016 | 15:03