Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ripley's Believe it or Not

Until the age of 18, I didn't know what sex was. After a friend explained the process to me in very mechanical terms, I was like, "why on earth would anybody want to do that" and I quickly branded my friend a liar. I had seen many enactments of rape in Bollywood movies growing up, and even though the imported American soap operas like 'The Bold and the Beautiful' and 'Santa Barbara' always showed people hooking up in every other scene (net result: recursive family-trees with frequent branching), I still wasn't sure what sex involved. I mean, I hardly ever heard the word anyway and I never cared besides. A friend had randomly told me in 7th grade that sex was something we had to do with our spouses, and I remember getting all indignant about being naked in bed with another person and going, "I will NOT". My friend had a progressive mother who was also a doctor, see, so she was always telling her daughter about these things.

Looking back, sex was probably rolling around in bed without clothes with a person of the opposite sex. Rape, therefore, was probably someone forcing you to take your clothes off. I never saw rapes in English movies, so I thought it's something that never happened outside of the East. Indian movies always showed women getting their clothes ripped off by force, and then switched to scenes of the woman killing herself. I actually thought rape was a two-step process like so:

1. Woman gets her clothes taken off
2. Woman kills herself

Imagine my shock when I came across the 1974 TV movie 'A Case of Rape' and it showed a woman not killing herself after being raped. The woman was White on top of it. This was new. The trailers actually showed the woman fighting against the rapist in court. All of this really confused me. It was like suddenly someone told me that C comes after A and I'd been speaking another language all this time. I made it a point to watch the movie whenever it came on TV. Soon after, I moved to the US for college and was regularly exposed to all sorts of information about sexual assault and other kinds of abuse. I honestly look back upon things and can't believe I was such a dud. And I was a Biology student in high school even. I remember being taught about the human male and female reproductive systems and discovering that females actually had three body cavities in their private parts! But don't look at me all funny, most of my friends were shocked too. I distinctly remember immediately whispering to them, "there's a third"??

Ah, life was simple in binary.

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