A seemingly normal activity like watching a cricket match with your son in his early teens can so very easily turn out to become a massive lesson in sex education! The recently concluded India-England test series brought immense joy to Indian cricket enthusiasts, as the home team hammered the visitors 4-0. I watched quite a few sessions of these test matches with my son who is all set to turn 14 in a couple of weeks.
Ads for mobile phones, batteries, beauty products and others evoked no curiosity in my son. But the darned condom ad did!
Of course, we had to pay the price by having to sit through incessant advertisements, most of which happened to be timed at critical junctures of the match. Was a run scored? Did a batsman get out? You have to sit in suspense until the ads are aired. Anyway, I tolerate these ads, as without the revenue from them there will be no cricket on TV, well, almost nothing on TV perhaps.
Among the ads that were repeated, the one that was a cause of concern and the reason for this blog was a condom advertisement that kept appearing with discomfiting frequency. Ads for mobile phones, batteries, beauty products and others evoked no curiosity in my son. But the darned condom ad did!
He asked the dreaded question, "What is a condom?" I was physically, intellectually and emotionally totally unprepared to answer appropriately. Having been raised in a rather conservative family of three boys, my head started spinning looking for answers and then rehearsing them. Ultimately, I stalled, saying, "I will tell you after this over." That was the best I could manage then.
Why should a condom ad be played during a cricket match? Don't these channel-walas know that kids will be watching these matches? And why do these ads always have scantily clad women? If they are showing these ads, why do they not explain what it is for in the ad itself? As such even explaining the fundamentals was an enormously challenging task. How would I explain "dotted", "ribbed", "extra pleasure", "extra long" and the even more ridiculous jasmine, strawberry and chocolate flavours? Strawberry and chocolate, for my quite innocent son, meant nothing more than ice creams. I was getting more flustered with each minute, much to the concern of my son, who asked, "Are you alright?" And I found myself repeating, "I will tell you after this over," which left my son quite amused. Fortunately, the doorbell rang and I was rescued from this hostile situation by my son's friend as both of them left to play cricket, without ads, of course.
It was quite clear that my ability to break the mental barrier of discussing sensitive subjects with my son was being put to a very severe challenge. I felt inadequate and grossly underprepared. What would my friends have done in a similar situation with their children? I wondered hard and long but had no answer. I knew the relief was temporary, as there would be more cricket, more ad breaks and more condom ads.
How would I explain "dotted", "ribbed", "extra pleasure", "extra long" and the even more ridiculous jasmine, strawberry and chocolate flavours?
Most of us, particularly in India, tend to approach sex without any application of mind. We are like the pinch hitters in cricket—the runs will come but without any technique on display. Thus all of us had children and are today watching cricket matches with them, being put into a precarious situation of having to explain condoms to them. At one level I knew this was a golden opportunity to break the ice and impart sex education, but I felt I lacked the skills.
It is abundantly clear that there exists a vast section of sex ed-challenged people across layers of society. The sooner we rectify this anomaly, the better. Schools should take up sex education in a structured manner and conduct counselling sessions for parents also to tide over blush-inducing ad break moments such as the kind I was faced with. Why, we don't talk sex with our spouses. There seems to be a humungous mind block to discuss this subject and I attribute it to a lack of proper knowledge and appropriate orientation.
Most of us tend to approach sex without any application of mind. We are like the pinch hitters in cricket—the runs will come but without any technique on display.
When I say lack of knowledge, I am reminded of a friend's uncle, during our teens, who was faced with the same predicament as I was when a condom ad which was shown before a movie began (as part of the government's family control drive). Though none of us asked him what a condom was, he took it upon himself to enlighten us and said, "It is a bubble gum, but you can have it only after you get married." We thus remained mystified and clueless. When I did eventually find out what a condom was and its role in coital harmony, I wondered what prompted the gentleman compare a condom to an innocuous bubble gum. Lack of sex ed empowerment, clearly.
Having said all this, I am yet to commence the task of answering the question my son has posed. Now, I am placing the same question to the whole wide world—what would you have told your teenage son or daughter if you were asked this question?
That a friend of mine told me that his teenage son told him more about condoms than he himself knew is an entirely different matter!
In the meantime, you guys showing cricket matches, could you please stop showing condom ads during these matches. At least until millions like myself find a way to play this ball with appropriate technique.