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English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Sexual Sub-group: Me

Tamina Mencin

"In Western Culture, sex is taken too seriously. A person is not considered immoral, is not sent to prison, and is not expelled from her or his family for enjoying spicy cuisine." (Gale Rubin, "Thinking Sex" p. 44)

My mother would often present a new recipe at a meal, and encourage the rest of my family to try it. My brothers, sister and I grew up always trusting her word. It was therefore not difficult to take the first bite. After all, what was the worst thing that could happen? Perhaps an upset stomach or a bitter taste left in my mouth? It did not seem that there was much at risk in testing this unfamiliar oral sensation.
My mother grew up in India, and has brought the spices of eastern culture into our American home. She has prepared spicy food for me ever since I can remember and I have continued to enjoy the exotic tastes that envelop her cooking. It is these spices after all, that have flavored the food that provided nourishment for my body to grow. In addition, its association with my culture has shaped my mentality of the woman I have become. The "spice" in my background has enviably made me different from my American surroundings and is not something that I intend to forget.
It is difficult however, to stay dedicated to a tradition that is often contradicted by my current environment. More specifically, I have grown up in a place where many people cannot fathom the concept of culture influencing my decisions pertaining to sex. My heritage seemed to create a language barrier that made my opinions difficult to translate. Despite this however, I recognize that my current environment has equally influenced my growth into adulthood, and has caused me to reexamine certain cultural beliefs. As I have already mentioned, I was brought up encouraged to try different types of cuisine, but this concept of experimentation was not intended to be applied universally; especially not to sex. The sex talk given to me by my mother was very simple, "don't." And though it worked for many years, I have come to find my own peace with the subject.
This is of course not to say that I disagree with of my all of my mother's arguments that stressed the "wait until marriage" idea, but there were some things I could not accept. Specifically, my mother emphasized that women who chose to have sex before marriage would never gain complete respect from any man. This idea managed to sit uncomfortably in my stomach for years, but I did not question it too much. I had always trusted her word before. Even though I feel that I disagree with her point, I admit that it still remains with me. Her words continue to run through my veins and call me back to a culture that I am perhaps guilty of losing.
Though my mother presented our culture to be her main argument for abstinence (until marriage) , I believe that her intensions ran much deeper. Her teaching of sex reflected an instinctual concern felt by any mother. She did not want me to be hurt emotionally or physical. She was therefore right in warning me about the risks of diseases and pregnancy. Just as she also rightly questioned my ability to tackle the strong emotions often attached to sex. Her genuine concern for my well-being is something I can never hold that against her.
Throughout the years I have grown closer to my mother and continued to sample her spicy food. I have also tasted sex. It's marinate has seeped into my mind and body, managing to add even more flavor to my previous character.2 Let it not be mistaken however, that I believe that I was of an insipid nature or lacked a delicious richness before having sex. I also have to say that I agree with many of the serious aspects of sex that my mother articulates. Her words will remain engrained in me to a certain extent. I have come to realize however, that there is no right or wrong when it comes to something as personal and intimate as sex. I have therefore, developed my own boundaries and comfort levels based on what I have learned about my own character.
I don't think that there is anybody in this world that knows everything about sex, and that is why it is important to listen. The reception and understanding of sex, varies depending on cultural settings, time periods, and geographic locations. Listening, even to opinions that do not match our own, because they may be considered too conservative or liberal, can still teach us. Ideas, not necessarily the physical act of sex, create the ingredients of a luscious cuisine that we should be sampling. Sex is a topic that feeds our curiosity and is far from being exhausted. That is why I find it is important that questions are continued to be raised and received by open minds.

1 When combating the topic at hand ("Choose a sexual sub-group with which I am familiar"), I found that I needed to find a subject that I felt comfortable speaking for. I therefore chose myself, because this is the only subject that I know well enough that I can take responsibility for the words in this essay without much doubt. I am therefore using my language of sex to place myself within my own category. This is because I don't feel that there is any other "sexual sub-group" title that has the ability to articulates the depth of my feelings on the topic.
2 This was written based on an idea that Robert Darnton presented in his essay "Sex for Thought." Darnton says, " After losing virginity, the heroines of modern pornography often gain a kind of independence- not legal or professional or social autonomy: that was virtually impossible under the conditions of the Old Regime, but self- reliance of an intellectual sort, because once they discover that sex is a good for thinking, they learn to think for themselves." (p.211-12)

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