• I slowly started having open, honest conversations about female sexuality with other women. (Getty Images )
How could something that made me feel so empowered be something that I was ashamed of?
By
Sachithri Kodagoda

24 May 2019 - 8:37 AM  UPDATED 24 May 2019 - 3:24 PM

Growing up in Sri Lanka I had no formal education about sex. Sex ed wasn’t a part of the curriculum. 

In fact, sex simply wasn’t spoken about. There was no talk about having safe, consensual sex and I wasn’t even really told don’t have sex. Abstinence was just assumed. I had friends losing their virginity left and right in cars and hotel rooms. I heard about dangerous bathroom abortions and no one around me really understood what an STI was.

I went to an international school where all the girls were firmly told you must not wear coloured bras with white shirts. This was a rule that we rebelliously defied. We wore our pink and purple straps like an act of protest against sexism. We learnt about sex through conversations with female friends who had ‘experience’ (but were equally uneducated in the subject), the steamy Harlequin romance novels we swapped and occasional sneaky American Pie movie.

This was not enough to stop the unconscious association that was glaringly present: females + sexual autonomy = bad.

This was not enough to stop the unconscious association that was glaringly present: females + sexual autonomy = bad.

The only time I found about women exploring their sexualities themselves, it was with a tone of judgement and shame. There were hushed whispers about a girl from private school who was admitted to hospital because of she inserted a test tube into herself. These whispers were judgmental and shaming, mocking this girl for having the audacity to have any curiosity about her sexuality and femininity.

All of this led to subconscious beliefs, that if I was sexually liberated I would be seen as impure. For a girl who considered herself a feminist from about the age of five, I really did think a woman having multiple sexual partners was completely fine. I told myself and everyone around me, we deserved the same sexual freedom as men. 

Yet I didn’t realise how much I had internalised the taboo surrounding sex from my formative years, and how it had manifested into me holding myself back from relationships and exploring that side of myself. I was ashamed of my body, of the desires that I later came to learn were completely normal for a teenage girl going through puberty.

When I was 22, I was with someone who made me aware of the beauty of the female body and how much pleasure it was capable of experiencing. I met him in Sydney and perhaps it was because I was so far away from home, I allowed myself let go of my internalised ideals of what I thought I had to be as a woman. I just allowed myself to feel.

Now I love myself and appreciate myself in a way I hadn’t before.

I realised then that I was holding back this whole other beautiful part of my femininity, a part of myself that I didn’t even realise existed.

My whole relationship to my body changed. Now I love myself and appreciate myself in a way I hadn’t before. How could something that made me feel so empowered be something that I was ashamed of?

I slowly started having open, honest conversations about female sexuality with other women. We discussed, self-pleasure, itchy vaginas, discharge, all the things that are completely normal to a women’s body. Through open dialogues I started to reconcile that my desires as woman could exist alongside my cultural upbringing.

It’s been a difficult journey unlearning all the toxic internalised beliefs about my body and feminine sexuality and letting go of the shame I unconsciously associated with my pleasure. But it’s a journey self-exploration that has allowed me to empower myself and release myself from taboos I grew up with.

I don’t have to be one or the other, I can be empowered sexually and create new cultural narratives, and they can both exist together. 

Sachithri Kodagoda is a freelance writer. You can follow Sachithri on Twitter @sachikodagoda

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