Almost every Indian is familiar with the infamous ‘Ask the Sexpert’ column in Mumbai Mirror. Whether you have read it to satisfy your curiosity or laugh at the absurd answers to even more absurd questions, the column was hard to ignore. Written by Dr Mahinder Watsa, this column features readers (mostly clueless men) asking Dr Watsa a variety of questions ranging from sexual health to marriage and even relationships. In fact, this column is so iconic that it has been the subject of various FIRs on grounds of ‘obscenity’, it has been compiled into a book called ‘It’s Normal’ and even been made into a documentary that was featured in Mumbai’s MAMI film festival.
India’s leading sexpert, the 96-year-old Dr Watsa was renowned for starting a conversation around sex. Staring his career as a columnist in the 1960s, he wrote medical advice and health columns in women's magazines. He soon learnt about the lack of sex education in India and by 1970, he began working as a consultant for the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI). Realising the dire need for sex education in India, he proposed the introduction of a sexual counselling and education program. Although it faced opposition, this programme was approved FPAI started India's first sex education, counselling, and therapy centre.
Dr Watsa was spot on when he realised that Indian’s are in serious need of sex education and this can evidently be seen in the queries that Dr Watsa gets. While he answers them in a wholesome way with wit, sarcasm and a lot of patience, he also bought an important issue to light. Much of Mumbai Mirror’s readers, although belonging to the upper-class section of society and possibly well educated, had a noticeable lack of education around anything related to sex. Whether it was about ‘taboo topics’ like premarital sex or masturbation or even basic anatomical questions, Indian’s had very minimal sources of information on how to approach the issues that they faced in the bedroom. The anonymity that Dr Watsa’s column offered, helped these individuals not only address their concerns but also realise that a crash course in Sex education was needed.
One of the unique selling points about the column, which even got me reading it , was the slapstick humour he would use to answer the absurd questions that he would receive.
While these questions can be avoided by basic knowledge about how sex works or even answered through a google search, Dr Watsa used his patience and wit to keep his readers engaged but also sending the person with the question a very clear message - ‘open a biology book and get studying’.
While many people are still stuck on the age-old notion that sex is all about penetration, Dr Watsa once again, shattered those misconceptions bringing a more ‘feminist’ approach to the topic. Many of his queries would centre around men asking his advice on how to successfully pleasure their wife to help her reach orgasm through penetration and Dr Watsa advised each of those men something that women have been thinking for ages - “Don’t do intercourse if you don’t want to. You just touch her, kiss her, hug her. You can kiss each other. Can you do that?”.
He also recommends couples to focus more on the act of making love rather than just it’s completion. He has successfully removed the great expectations that penetrative sex would carry and has on multiple occasions advised couples to ‘simply enjoy each other’s bodies’. While this has helped take the pressure off men to constantly hold a steady erection till their partner reaches an orgasm, it also removes the notion that JUST penetrative sex is enough for women to reach that desired orgasm. His advice to couples to focus on pleasure rather than performance has helped a lot of them have amazing sex lives.
At 96, he was a vivacious man with a lot of spirits. He single-handedly changed the way Indian’s would address and talk about sex. While many of these queries were from people who would otherwise have been too ashamed to ask anyone about it openly, Dr Watsa’s way of thinking in his columns opened an avenue where people could unabashedly learn more about sex. India's true sexpert, his loss will be felt and mourned by all.