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October 14, 2019

Destigmatising Conversations Around Sexuality: Indraja Saroha

As told to Ojas Kolvankar. Illustration by Osheen Siva

The perks of cyber popularity can undoubtably be intoxicating, but they are exponentially rewarding when you leverage the web to engage in constructive social criticism and open up dialogues. Read about the fourth in a series of eight prolific posters who are leaving a legacy that goes beyond the likes…

INDRAJA SAROHA
Sex Positive Activist

The young law graduate turned YouTuber hopes to open up conversations around sexuality through her digital platform, Liberating Sexuality. Unlike most influencers, Indraja Saroha — her personal Instagram handle is @womnsplainer — is unafraid to share her views, vulnerabilities and personal struggles on social media, and to delve into still-taboo subjects such as body positivity, sex education, menstruation, mental health issues and stigmas around the queer community.

“Alternative media in the country has been successful in destigmatising the conversations around sexuality within a certain demographic. Information is a lot more accessible and people are willing to take up sensitive subjects. However, there’s a long way to go, a lot of boundaries to still push. For instance, it is important to have conversations organically, and the change needs to come about at an institutional and family level, to make a real difference. I have had multiple adult women tell me that they don’t know what an orgasm feels like, or that they’ve never masturbated or seen themselves naked. The shame and alienation with our own bodies is so deeply ingrained despite the accessibility of information. The stigma around open and healthy conversations about sexuality leads to the perpetuation of false myths and guilt.”

“Starting the channel had been on my mind since high school. Inspired by sex educators like Laci Green, I have become more fearless with time. That has been reflected in the subjects I take up and the conversations I start. Through Liberating Sexuality, I have found a space to share my experiences with depression and mental health issues, and I’ve had a lot of people who find that my experiences resonate with theirs, and they reach out to me.

“There is more than enough relatable and non-aspirational content on digital media platforms when it comes to subjects such as self-care, mental health and body positivity. Your social media experience depends on how you consciously tailor it. If your feed makes you feel like you need to aspire to some unrealistic ideal, unfollow those handles. It becomes easy to forget that digital influencers carefully curate the content that they put out to portray themselves in the best possible light. Being able to tell my stories has led to a lot of beautiful outcomes. People have reached out to me extending their love and support and shared their own experiences as well. It helps to know that you’re not alone in your struggles.”

“There is an enormous lacuna in the mental health services in India, which should be filled. We definitely need to further educate people about gender identity and sexuality, destigmatise the taboo associated with individuals seeking therapy, and make readily available resources such as queer-friendly services, mental health education specific to LGBTQIA+ youth who are coming to terms with their sexuality in an Indian context.”

“While training as a lawyer, a lot of my work at the law school involved research and writing, and that critical eye has certainly helped me when I formulate my arguments now. Legal know-how is crucial in order to protect individuals and their liberty as citizens. This is particularly true when one is operating in a society where moral policing is rampant. There are a lot of misconceptions associated with legality of certain subjects, for instance, adult toys. The discourse about sexual wellness is limited due to the fears about these legalities.”

“The abundance of content online and its general accessibility is democratising and building awareness. The downfall is the polarity that is created by algorithms that show users content based only on their interests. Inevitably, one ends up viewing things that confirm their biases. It becomes an echo chamber, and bridging that gap is difficult unless we have some internet literacy for 2019. I cannot promote my content as it isn’t advertiser-friendly. Hence the growth is slow and organic.”

“There’s a lot one cannot say or comment on with respect to politics. It’s immediately polarising and opens you up to harassment and trolls. The internet is not a safe space anymore, particularly for women. It is difficult to express your opinion, create your own content and remain true to your ideals.”

“The response from audiences and my friends has been overwhelmingly positive. My family, however, had an issue with the nature of the subjects I was discussing so publicly. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that even though I was taking these conversations online, I had failed to affect change where it mattered the most. It was a long process but I was able to open their minds to some extent, which was a huge personal victory.”

Read part 3 here

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