The experience of sex and sexuality for South Asian women

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South Asian culture is rich with music, art, delicious food and beautiful languages. The diaspora has clung tightly to these cultural elements no matter where they are in the world. But while many South Asian-Canadian students bring their culture with them to Western Unvieristy, they also learn which elements they wish to leave behind, including the stigma surrounding sex and sexuality.

Stemming from a tradition-bound, conservative culture, conversations on sex and sexuality within South Asian communities have long been marked by shame, blame and at the very best, neglect.

While experiencing sex and discovering one’s sexuality is often a crucial part of growing up, the experience is very different for South Asian women, who are often subject to shame and blame. Women and girls are often told to cover up, stay inside and act a certain way to prevent unwanted attention, creating negative connotations of sex, dating and intimacy for women in the culture.

So instead, many brown women feel they must take on a new identity when away at university to fully enjoy the experience and revert back to an identity more suitable to their families’ standards when they’re home.

Sara Khan, a third-year political science and governance, leadership and ethics student, says her university life is very different from her home life. She has never told her parents about any of the relationships she’s been in — despite their curiosity.

“I know there’s still a stigma put on [sex] even though my parents are not openly saying it,” said Khan. “You grow up in this sexually repressed environment where everything is taboo, not just sex, but the way girls dress and everything that is related to this sexual culture.”

Khan’s name has been changed to protect her privacy as a result of the stigma surrounding sexual expression.