To everyone who prayed and fasted on Tuesday to prevent the world from being sucked into a black hole on Wednesday: thanks for nothing. The world didn’t end this week, even though I waited until the end of the day and all the next day too, and I had to write a column after all. Typical. Apparently the unexpectedly nerdy Horsemen of the Apocalypse plan to get into serious universe-ending gear only a year from now, after their Large Hadron Collider has practiced on enough hapless protons.
This irritating state of affairs did, however, mean that courier services continued. Courier delivery people are hired purely for their ability to show up at the precise moment when you’ve lathered up a storm of shampoo on your head, or entered the delta stage of your sleep cycle, or gotten your head and arms irretrievably mixed up in the shirt you were pulling on and are jerking about like a decapitated chicken. That’s what they’re waiting for. That’s when they ring the doorbell, sometimes twice, just to know that somewhere inside the house, inconvenient haste has turned to blind panic.
So I shot out of bed, rinsed my hair, busted out of my shirt, and snatched the door open to find the courier guy handing me Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers by Radhika Chandiramani, (Women Unlimited 2008). It’s a compilation of the author’s fortnightly column on sexuality in the Asian Age newspaper, a sort of FAQ on anatomy, sexual preference, sexual health and safety, relationships, and emotional intelligence.
Having read it, I silently but fervently thanked Chandiramani for publishing it, because, besides providing some truly entertaining moments, the questions reflects an abysmal lack of information out there. I’d say that these are not ‘feminist’ as much as ‘enlightened humanist’ responses, and that’s a good thing.
In the foreword Chandiramani writes: “The questions would come in inland letter forms, postcards, heavily sealed envelopes. Most often they were handwritten. Sometimes the ink was smudged. Sometimes it would be a hastily written question on a single sheet of paper torn out of an office pad. Some were in impeccable English, some in faltering English, some had illustrations when the writers did not know how else to explain their predicament.”
This is unfairly poignant: it would be much more fun to laugh at the couple who said that the wife’s clitoris didn’t seem to be ejaculating properly, if they weren’t worried sick about it.
Chandiramani takes the no-nonsense, schoolmarmish-but-sensitive tone of someone who has answered not only those letters but 60,000 calls on the TARSHI sexuality helpline, about size, shape, technique, norm, and a range of mind-boggling misconceptions. “Just remember,” she writes briskly, “you must not rub the clitoris the way you Brasso buttons”, or, frequently, “Please stop listening to your friends, they seem terribly misinformed” or, even more frequently, “Stop worrying”. You can sometimes sense her weariness when she’s debunking, for the 60,000th time, myths about masturbation or some mysterious quantity called “sex power”.
She answers questions about G-spots, how to deal with children and sex, LBGT lifestyles, suicidal impulses consequent to loss of sex power, poor body image, and a host of other things ranging from the airily philosophical to the deeply technical. A list of resources follows, listed by topic and geography.
Those of you looking for a dirty book (not that any of you would ever dream of such a thing), this is not it. But read it anyway, and pass it on; because when nobody around you will address your sexual concerns except your idiot friends, you must have somewhere to turn. You’ll discover that whatever your problem seems to be, it’s not the end of the world.