Taboos explored
Aradhika Sharma

Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers
by Radhika Chandiramani. Women Unlimited. Pages 224. Rs 200.

Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist AnswersA clinical psychologist who works with a Delhi-based NGO, TARSHI, Radhika Chandiramani was also a columnist for the Asian Age newspaper. The book is a collection of selected letters that her column, Midlife Crisis, received, which Radhika answered. She has put the queries into sections, and given the lay reader questions (and answers) about sex, health, love relationships and all the bird and bees, and what not.

The first section takes up questions on body and related matters. It starts with a letter from a newly-married woman petrified of having sex with her husband because her friends have scared her of the pain. The author explains everything to the fearful woman in a relaxed tone, telling her: "Donít be afraid of sex, it is one of the most wonderful experiences you can have, both physically and emotionally". Within the next two pages, however, she adds a line, saying it can be "even boring," removing any illusions that sex is always the best thing that can happen to a woman. Thatís a quick reality check.

The book addresses a variety of issues, providing both information and insight. From confused homosexuals to questions on transgender and transvestitism (yes there is a big difference), the author responds to queries with both knowledge and a skill of a trained experienced psychologist.

Radhika is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship for Leadership Development and the Soros Reproductive Health and Rights Fellowship.

She deals with a young couple facing an unwanted pregnancy. She asks them to act, as soon as possible, and gives them relevant information the letter-writer can use. The one-liner adding the line of caution of "not going to a shady clinic in a back street" comes as a reminder of how many people choose this way out for getting abortions.

Discussing masturbation, she rather begins the section with a list of what will not happen to men who have written countless letters regarding their fears. In a thou-shalt-not tone, she lists concerns culled out from various letters communicating the fears men have about the act.

As she explores taboos, we note that the authorís credentials are formidable. She co-edited Sexuality, Gender and Rights: Exploring Theory and Practice in South and Southeast Asia. She edits a quarterly magazine, In Plainspeak.

The book has responses to a wide variety of questions for inter-caste marriages, teenage sex, HIV, safer sex and speaks clearly on issues of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and the entire range that also exists. The portions where Radhika clearly says a "No" to certain actions are instructive, especially the parts about using power over others for sex (here a maid), making it clear that this has to stop. A section gives a detailed picture on contraception, informative and useful for any sexually active couple. The book ends with a list of resourcesóbooks, websites and organisations, which can be accessed for more information.

Radhika has a fair, fun and positive approach to sex, which runs through the innumerable questions she has answered in the style of an agony aunt.