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Dr D Narayana Reddy
Dr D Narayana Reddy


Am I normal?


Doctor, please advise my husband to be normal. He is asking me to do abnormal things,” requested Shreesha. I looked askance at her husband, Suren, who blurted out sheepishly: All that I asked her is to do fellatio on me. Some of my friends say their wives do it.

Often individuals are apprehensive about the normality of their sexual practices, desires and attitudes. Their concerns revolve around the primary question, “Am I normal? Is it normal?” Almost all of us ask the question at some point in our lives, in relation to our sexual development, sexual practices, feelings and desires. Normality is subjective and is defined by various factors including beliefs, religious upbringing, cultural attitudes, purpose of sexual activity, etc. In cultures where sex is treated as a taboo topic, the issue of normality is difficult to understand because of the misguided notions presented by society. So at best the answer to the question is: It depends. There is no simple standard by which to tell if something is normal. We all know, for example, that in our society it is normal to be a married parent. Does that mean that childless couples and unmarried people are by definition abnormal?

The popular idea of normality is a compound of these other ideas: healthy, good, right, acceptable, typical, average, proper, common, permissible, appropriate. This does not, however, give much guidance to individuals worried about their sexuality. Extramarital affairs, for example, are certainly typical and common. People in such affairs may find them healthy, good and appropriate, and yet there is an overall community standard by which extramarital sex cannot be labelled proper, permissible and right.

People’s concerns about sexual normality include many acts, desires and attitudes: masturbation, frequency of sex, coital postures, oral sex, anal sex, pre/extra marital sex, contraceptive usage, fertility/infertility, etc. Sexual concerns lie with their sexual thoughts, known as sexual fantasies. They wonder if their urges to engage in anal or oral sex are deviations from the normal. When these thoughts turn into actions, feelings of guilt or fear may surface. Interestingly, there are no medical standards or definitions for these factors, yet for religious or cultural reasons people tend to obsess over them.

So how do we assess normality? Wardell Pomeroy, one of the original Kinsey researchers, is of the view that we have multiple standards: statistical, religious/moral, psychological/sociological. To these are added two more: legal and phylogenetic (if a specific type of behaviour is common in a particular species it may be considered normal). There is no one sexual act that is considered normal that falls under all five standards. For example, homosexuality is medically accepted as a normal variant. Legally and culturally, however, there are still several issues at large.

People forget that 'normal' can mean many different things. Concepts of sexual morality have changed within our own lifetimes. Since 'normal' can mean many different things it is clearly an arbitrary social construct. It is worthwhile to note that human beings are capable of accepting change and variety. It may be more practical to expand the boundaries of our understanding of what normal entails, and think in terms of what is healthy and unhealthy. One of the most obvious criteria is mutual consent regarding any sexual activity. Behavioural scientists consider a disorder or clinical problem to be present when non-consensual acts are carried out that bring harm either to the individual or to the partner. In a culturally enmeshed society like ours, the absence of harm needs to be extended to the family as well. So long as such measures are taken, then to each his own.

When in doubt, consulting a professional can help gain credible information and clarify doubts. It also helps in avoiding interpersonal conflicts with the partner and intra-personal conflicts about one's sexual lifestyle.

Human beings have the gift of creative thought. When creativity is expanded to keep sexual pleasure at its peak, and so long as no one is hurt, the sky is the limit.

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Topics : #health

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