Ask the Sexpert: The 90-year-old sex guru

Sex education is a controversial issue in India, but one man has done more than anyone to promote discussion of the subject. Dr Mahinder Watsa's unusually frank and funny daily newspaper column has become a cult hit. But why does the country that gave the world the Kama Sutra need a straight-talking 90-year-old to teach it about sex?
"Sex is a joyful thing," says Watsa, "but a number of writers tend to become rather medical and serious." Rather than taking the scientific or moral high ground, he prefers to put the reader at ease with a witty one-liner. As a columnist for the past 50 years, Watsa has been privy to the deepest, darkest sexual fears of his countrymen and women. His replies are short, sharp and to the point - occasionally bruising, often hilarious. But whether he chastises or reassures, with every shared reply he educates his readers. "I'm talking their language, they accept it better," he says. "The man talking to you is one of you."
Q: Two days ago, I had unprotected sex with my girlfriend. To prevent pregnancy, we bought an i-Pill. [emergency contraceptive] But in the heat of the moment I popped it instead of her. Can it cause any complications for me?
A: Next time round please use a condom and make sure you don't swallow that too.
Q: I have heard that any kind of acidic substance can prevent pregnancy. Can I pour some drops of lemon or orange juice in my girlfriend's vagina after the intercourse? Will it harm her?
A: Are you a bhel puri [snack] vendor? Where did you get this weird idea from? There are many other safe and easy methods of birth control. You can consider using a condom.
Q: After having sex four times a day, I feel weak the next day. For about five minutes, my vision goes blank and I can't see anything properly. Please help.
A: What do you expect? Shouts of hurray and I am a champion all over town?
He gets about 60 letters and emails a day and responds to them all. "People who got married and are unable to consummate, or women writing they are no longer in love," he says. "I try to help them." Over the years he reckons he has answered more than 35,000 queries - long enough to spot the fake ones. "One knows when someone is trying to pull your leg or whether they are really genuinely in trouble," he says.
Q: What First Aid will we require after having sex for the first time? My fiancée and I have had oral sex many times. How safe is that?
A: You need not join the Red Cross; just visit a sexpert for some pre-marriage counselling. Oral sex is safe and healthy, and she will not conceive through it.
A young Dr Watsa
Watsa was first asked to write a Dear Doctor column back in the 1960s by a woman's magazine [Trend]. He was in his late 30s and had recently qualified as a doctor. "I didn't have much experience, I must confess," he says.
For the first few months the questions were of a general medical nature - about childhood diseases and so on - but then a different kind of letter began to arrive, from distressed young women in remote areas. They told him that an uncle or an elder had interfered with them when they were teenagers, and now they worried that they would not be married because they'd lost their virginity. "Many even suggested that they'd commit suicide," says Watsa. "This thing about the hymen being intact is very important in this part of the world."

Find out more

  • Dr Watsa spoke to the BBC World Serviceprogramme Outlook
  • Outlook airs Mon-Thurs
  • Tells personal stories from around the world
He realised there was a lot of shame and need for advice out there. "These women had no-one to turn to, so they wrote to the magazine," says Watsa. All he could do was tell them not to panic about the wedding night. "I had to advise them to just remain quiet," he says. "Don't worry, your husband won't notice. Nothing will happen." Nowadays Watsa can be more explicit. He explains that the hymen can break in many ways, including physical exercise or some kinds of masturbation - but at the time he couldn't use such plain language.
He realised that many of their problems stemmed from a lack of sex education, and this set him off on a life-long mission to provide it, first through the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and later through his own organisation, the Council of Sex Education and Parenthood International, (CSEPI). Throughout it all, he carried on writing.
He still receives letters on the subject of broken hymens today. "That inflames me," he says. "Unfortunately it is still very prevalent." Any men who write in to cast doubt on their partner's virginity get short shrift.
Q: My family is demanding that I get married. How can I ascertain if the girl is a virgin?
A: I suggest you don't get married. Unless you appoint detectives, there is no way to find out. Spare any poor girl of your suspicious mind.
Q: My girlfriend and I are 22 years old. We had sex a few months ago, for the first time, but she did not bleed. How can I identify if she is a virgin? Please help. I am confused.
A: Is this the way you love your girlfriend? You are a suspicious person. Haven't you heard that there are several other ways by which the hymen can split, such as by playing a sport?
Watsa wrote for women's magazines for years until he encountered an editor who censored questions on sexual health. He switched to other publications, including a men's magazine called Fantasy, which featured photographs of naked girls, and later for websites, some aimed at newly-weds.
But most successful by far has been Watsa's latest column - Ask the Sexpert - which he began 10 years ago, at the age of 80, in the Mumbai Mirror. It was the first daily column in an Indian newspaper that addressed readers' sexual anxieties head-on.
Dr Watsa holds up a copy of his column in the Mumbai Mirror Dr Watsa holds up a copy of his column in the Mumbai Mirror
"Until we ran the column Indian media rarely - if at all - used words like 'penis' and 'vagina'," says Meenal Baghel, the paper's editor. It immediately garnered a lot of attention - not all of it positive. Baghel has had to deal with accusations of obscenity, lawsuits and hate mail, but she feels the benefits of running the column far outweigh any of the troubles the paper has had to go through. "He is undoubtedly the star of the newspaper," she says.
Like most people, she can quote a favourite letter. "Someone once asked him - the gazillionth question on the subject - if their penis will shrink from repeated masturbation. His response: you talk a lot, does your tongue shrink?"
It's a credit to Watsa's wit, inventiveness and endless patience that he finds new ways to reply to the same questions that he has been asked for decades.
Much of his work involves something known as permission-giving - reassuring people that their sexual behaviour is normal and harmless. "The real problem is still masturbation," says Watsa. He gets endless letters from anxious men who worry that masturbation will cause them to lose their strength, their hair, or their ability to have children. The belief that losing semen is detrimental to a man's health is reinforced by traditional belief systems. As a consequence, Watsa has to dismiss a lot of quackery.
Q: I have a small penis and I can't seem to satisfy my girlfriend. My astrologer has advised me to pull it every day for 15 minutes while reciting a shloka [prayer]. I have been doing this for a month but it hasn't helped. What should I do?
A: If he was right, most men would have a penis hitting their knees. God doesn't help gullible, foolish men. Go visit a sexpert instead who can teach you the art of making love.
Q: In the last semester, I failed one subject. My parents got worried and took me to an astrologer… He asked me to remove my pants… He said the ejaculate after masturbation is equal to 100ml of blood, hence my weakness. Is all of this true? Should I stop masturbating and avoid my girlfriend? I am regretting showing him my penis. Please help.
A: The astrologer is a hoax and completely ignorant of sexual matters. Masturbation is completely normal. I suggest you tell your parents you will not visit such frauds again. Not being able to hit bull's eye at academics each time, is normal. Visit your college counsellor.
Q: I'm a 30-year-old man. I have seen a newspaper advertisement that claims some Ayurvedic medicine increases the length and the size of the penis, makes you last longer and can straighten out the penis too. Is this possible? I have had sex 10 times with my girlfriend in the last six months, but I never feel satisfied because I ejaculate too early. Also, how can I increase the size of my penis?
A: The advertisers are just waiting to fleece gullible people like you. None of their claims are true. Learn the art of love-making, which will give you greater joy, than looking for enlargement, which is not possible.
Traditional thinking can cause all sorts of problems, says Watsa, who remembers an army doctor telling him how his soldiers would often return from leave in their native hill country with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - it turned out they thought living in the plains affected their potency, so before catching the bus home they would have a sexual experience, just to check everything was in working order.
But Watsa has also witnessed massive changes. "India is a very different country now," he says. "Thirty years ago there were very few women writing in. Now it's changed, many women are getting in touch with me." And they don't just have practical questions about how to get pregnant or not - in the past few years they have also started asking about sexual fulfilment and masturbation. He replies with the same humour.
Q: My friend thinks that her breasts are getting larger because of masturbation. Is this possible?
A: No. Does she think her clitoris is an air pump?
A couple huddle together under an umbrella in Mumbai
Despite these signs of women's emancipation, Watsa says he is still occasionally shocked by what his female correspondents endure. "When they write in about the molestation and torture and what their husbands do to them when they are drunk - that worries me," he says.
And not all change is positive. For a start, there's porn. "That's a big problem," says Watsa, who sees how it affects relationships. "The man is looking at porn but he doesn't go to his wife and she gets very upset about it. This is leading to a lot of separations and divorces."
Watsa also laments the loss of joint families, where many generations lived under one roof. "There were always aunts or grandmothers who could explain things to the younger couples," he says. "Now there are more nuclear families and nobody is there to explain how sex works. I hear of a lot of unconsummated marriages. There is no sex education in schools so it's hard for youngsters." Arranged marriages between people who don't know each other is still common, says Watsa. "They expect to consummate a marriage immediately, but in the Kama Sutra there is a section that says it takes four to five days to make friends and understand each other," he says.
Watsa himself did not have an arranged marriage. While he was at medical college in Mumbai he stayed with a big extended family his parents knew - that's where he met his wife, Promila. She was originally from Sindh, he was Punjabi, and they were from different castes. "Normally you would marry in the same caste and class," says Watsa. "However, because we were friends for long, long years we decided to marry."
They had a son and lived in the UK for a couple of years, where Watsa worked as a hospital houseman and registrar. "At the time we had British schooling which followed the traditional English way, so I was quite comfortable," says Watsa. One culture clash came when he recommended yoghurt to a lady with a stomach ulcer but in 1955 there was hardly any to be found. Eventually the matron managed to track some down, imported from Denmark. "It worked," says Watsa. "So I became very popular."
They were happy in the UK but when his father - an army doctor - fell ill, they returned to India, where he worked as a medical officer with Glaxo, as well as running a practice as gynaecologist and obstetrician. "Sometimes I delivered babies all night and then would go to work all day," he says.
A key moment that shaped his thinking was a 1957 meeting of the Congress of Planned Parenthood. He was inspired by a Japanese doctor who explained how he had saved girls from killing themselves after getting pregnant. "The popular suicide spot was around the corner of a hillside on a train track, where the driver couldn't see," says Watsa. The doctor put up posters on the hill saying there was no need to die, he could help. "He did abortions, you see," says Watsa. "He saved a number of people's lives. I was very impressed."
In 1974, when Watsa was working as a consultant to FPA India he persuaded them to introduce a programme of sexual counselling and education. At the time, talking about sex was a great taboo - many felt his suggestion was pornographic, whereas health professionals felt it was "unscientific".
However the FPAI supported him and set up India's first sex education, counselling and therapy centre. "Reactions to this went through the entire spectrum from open hostility, derision, contempt and ridicule, to curiosity, interest, tolerance and reluctant acceptance, and finally to enthusiastic participation," Watsa wrote in 2004.
Demonstrating how to put on a condomDemonstrating how to put on a condom during an educational event in Bangalore
Although some schools welcomed sex educators in, there were still restrictions. "They would say: 'For God's sake, don't talk about menstruation or we won't allow you into the school'," says Watsa. Ever resourceful, he found a way round it. "What we would do is put a box in the classroom and ask pupils to put in any questions they wanted, and we would answer them." This technique is also used in sex education in the UK, simply to answer the myriad of questions that exist in young people's minds.
Q: Is it safe if penis is kept in the vagina when sleeping?
A: Usually when the penis returns to flaccid state, it will slide out of the vagina. Even if does not, rest assured the vagina will not have it for breakfast.
Taken as a whole, the letters provide a useful insight into the sexual norms and behaviour of a certain urban and relatively well-educated section of Indian society. The gynaecologist and campaigner Dr Suchitra Dalvie has analysed over 500 letters - four months' worth - for an academic study. "The correspondents revealed several things in their letters that they would probably never reveal if asked," says Dalvie. What surprised her most was the gap in their education - many had post-graduate degrees but had no idea about simple things such as masturbation or basic anatomical knowledge. "I think it's an alarming situation," says Dalvie.
Some of the more basic queries included:
• Is it possible to contract Aids from pets?
• What is the difference between anal and oral sex?
• What are periods in girls?
• I am 20 years i want to know what is meant by orgasm
• hello sir i want to ask just one question: does coffee affects sexually??? does it decrease our interest in sex or do breast size decreases???
The letters divided into six broad categories including: basic anatomy and genital concerns (including that old favourite, penis size), sexual intercourse (including anal and oral sex), pregnancy (60% prevention vs 40% conception), masturbation, and erectile dysfunction/ejaculation.
The sixth category, "dilemmas", grouped together a variety of questions about relationships, sex with pets, coercive sex, homosexual encounters, watching porn and fantasizing. "The dilemmas show that we should lay off the morality when educating young people," Dalvie says.
When she presented her findings at a conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Beijing, the audience was fascinated by India's contradictions. They all knew about India as the "mystical land of the Kama Sutra" - the ancient Sanskrit text about the art of love and sensual pleasure - and were astonished to learn about rudimentary level of sex education or even frank discussion about sex in the country. Watsa's Ask the Sexpert column is one of the most candid treatments of the subject for 2,000 years.
Kama Sutra carving from North East India
Attempts to teach children more than the basic biology of reproduction have been consistently thwarted. Hindu conservatives protested against the Adolescence Education Programme (AE) introduced in 2007, with the result that a number of Indian states banned it. In 2013, following the high-profile rape and murder of a student in Delhi, a government committee again recommended that "sexuality education should be imparted to children". But India's new Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, has a vision for Delhi schools in which he calls for "so-called 'sex education' to be banned". He has since said that he supports it in theory, but without "crudity and graphic representation".
Watsa feels it is unfortunate that politicians are so sensitive about sex education - if anything, he would like to be able to educate children as young as 10, as sexual behaviour is beginning earlier than in the past.

Neighbours: Indigenous actor joins cast

Meyne Wyatt

Wyatt became interested in acting while at boarding school in Perth

Related Stories

Australian soap Neighbours has cast an indigenous actor in a leading role for the first time.
Meyne Wyatt, 24, will make his debut as Nate Kinski on 13 August. The episode will be shown on 27 August in the UK on Channel 5.
The soap has featured indigenous actors before but not in the main cast.
The show, based in a fictional suburb outside Melbourne, has been accused of not reflecting ethnic diversity during its 29-year history.
Previous indigenous actors who have appeared in the soap include Tony Briggs in the late 1980s.
He was the first Aboriginal actor to appear on the show.
In 2012, a South Asian family, called the Kapoors, moved into Ramsay Street, but they were written out of the soap a year later.
'Best people'
Actor Sachin Joab, who played Ajay Kapoor, told Digital Spy last year: "It was more of a shock to us knowing that it wasn't just one multicultural actor who was being written out, it was every single multicultural full-time actor on the show.
"All four of us were written out in the first year of our full-time contracts, which felt like a massive step backwards in terms of cultural diversity on the show.
"Australia is stuck in some sort of time capsule... For some reason when it's fiction over here, the industry chooses to exclude non-whites and include whites only. It's very unrealistic given that Australia is a very multicultural country," he added.
But speaking to the Guardian about casting Wyatt, Neighbours' series producer Jason Herbison said: "While cultural diversity is definitely important, in cases where we don't need a specific ethnic background, our brief to agents is to put forward their best people and that was the case for this character."
Born in the remote town of Kalgoolie in western Australia, Wyatt's passion for acting emerged when he attended boarding school in Perth.
He graduated from the country's National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), and was named best newcomer in the 2011 Sydney theatre awards.
He recently completed the feature film Strangerland starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, due for release in 2015.
His Neighbours character already has a connection with two of Ramsay Street's long-term residents, Susan and Karl Kennedy. Susan was previously married to Nate's uncle.

Sky reporter 'got things wrong' at MH17 crash site in Ukraine

Sky reporter Colin Brazier

Sky reporter Colin Brazier said the circumstances of the Ukraine crash are unique

Related Stories

Sky News reporter Colin Brazier has admitted he was wrong to handle victims' belongings at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine.
Writing in The Guardian, the journalist said the site was unchecked and he was "free to walk around at will".
But he called his "gaffe" a "serious error of judgement" and said he cried on-air after seeing a child's flask.
More than 100 people complained to media watchdog Ofcom after Brazier's live Sunday lunchtime broadcast.
The complaints are currently being assessed before the broadcasting regulator decides whether to launch an investigation.
The report showed Brazier pick up items from an open suitcase.
He dropped them back into the luggage saying "we shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really".
A Sky news spokesperson said both Brazier and Sky News "apologise profusely for any offence caused".
Writing his version of events following a vociferous backlash on social media, Brazier said other journalists were acting on the freedom they had on the crash site, and "foolishly took that as a precedent".
He said the moment he realised he was doing something wrong "came too late" and just after the moment when he began crying, which was not picked up on poor quality replays of his report on the internet.
"At the weekend I got things wrong. If there was someone to apologise to in person, I would," he wrote in his article.
Belongings of passengers on MH17Belongings of passengers on MH17, including books and toiletries
Brazier added his on-air apology was "only selectively quoted by those determined to see what I did as a powerful example of journalistic vulturism".
He said in a live and open-ended item from Ukraine, there was "no obvious frame of reference" but the crew chose "to avoid pointing a live camera anywhere a corpse might be seen".
Brazier described how he reported from the site of another air disaster at Lake Constance in 2004, where "within hours police had sealed off a sterile area and no journalists were allowed in, while forensic investigators and recovery teams went in".
He described the Ukraine site as a lawless warzone where journalists where not kept at bay.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on 17 July.
All 298 people on board were killed.
The crash left bodies strewn across several kilometres, as well as plane wreckage and passengers' belongings.
The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down the passenger jet.
Ukrainian authorities have released a recording they claimed was a conversation between pro-Russian militants admitting to firing the missile.
However, separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the Ukrainian government of attacking the airliner itself.
The US and other nations say there is growing evidence of Russian complicity in the crash.

Jason Biggs stirs controversy over Malaysia Airlines tweet

  • Jason Biggs made a joke on Twitter about the Malaysia Airline crash on July 17
  • Some people sent tweets back that they found the comment offensive
  • Biggs defended himself at first, but has since deleted the tweets and apologized
Deadly airline disasters
See latest developments on MH17
Journalist: 'Bodies turned inside out'
Breasts, babies and Jason Biggs
(CNN) -- For most of the day, Jason Biggs wasn't letting the Twitterverse judge whether his sarcastic quip about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash was funny.
The "Orange is the New Black" actor stirred a Twitter storm after news reports confirmed that a Boeing 777 crashed in Ukraine with almost 300 people on board. Biggs joked, "Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?"
The backlash came quickly with some saying the remark was too soon, and the event too sensitive, to joke about.
"Not cool, Not funny Mr. @JasonBiggs," @jorgemps wrote.
Sharliq Grant @SGofDaRuSH said, "too soon to joke man."
Biggs originally blasted back at his social media critics, unleashing an expletive-ridden tirade.
"Hey all you 'too soon' a--holes- it's a f--king joke. You don't have to think it's funny, or even be on my twitter page at all."
"Truly- you losers are literally trying to find s--t to get angry about. Channel your issues elsewhere," he continued.
"The idea that I wouldnt have any empathy 4 the victims or their families because I make a joke is absolutely ridiculous. U know that, right?"
"It's saddest for the victims and their families, obviously. But Malaysia Airlines is apparently a GREAT airline. Gonna be tough to recover."
Then in the evening, Biggs' previous comments about the incident were deleted and he issued a four-tweet apology:
1) Hey all- ok, so- I am deleting my previous tweets. People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were.
2) This is obviously a horrible tragedy, and everyone-including myself- is sad and angry about it. Sending positive thoughts to the
3) victims and their families. P.S. No one is making me send these tweets- I simply understand that my comments might have come off
4). as insensitive and ill-timed. For that, I apologize.
Biggs, who first became famous in 1999's "American Pie," has a long history of controversial tweets, including a series of sexually explicit comments directed at Republican politicians and their wives during the 2012 election, which he defended at that time, too.
Blogging for Esquire last year, Biggs explained why he loves his Twitter haters.
"You know what really gets me off? The hate. Oh, how I love the hate. Weird? Perhaps. But to me, watching people get riled up over the most trivial things is pure fking gold."

A 'hammered' Charlie Sheen goes to Taco Bell

It's late at night, you're feeling no pain, and need something to munch on.
If you're Charlie Sheen, the answer to that problem is Taco Bell's drive-thru.

But as the actor was trying to get his grub, some fans noticed him and called Sheen over.
Thankfully, Sheen was nice and friendly in that state, and amicably ambled over to the strangers' car and said hello.
"Sorry I'm so f*****g hammered," he apologized as he introduced himself, and began bonding with his new pals over his tattoos. (Warning: The clip below contains strong language.)
Although the video, shared by Gawker on Wednesday, makes it look like Sheen may have been walking through the drive-thru, TMZ points out that's Sheen's chauffeured Benz in the background.

'Patriot' actress Skye McCole Bartusiak dead at 21

Actress Skye McCole Bartusiak, who played Mel Gibson's youngest daughter in "The Patriot," died Saturday at her home in Houston, her mother said Sunday. She was 21.
"We lost our girl," Helen McCole Bartusiak told CNN.
While investigators have not determined a cause of death, Bartusiak had been suffering from epileptic seizures in recent days, according to her mother.
"She was a kind and really beautiful girl," her mother said.
Photos: People we lost in 2014 Photos: People we lost in 2014
Bartusiak's most visible role was as the young daughter of Mel Gibson's Revolutionary War "Patriot" character in the 2000 movie.
Her movie acting career began when she was just 6 in 1999 with a role in "The Cider House Rules."
She played the daughter of Michael Douglas' character in "Don't Say a Word" in 2001.
Her last film role was the lead in "Sick Boy," a low-budget thriller released in 2012.
Bartusiak had been preparing to produce and direct her first feature film in recent months, her mother said.
Her boyfriend found Bartusiak sitting up in her bed in the garage apartment adjacent to her parents' Houston home, her mother said. "We think she had a seizure and choked and nobody was there."
Her mother said she started cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her daughter before paramedics arrived. "They were working on her for 45 minutes and could not get a heartbeat," she said.
"I've done CPR on that kid more than one time and it just didn't work this time," Bartusiak said.
She's suffered epileptic seizures since she was a baby, although they disappeared for a few years until returning last week, her mother said.
Bartusiak's mother spent Sunday morning looking through photos of her actress daughter for the funeral. The images include pictures with Presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush, Mel Gibson, Dennis Hopper and Michael Douglas, she said.
"The girl has lived such an amazing life," she said.

Spain's 7 wonders of the natural world

Spain didn't get a mention in 2011's hotly debated "New 7 Wonders of Nature" roundup.
So it just went ahead and cooked up its own list.
The 7 Natural Wonders of Spain were announced in early June after a round of votes on the campaign's official website.
More than 82,000 votes were cast to select the top seven out of 20 Spanish destinations.
It's unclear an ancient gold mine counts as a "natural wonders" but the seven finalists make a stunningly scenic alternative itinerary to standard travel lists of heritage sites.
"Probably one of the least-known destinations for international tourists is Gaztelugatxe," campaign representative Sonia Rodriguez told CNN.
"In the case of Spanish tourists, the least known destinations are Las Medulas or the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park."
In the final stage of the campaign, organized by travel insurance company Allianz Global Assistance, a team of "explorers" will be picked to officially inaugurate a new tourist route around the sites.
All travel expenses and a "salary" of €1,500 ($2,045) will be provided for each explorer to cover a two-week tour of all seven.
The website will be accepting applications from Spanish speakers until June 30.
The list of natural wonders includes: Gaztelugatxe, a small rocky island; Somiedo Natural Park, a mountain wildlife haven; Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, a volcanic landscape in southern Andalusia; Las Medulas, an ancient gold mine; Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park, a landscape of lakes; Fuente De, a gorge in the Picos de Europa mountains and As Catedrais beach, a stunning spot on Spain's northern coast.