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Let’s Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex – Swati Shome

Let’s Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex – Swati Shome

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Let’s Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex – Swati Shome

Shweta Kapoor

Your book discusses a topic that is generally shied away from in Indian society; why do you think talking about sex is still taboo in our country? What do you think we can do to change this?

I can think of several reasons:

Currently we have a mismatch in the age at which one reaches puberty, and gets interested in sex, and the age of being able to get married and support a family. This was not a problem faced by our grandparents who got married at much earlier ages. I believe we, as a society, don’t know how to deal with this discrepancy and have decided to keep quiet and just let things happen. 

We have not been taught how to speak about such topics. Often people don’t have the vocabulary. For many Indians, our parents and teachers never taught us the appropriate words to use for our different body parts!

There are so many books and online resources nowadays that there is no excuse for parents not to educate themselves on their own.

Somehow parents think that the ‘sex talk’ is a one time event. Yet they are not realising that children are being bombarded with issues related to sex from very young ages. It has to be an ongoing discussion between parents and children.

Talking about sex with one’s partner can be difficult because people are very vulnerable at the time. Yet relationships become so much more meaningful if they do communicate well. 

Avoid porn as a source of information. Porn is an unrealistic, highly edited, depiction of sex between actors made for the purpose of entertainment. It does not depict a loving relation between a couple.

Use stories from the news or from books or videos to start a conversation with your loved ones. That is the reason each of the 47 chapters of my book starts with a story. 

 

The book discusses lot of important things like basics of sex, sexual consent, puberty, sexual abuse and online harassment. What was the writing process of your book like? How did you decide the topics?

I first started writing down stories of my personal life or that I had heard. I was not sure if it was going to be a blog or a book. But as I gathered more material around the topic, I felt confident that I could have a book. I researched what topics were covered by books of similar genres and added topics that I wanted to be written about. But I did not have first hand stories to go with the topics. Hence I ended up asking people to share their real life stories with me. 

Initially I wrote stories that I know from personal experience or stories from friends. A friend told me that it would be great if I could add nonfiction information after each story and make it into a book. 

My manuscript was accepted on the basis that I increase the world count from 13,000 words to 40,000 words. I had no stories to add. Where was I to find them? I sat in a book cafe looking for inspiration. With a lot of trepidation I started telling people that I was writing a book with the title “Let’s Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex’. And to my surprise about one third of these people shared their stories!

Later I needed stories for topics that the editors suggested. For example, they wanted stories about contraceptives from a man’s point of view. I asked my writer’s group, we had a meetup based on my book and I got a ton of information. 

 

You mention in your note that you have been planning to write the book since 2012 and talked to a lot of people during your research. What was the initial reaction of most people when you approached them?

You might think that there was a lot of unwanted attention. There was none. Every person who I spoke to  really wanted their story to be out in a book so that others would not suffer like them. Often we spoke in a cosy book cafe where many others could overhear our conversation. They surprisingly overcame their fear and told their stories- often of vulnerability in front of other strangers too!

 I was humbled and quite surprised that so many people were willing to talk openly about such personal topics. The people I talked to were aged 22-90. I guess people really want to talk about the topic, they are just waiting for permission to do so!

 

We’re going to assume you’ve had the ‘sex talk’ with your children! Do you have advice for parents of adolescents and pre-teens who shy away from having the talk with their children?

Sex is an uncomfortable topic to talk about with our children. But then so was pregnancy and labour.  

“It is our responsibility as parents to talk. Not once, not as only pre-planned lectures, but as a part of ongoing conversations.”

How? Ask. Ask friends and family, how did they go about teaching their children about menstruation, where do babies come from, what are condoms, and other topics. 

Read books or go online and find resources. There are beautiful videos that explain many of these topics. Watch them, figure out which ones you want your kids to watch, watch them with your kids and be there to answer their questions. 

We need to learn the correct vocabulary and teach it to our kids too. 

If they ask a question and you are not prepared with an answer, do not mislead them. Let them know that you will get back with an answer in a few days. And then go do your homework!

 

Teenagers today often have false notions and expectations of love and sex from the movies and internet. Where do you think should we draw the line so that they realise the difference between what is reel and what is real? 

Currently many kids only get information from reel life,i.e. movies, internet and friends who have also only had the internet and movies as major information providers. Very few parents seem to be openly  having the conversation with their kids. 

Unfortunately, Bollywood has for many decades been promoting the idea that the way to ‘get a girl’ of your dreams is by harassing her. Only recently have they been realising their mistake and making better movies. 

Porn is definitely not a resource for information on how to have a relationship.

When teenagers go to the internet for information, they will not go to an academic site for information.  They will instead go to popular sites. Unfortunately sleaziness and violence are attention grabbers and are often the most popular sites. 

It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure the kids get correct information and that they feel comfortable enough to talk openly about any problem that is bothering them 

Talk to your children. Discuss the movies that you watch together. How do they depict love and relationships? Do you agree with the values depicted? If you see a meme or article that you don’t like, don’t simply forbid your child to watch or read it- explain why. If you as a parent don’t talk, then the only place for teenagers to get information are the movies and internet.

 

You are a scientist, a teacher, a writer and an artist. What is your work schedule like while you’re writing?

I am an organiser of the Pune Writers’ Group.  We have 12 writing events happening every month. Twice a week we meet at a book cafe and write (personal projects), get feedback from each other and definitely get inspired by fellow writers. There is a pressure of having a decent piece to read out in front of fellow writers every week. This has been helping me write regularly for the past year and a half. 

About the Interviewee:

Dr Swati Shome is passionate about making science accessible and interesting to all.
Her latest book published by Jaico Publishers, Let's Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex, is a candid collection of personal anecdotes and information related to the topic.
Her biography of Jagadish Chandra Bose, Jagadish and the Talking Plant, has been listed as best book for children (2013) by Time Out Bangalore.
Her picture book Lion Goes for a Haircut is available in 9 different languages
She has worked as a content developer for NCERT, New Delhi for an online science teacher’s training course. She has taught hands-on science activities to middle school students for over 7 years.
She did her PhD in cell biology from USA
She is also a mother of two children aged 13 and 17.