What would you do if your parents chanced upon your sex toy?
It may sound like a question for a party game, but it can be a real possibility for many young Indians, who live at home. The pandemic has not only pushed more people to move back in with their parents, but it has also pushed more Indians to buy sex toys. A survey showed that sale of sex toys went up 65% after the first lockdown last year.
Given these figures and the fact that more urban youth are speaking out about topics considered taboo, it’s likely that you may find yourself in a conversation with your parents about sex or masturbation.
So, how do you talk to your Indian parents about the fact that you use a vibrator or fleshlight to masturbate, when most parents still rush to grab the remote to change channels when an intimate scene comes on TV?
According to sexuality educator Karishma S., while there are some steps that can make the conversation easier, the approach depends on your parents, as there is no one-size-fits-all way to have this conversation. “It’s important to remember that your personal safety is a priority, above all else. If you think your parents would not be open at all to such a conversation and your safety may be in question, find a way to lie about your sex toy,” she told Re:Set.
However, if you’re in a position to have this conversation and address the big, neon pink vibrator in the room, then the following steps may help.
Test the waters
Taking into consideration your relationship with your parents, your gender, and your parents’ mindsets, start small with casual conversation. “Bring up a TV show that has a masturbation scene or sex toy in it, or an advertisement they may have seen. Keep it casual, so as to gauge your parents thoughts on sex toys,” Karishma told Re:Set. Bringing up the subject indirectly is a great way to slowly initiate the conversation in a way that doesn’t make your parents uncomfortable either. It also helps in navigating the rest of the conversation, as it’s not directed at you or your parents.
Focus on the positives
If you feel comfortable to have a bigger conversation, after the small talk, you can launch into why you chose to use a sex toy. Sticking to the positives will help assuage any concerns your parents may have of you indulging in a ‘dirty’ act. “Talk up the sex toy and the pros of masturbation. Read up on facts and the science behind masturbation and tell them why it’s helpful and safe, in order to reassure them,” Karishma said, adding that you can also open the floor for questions and ask them if they have any doubts. Making it an inclusive conversation is always beneficial, as it makes everyone feel more relaxed and not on edge.
Assert your agency
It’s important to remind yourself that while it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have with parents, as an adult, you’re allowed to make decisions about your body. “You may be living with them, but you don’t need to feel uncomfortable about setting boundaries with them. It’s good to keep in mind that how you treat your body is your decision as an adult,” she said, reiterating that you can choose how far the conversation goes and if it may lead to conflict, you can choose not to have it either.
“Don’t be hard on yourself if your parents don’t listen to you in the first go. This is not something that can be resolved with one conversation, but multiple,” Karishma said, further suggesting that relying on external support systems like friends or a partner would be helpful in such a situation. “Gently push back on any preconceived notions they may have, and it will take time, but with patience and openness, you can further the conversation,” she said, adding that backing up your side of the conversation with news articles, scientific research, and any source that your parents may trust, would be an added benefit.