Thank You, Dr Watsa: You Rescued Me From a Life of Shame
Sexolve columnist Harish Iyer pays tribute to Dr Mahinder Watsa, India’s sexpert who helped and inspired him.
(TRIGGER WARNING: Some portion of this piece could be triggering, especially to survivors of sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.)
Dear Dr Watsa,
When I am writing this to you, I am aware that your body would be surrounded by people who you have touched, inspired and created. I don’t have tears, I am not upset. I am not in denial, but you are not dead. They would be around you to pay their last respects. To me, there are no lasts with you – you last forever. You are in the now – living, breathing, listening, telling in the many columns you wrote, even after your mortal remains cease to exist.
Where sex was a forbidden word,
and love would not dare to take its name,
you introduced me to the importance of pleasure,
you rescued me from a life of shame.
I stepped into my teens in the early 1990s. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who identified as CIS male then, I had no single reference of any male survivor of child sexual abuse. I was confused every time I realised I had sperm oozing out of my penis involuntarily in my sleep. When I realised I had orgasmed thinking about a man, the confusion faded off and hate took over. The more and more life made me aware of my abuse, the more I hated myself for pleasuring men in my dreams. I remember sitting in my bathroom, holding the magazine “Debonair” in my hand, trying to masturbate to the women with bare breasts featured in the magazine. I even secretly prayed. I really thought I could pray my gay away.
That’s when I got acquainted with you. I didn’t have money to buy latest magazines. So, I saved up money and went to the junk store where they kept old magazines in which I could read your column. You were sometimes sarky, sometimes witty, but always clear, unabashed and unbiased in your responses. Your columns were the first place where I learnt the difference between pleasure and abuse. You used the right words for the body parts.
You called a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina and a clitoris a clitoris, they were not christened as “private parts” or “that” part in your lexicon.
And that was crucial for me at that time where there was no internet, no WiFi, no dailies like Mumbai Mirror that had a sexpert column, and definitely no FIT, no Quint and no Sexolve then. I was alone, scared, depressed. But mostly, I was unaware of the reality of my body and knowing pleasure, helped me realise my abuse. This played an important role in me opening up about my abuse.
You helped me realise that my body deserves pleasure, and that pleasure is not forbidden.
Your Column Spoke to Me
When I had memories of my rape traumatising me, and the want for pleasure increasing in me, I had slipped into a phase where I lived dangerously. I sometimes thought that giving pleasure to others will help me feel loved. For survivors of prolonged child sexual abuse, sometimes it takes years before complete abuse unfolds in their memory. I was scared of being abused by strangers. I started doing things I was actually scared of, subconsciously assuming that visiting trauma will help me complete the half formed picture of abuse in my head.
I started visiting public restrooms and started getting blowjobs from strangers. I got robbed once, raped once there. I wrote to you then. And I read your columns then. They spoke to me.
Your words helped me realise that I need to respect my body.
It was your columns that helped me understand that I could have a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). I did STD checks including HIV. I was susceptible as I had exposed my body to random men. The test turned out to be negative. The travel from my home to the testing clinic was the longest one. I found the courage to go because column after column, you helped me take complete ownership of my body. Thank you. I had random sex after that, but I have always been careful.
The world knows you for the viral posts of yours. I know you for those and also those that are not so popular – the sentences that don’t create much of sensation, but speak to you personally. You helped me be happy and gay, in the true spirit and meaning of the word.
It started with you, and today, I have a column too. It’s been over two decades of listening to stories from survivors of trauma. And it’s been almost 5 years of Sexolve, where I answer relationship issues, many of which involve sex and shame. I have never tried to emulate you consciously. But I can't deny that subconsciously, you have influenced my thinking and helped me be myself. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being India’s indisputable – body positive, queer affirmative – sex guru.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals)
(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission)
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