Women in India are starting to own their sexuality, says sex educator and Instagram star Seema Anand
Sexual health educator Seema Anand says sexual awakening in women is a welcome change in a country where pleasure is largely seen as a man’s privilege.
A 61-year-old woman talking of sex on social media may seem like an aberration but it’s a strong yet powerful victory for women.
Despite the tricky algorithms on a platform like Instagram, where she can lose followers in chunks or see her following remain stagnant, sex health educator Seema Anand continues to talk about sex. With a difference. And, makes one in the process.
What’s shifting though are the mindsets. The sexual health educator with over 752,000 followers on Instagram says women in India are starting to own their sexuality.
But, it’s coming at a huge price.
“Women are getting trolled and abused for speaking about their sexuality. Relationships are going astray because of this. It’s not an easy battle. But I’m proud of all the people fighting for it – both women and men. It’s a big first step, and I hope it continues,” she tells HerStory.
In a country where pleasure is largely seen as a man’s privilege, Seema believes a sexual awakening in women is a welcome change.
“This change is seeing more problems coming out into the open. A lot of women say, ‘I’d like more sex, but my partner doesn’t want it’. This was something that was not questioned before. Today it is. I think eventually when we get over these first few hiccups and road bumps, it will lead to better intimate health and happiness,” she shares.
Empowerment with the Kamasutra
Incidentally, Seema’s reading of the Kamasutra happened quite by accident. As a believer in the power of stories and storytelling, Seema found her literature texts at college—Shakespeare and the Victorians and Greeks—quite depressing. Nothing Indian was ever taught then. She picked up the Kamasutra on a lark.
“It changed me, and that’s where my empowerment started. I started reading more and realised that as a woman, I have every right to feel the pleasure I do in the way I do it. And, there’s nothing wrong with it. It was a time when you are told ‘this is how it should be. This is what you have to comply with’. And you feel guilty if you go outside these norms and feel abnormal. With the Kamasutra, I discovered it was totally normal. I became a woman and became me,” Seema says.
As a storyteller and sexual health educator, Seema was active on YouTube and Facebook for a long time, but it was Instagram that made her hugely popular. Prior to the pandemic, she would often be invited to give talks but the lockdowns changed all that.
“My daughter had come home from university and told me I needed to change the way I was posting information on social media. In June 2020, she got me working on Instagram, and people were delighted with it,” she adds.
When she started, the usual commenters were men, but now it’s women who rule the platform. In two years, she has seen “shyness” dissipating and women becoming confident of their sexuality.
There was one point when she only got questions from the men surrounding masturbation. “Is it okay to masturbate? Is it okay to masturbate five times a day?”
Now she gets emails on what they are going through in their intimate relationships because as she rightly points out, “Sex is not just about the body, it’s primarily about the mind and emotions.”
She’s seeing more girls and women find their voice and the courage to ask questions on a public platform.
Even if it means, as one commenter told her, “Every time I comment on something you do, there are a thousand guys trying to slide into my DMs with really creepy messages.”
Balance of power
Seema feels this is another form of control and finds the best way to counter trolls is to block them. Just like she shrugs off those naysayers who tell her that it’s the age for her to do puja-paath.
“In our society, if a girl is young, she’s too young to have sex. If you are in your 40s and have school-going children, there’s no place for intimacy. If you are a mother, how dare you have sex? Your whole life should be about being a mother and nothing else,” she says.
“You know what, I’m a mom, I love my children like every mother. But I don’t have to prove my love to anybody by denying myself pleasure,” she adds.
It’s not just the trolls; Instagram’s algorithms can be quite moralistic too. So, usually Seema has to resort to not using ‘sex’ as a word but with variations so that her account is not banned or blocked.
For the past six months, Instagram has not let her followers go up and is also randomly dropping off people. Seema says the numbers haven’t changed and that can be quite frustrating. But with YouTube and Facebook, she’s getting to people, and that’s what is important. She’s also open to now looking at LinkedIn and TikTok as alternatives.
Even with the increase in sexual health platforms in India, it’s not easy to source pleasure products, as marketing algorithms make it difficult to market. What does she think?
“While it may not be necessarily illegal, it’s very much dependent on the discretion of the person who might decide this is bad. People who are selling these find the odds stacked against them—they cannot market or advertise them.”
But, Seema says, if this story changes successfully, and we get to a point where women can comfortably and openly own their own bodies, their pleasure, their sexuality, they can be the ones who decide.
“Just think of the balance of power. It shifts,” Seema says.
(The story has been updated to correct a typo)
Edited by Teja Lele