Out of line, online
Priya has started the blog ‘S for Sex’, with a hyperlink that captures what the blog is about – how to talk about sex.
Though we might be adults, there are many among us who are uncomfortable saying the word ‘sex’. Somehow, ‘sleeping together’ seems like a safer metaphor. We experience a similar squeamishness when it comes to discussing sexuality, the conundrums surrounding gender, and human genitalia and their functions. Mainstream publications strive to keep copy ‘clean’, television channels make do with ‘bleeps’ and strategically placed blurry boxes and we, resort to silence, avoidance or ignorance.
However, a few female artists are determined to spark conversations around these very topics and are turning to the most democratic space available to kick-start them – the online space. 22-year-old illustrator and graphic designer, Priya Dali, is one such artist. Determined to discuss sex openly, Priya has started a blog called ‘S for Sex’, with a hyperlink that captures exactly what the blog is about – how to talk about sex. The blog features articles with titles like ‘Repeat After Me, ABCDSEXYZ’, in which Priya presents a unique alphabet chart that provides terms and words related to sex and sex organs, like A for Arousal, Abstinence, Anal and B for Breasts, Blowjobs and BDSM all the way up to Z. There are articles around consent, the pros and cons of talking about sex, etc. “I realized it was something that I wanted to focus on because of my own discomfort with the topic. Also, one of the reasons why there is a lack of sex education in India is because we as adults are quite uncomfortable talking about it. People making judgments about you if you talk too openly about sex,” shares the artist. There’s also an interesting reason behind why Priya chose to start a blog for the topic; “I realized that if I wanted to connect to today’s generation, making a comic or book would not make sense. I wanted to do something more relatable and would be easier to access and hence, I started a blog. It also facilitates personal disclosure and makes the reader feel connected to the topic,” says Priya.
Annushka Hardikar is another artist using her art to shatter stereotypes and taboos surrounding women and their sexuality. Her Oh Nari, So Sanskari series pokes fun at the stereotypes and expectations women are expected to live up to, while also looking at influential women in the Mahabharata through a contemporary lens. And so, you will find interesting and satirical trivia like a ‘hymen restoration mantra’, or a ‘Draup & Delete’ hairbrush that magically curbs sexual curiosity in the user. “Art is one medium that has always pushed boundaries and addressed topics that have been controversial. I feel artists or content creators of any kind have a massive responsibility to create work around subjects of gender, intimacy, sex, etc. so as to normalize talking about it,” says Annushka.
Priyanka Paul’s Instagram account, @artwhoring is another treasure trove of open-minded illustrations. Her artwork celebrates all kinds of sexuality, doesn’t shy away from presenting accurate depictions of the naked human body and exploring topics like menstruation and sex.
“I think we’ve started talking about gender and sexuality so extensively only recently. The stigma has only begun to slightly shed. I want to talk about the issues no else is talking about, that mainstream media needs to bring into focus. A lot of issues are 'relevant', but not many of them are spoken about; my art does this,” says Priyanka. Mounica Tata, whose Instagram account @doodleodrama, offers detailed, illustrated options for contraception, starting from the pill to intra-uterine devices, among other topics, shares this faith in art. “Art plays a very important role in starting a dialogue about taboo topics. It can definitely normalize things that need to be normalized like homosexuality, menstruation, sex, female anatomy and sensitize people towards body shaming, patriarchy, homophobia, etc,” she says.
—Priya Dali (blog)
For all of these artists, the Internet, especially social media is their best friend. “The web space has given creative persons like me a major boost. Thanks to the awareness the web space is creating, today I am able to talk to my grandparents about gender, sexual preferences, the LGBTQ community rather freely. The content being created today I feel, is going to help create a more empathetic, inclusive, and aware next generation,” says Annushka, who posts regularly on Instagram and Behance. Illustrator Priya Dali echoes this view when she says; “We are surrounded by technology at all times. It makes things accessible. Most of us do function on Instagram because of the kind of work we put out. It also helps us reach out to people and more people are able to connect with us.”
Here’s to more art on taboo topics and a more informed, liberal-minded future generation.