Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"95 per cent of Indians suffer from sexual problems"

Says India's leading sexologist, Prakash Kothari

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram 

Rohinton Farzad, 46, and his wife Donya, 42, were in anguish. For 22 years, their marriage had not been consummated. Because of this, Rohinton was suffering from anxiety and depression, while Donya felt frustrated that she could not have children. The upper middle-class Parsi couple consulted many doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists. Finally, they were referred to the Mumbai-based sexologist Dr. Prakash Kothari.

Kothari was not surprised. “Two out of ten people do not know how to perform in bed,” he says. “That shows how poor sex education is in the country.”

After talking at length with the couple, he showed them a miniature plastic model of a couple making love. To his surprise, Kothari realised that Rohinton was straddling the hips of his wife. So Kothari showed him the right way. That night, the couple took a room in a five-star hotel, and followed Kothari's advice. It turned out to be good news.

Then Donya told Kothari that she wanted children. So Kothari explained to her about the monthly menstrual cycle, and suggested that the couple should try during the second and third weeks. “Amazingly, at such a late age, Donya became pregnant,” says Kothari. “She gave birth to twin boys!”

And every Diwali, for the past few years, the family goes to Kothari's house, with a box of sweets, and greets him. “I feel so happy when I see their joy,” says Kothari.

Kothari is one of the leading sexologists in India. And after four decades, he says that things are changing. “In the beginning, I did not see any female patients,” says Kothari. “Even when I opened the world's first outpatient department for sex at KEM Hospital, very few women would come. But today the pattern has changed.”

A young woman will call up and say, “Doctor, all my friends are enjoying sex, but I am not. Am I abnormal?” Or a lady will say, “Doc, you had better treat my husband. He is not performing well. Otherwise, I will walk out of the marriage.”

The most common problem for men is erectile dysfunction. “A man should realise failures are common, but that does not mean it is the end,” says Kothari. "As a result, they move from effective sexual performance, to varying degrees of impotence, because of one failure.”

To these traumatised people, Kothari gives the example of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. “He scores a century in the first innings, then gets bowled out for zero in the second innings,” he says. “Does that mean Sachin cannot score a century in the next innings? He can. So I always emphasise the fact that failures are common but that does not mean an end to the sex life.”

Indeed, for some, there is no end, whatsoever. Kothari's oldest patient is a 90-year-old man. “He wanted to improve his performance,” says a smiling Kothari. “Since he had a testosterone deficiency, I gave him an injection.” Incidentally, this deficiency can be overcome by a diet which is rich in black gram and fenugreek seeds.

Kothari says, “Sex has no expiry date. It is disuse which leads to atrophy, and not the use.”

Interestingly, women, especially menopausal ones, also have problems. “Most women tell themselves that they have a reproductive, rather than a sexual desire,” says Kothari. “She will tell herself, 'I want a child, so I am indulging in sex'. But after menopause, this defense is no longer available. She cannot ask for sex, but wants it very much. So she gets worried, but feels shy to articulate her feelings.”

Sometimes, sex can be painful for a woman. However, there could be a physical reason: a deficiency of estrogen. So, Kothari recommends a diet, which is rich in soya bean, tofu, green vegetables and pulses.

Meanwhile, when asked for tips for an improved performance, Kothari says, “The four-letter word is TALK,” he says. “Communication is very important. You should find out the likes and dislikes of your partner. You must devote time for foreplay. There are plenty of erogenous zones in the body. The skin is the largest sensual organ. So touch is very important. If you kiss somebody, it is touch. If you shake hands, it is touch. If you console somebody, it is touch. And touch releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is a love hormone. It creates a sense of togetherness.”

Unfortunately, togetherness is declining. Rising incomes, the mobile and the Internet has led to a rise in pre and extra-marital affairs. “A flower in someone else's garden looks more attractive, especially when you ignore your own,” says Kothari. “But I would advise people to cultivate their own garden. The four pillars of a good marriage are honesty, affection, trust and love. An affair damages the marriage, when it comes to light.”

Incidentally, Kothari had come to Kochi to inaugurate a conference on sexology. He is frank enough to say that he has a lot of Malayali patients, from Kerala, as well as the Middle East. But after seeing more than 60,000 patients in a 45-year career, he admits that around 95 per cent of the people suffer from sexual problems. “But it can all be worked out and solutions can be found,” says Kothari. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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