On love, safety and consent

I understand if you abhor public displays of affection, especially the ones spawned by capitalism in the name of love. However, I am going to wish you Happy Valentine’s Day because every spot on the calendar that is dedicated to love is worth celebrating. May you be inundated with so much love in all its hues and forms that you cannot help but spread it all around you. 

If you plan to spend the day — or at least part of it — in front of a screen, I recommend watching Sex Education, a beautiful show created by Laurie Nunn that is available on Netflix India. It is a British web series that is currently in its second season. Read this piece I wrote for The Hindu to know more about how it uses the structural elements of a high school romantic comedy, and subverts the genre to have mature conversations about what it means to establish and communicate boundaries, to feel safe, and to express oneself fully without the threat of violence.

Season 2 has become a major talking point in urban, English-speaking India, because of the feminist values it espouses, and for being queer affirmative as well as sex positive. As I mention in the article, it opens up the meanings of consent beyond the mere formality of seeking permission before sexual intercourse. It invites viewers to think about how respect lies at the core of feeling safe and making others feel safe. It tries to take the stigma out of experiences that make people feel small, excluded or confused.

What I appreciate most about this show is that it does not try to sell abstinence as an answer to questions about safety. It dares to talk about masturbation, vaginismus, sex toys, contraception, pregnancy and fetishes in ways that demystify rather than discourage curiosity. It challenges biphobia, slut-shaming, and misinformation about sexually transmitted infections. At the same time, it stays far away from being preachy.

Shows that challenge heteronormativity often overlook the experiences of people who identify as asexual but this one does not. It acknowledges that sex is not exciting for everyone. As I discuss in this article, there are people who seek only emotional intimacy and romance from their partners. This does not imply that they are deficient. There is diversity in nature, and being asexual is an expression of that.

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