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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Taking The ‘HAWW!’ Out Of Sex, Artist Priya Dali On Why Society Doesn’t Have An Open Mind About It

  • IWB Post
  •  August 8, 2019

A flying chappal – that’s what my dear mother used to threaten me with whenever I dared to wander anywhere near the vicinity of the topic of sex. Why? Well, because our Indian sanskaar, as aptly defined by artist Priya Dali, are all about “chhup ke karo sab but when it comes to having an open mind about it, tauba-tauba!’

“Even at 22 years of age, I still think twice and look around in all four directions before saying the word ‘sex’. What’s even worse is that most of the times, I just avoid using it. I just say “it” or “that” and wiggle my eyebrows. I mean, WHAT THE HELL?” exclaimed Priya Dali.

Priya Dali

In a conversation with IWB, Priya, identifying as queer, shares how she has made it her mission to take out the ‘haw!’ out of sex with her art and make an individual’s gender identity their right and not something they are ridiculed for.

Excerpts below:

Many wouldn’t dare to be as frank as you are in your artwork, Priya, talking about sex and gender so openly.

It is the stigma and insult they fear and I would term myself rather lucky in this criteria. Ditch the world, I say, my own mother supports my work! We discuss what I draw, I ask her questions, she has her own queries and advice as she always knows what I am working on. She wasn’t always this understanding and awesomely supportive, we made quite a journey from there to today. And as for other people around me, my followers on social media, I have surprisingly never received any flak for my drawings and thoughts.


Because I know that others who dare to tread the path I am walking on aren’t that blessed. They face discrimination, stigma, and are wrongfully judged. And I am aware that the day I have to interact with a larger audience I may end up getting a totally different response.

So, why do you think the Indian society struggles so much in merely uttering the word ‘sex’?

I am also part of this society, Apeksha. I too struggle, even today, to be frank and open and that’s why my art speaks for me. Our society has learned to hide their sexual life with a weird intensity and to the extent that they immediately mark someone as ‘ashleel’ for their open thoughts. This creates a void where adults deny the younger generation the crucial knowledge about this physical act, which leads them to go into it blindly.

Priya Dali Priya Dali

Your hard-hitting comic titled ‘I wanted to be the man of the house’ shows how you yearn to have a family with a woman one day. Why did you choose this scenario to put your message across?

We, queer people, are always expected to pretend, fake being what we are not. Such role-playing games like ghar-ghar between kids, where one pretends to be the husband and other the wife, is the usual and it was the best way for me to present the yearnings of people like us, the dreams we have, the fact that we too would love to have a family. 

It is something that I felt everyone can relate to.

Priya Dali

Priya Dali

While you went for a wonderfully apt description, when it comes to film and literature, the LGBTQ community is often either presented in a comical manner or just added as fillers.

Most of the times, yes, that’s sadly the way we are portrayed. But I am glad that times are changing. Like recently in the film Kapoor and Sons, Fawad Khan’s character is gay and it is not funny, it rather brings an important message.

Priya Dali Priya Dali

It says that before everyone else it’s the family who should accept that whatever be your gender identity you still have the right to love and have a family. Even though this storyline wasn’t a full-blown arc in the film, it still was a major improvement as it did not sensationalize or make fun of it.

Priya Dali

Image source: Priya Dali’s blog- How To Talk About Sex

Hey! What about the XYZ in this chart?

Ah, that. Well, for now, I am blank on what to write here, maybe time will fill in the blanks.

Hope you crack it soon, Priya. So, the hesitation to be open about sex and related matters still exists, and we replace them with ‘it’ and ‘that’. As it is due to the upbringing we’ve had, do you think parents should be the ones to fill in these missing blanks?

Indeed. Parents should have these conversations with their kids. When they come to their elders with a sex-related question, parents shouldn’t hide behind the curtain of shyness and shun their query as shameful. They should be forthcoming in making their kids understand and feel glad that their kid chose to ask them instead of believing the first version of the truth they heard.

Priya Dali

Her Instagram page also contains a beautiful illustration of Indian mythology featuring a homosexual love story of two queens and co-wives who, after becoming widowed, become lovers and give birth to the hero Bhagiratha.

Do you think that such mythological stories can normalize the presence of LGBTQ people and quell the existing stigma they face?

It was when I was in college that I came across such stories. As I mentioned, I grew up conditioned in a particular way and was surprised that same-sex love stories existed in that era as well. As for quelling the stigma, I think that we are very much influenced by mythology and one cannot unsee the fact that LGBTQ is not a new thing, it’s not a disease and that it happened eons ago as well, that it’s pure and true.

Talking about mythology, there is a partial rule of sorts that it is the women who have to bow down and be the submissive in all aspects of life and that includes sex as well.

Yeah, that (I can almost see her eyes rolling in exasperation at this). Well, as many of our dear society’s ‘rules’ this one is no good either. I think both men and women should have a say in sex, both can be submissive AS PER THEIR CHOICE, stressing on ‘choice’ here. A woman can take control, she can make rules, she should converse with her partner about her desires, likes and dislikes, her limits. Balance is the key and talking it out is the path.

First published on Aug 17, 2018.

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