Q: How to not feel guilty about having and wanting to have healthy sex? LOL..It’s human nature but we are still conditioned to believe it’s wrong before marriage especially due to our cultural norms as well

Age: 27 

Hi friend!

Thanks for this question that has my palms sweaty and will definitely make every member of my family extremely uncomfortable. Fun!

I’d like to start by saying that your feelings are not at all out of the ordinary, and you are not alone in this experience. As kids who grew up in immigrant households, conversations around sex were pretty much non-existent. We can’t ask our parents about sex, and most of us definitely didn’t get “the talk” growing up. Isn’t it strange that no one talks to you about sex or relationships your whole life and then as soon as you get married they start asking you to have babies. Like? Hello? Can we rewind a little bit please?

The lack of conversations around sex in our community creates this sense of shame that you’re referring to, because there is an inherent secrecy around the topic.

Telling us our whole lives that something is forbidden makes us feel like we are doing something wrong if we choose to engage in consensual intimate relations with someone. 

It’s not wrong to want what is a normal and healthy adult experience, if this is something you want to do. 

The shame that surrounds sex in our culture often starts quite young—we are taught to cover up our bodies as they develop, to not openly discuss women’s health issues, and certainly, to not give it up before marriage. 

I don’t even think the word sex is ever explicitly mentioned—it’s just an unspoken understanding that daring to bone before you are married somehow means you’re a terrible person.

In addition, sex and sexuality, especially in our culture, are only ever defined in terms of power and control. As women, we are especially taught that we are “giving something away” when we have sex. 

We aren’t supposed to enjoy it, we are the ones “losing” something. We are taught to feel ashamed because of this, and therefore disempowered. This conditioning can really impact your view of sex and sexuality.

This is why we are taught to be modest and keep our virginity tightly stowed away until our wedding nights, when it is finally deemed not only culturally appropriate for everyone to know that you’re knocking boots, but is also encouraged.

Our parents’ generation has a weird view of sex and sexuality and their conditioning often passes down to their children through the lack of openness around it. But it is hard to entirely blame them.

For many of our mothers, their wedding nights were not only the first time they had sex, but the first time they even learned anything about it. They were never taught their own sexual agency, let alone given the tools to understand their own pleasure. 

But we can break the cycle. 

It’s not an easy solution, especially given that for many of us we are taught to repress our sexuality and are only ever taught to explore it (in most cases) for or through a man. 

So my first piece of advice is to be easier on yourself. Your sex life and what you do in the bedroom is quite literally no ones business but you and your partner. You sure as hell don’t need to worry about answering to your mom and pop—especially in regards to matters of this nature. It won’t come up with them, so try not to get too consumed by it.

It’s easier said than done, but you get to negotiate the terms of your life and your relationship, and keeping this idea of having to make your parents happy at the back of your mind will ruin even the best of experiences. Talk about a buzz kill.

Secondly, the sooner you work on your own personal relationship to pleasure— particularly your own pleasure—without feeling guilty or ashamed of it, the sooner you can enact that in your own intimate relationships, and then feel less guilty overall. 

The thing about most versions of brown kid sex ed (and the lack of sex ed from our parents) is that no one ever tells you that as a woman that you can enjoy it too without feeling bad about it. This requires some unlearning on our part. It’s normal, and okay to want it, to ask for it, and to talk to your partner about what you do and don’t want and like, or to figure it out for yourself on your own. Also, the sooner you get out of your head worrying about things like this, the sooner you can let go and be present in the experience.

Don’t let the lack of conversations with your parents stop you from exploring this. Whether you choose to, or choose not to, is completely up to you as an individual. But the sooner you come from a place of personal empowerment and a positive relationship with pleasure, you won’t feel guilty for wanting sex or for having sex that feels good.

So let me tell you. I used that forsaken three letter word way too many damn times in this article to explain to you that the only way to fix your guilt is to renegotiate the terms of your pleasure. It isn’t something that you’re doing for someone else, it’s not something in which you are “losing something,” and it certainly isn’t something you should feel ashamed for.

If it’s safe, consensual, and feels good to the parties involved, it’s no one else's business. 

Okay, that’s all for me. I have to go hyperventilate into a paper bag because all that sex talk was a lot for me. Also, who am I to give this advice even? I mean, mom, if you’re reading this, I think boys have cooties and should stay away from me in case you were wondering my personal stance on the matter.


Love always,

- Rumneek

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About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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