Dr.Reddy's struggle to become a qualified sexologist is a case study in itself of how this subject is ignored at large by policymakers and educationists.
"When I did my Ph.D at the University of Madras on sexual problems in males, my research was classified under endocrinology-medicine, because they did not recognize sexology as a subject. The only recourse for people like me wanting training in this field was and still is, doing a course with the American Association of Sex Educationists, Consultants & Therapists," Dr. Reddy said in an exclusive interview to Medindia.
And the struggle doesn't stop there, because of the stigma attached to this particular field.
"To build up a decent practice as a sexologist, one needs an enormous amount of patience. When I started my practice in 1982, it was really tough and I had very few patients," recalls Dr.Reddy.
Quacks and Doctors
The subject has only recently received some level of acceptability in India. Even in the West, sexology as a medical practice gained importance only after the 1960s. Earlier, only quacks could claim proficiency in the subject. Only now have doctors started giving sexual health its due importance, says Dr.Reddy.
Health Insurance Does Not Cover Sexual Medicine
Another drawback is that sexology like psychiatry and dentistry does not get insurance coverage. "Sexual health plays a great role in a person's general health condition. Sex is god or nature's gift to mankind. Insurance coverage is needed as sexual health contributes largely to a person's mental and physical well-being," says the doctor.
"Did you know that with every act of sex, a person (both male and female partner) burns 200 calories; which is the equivalent of 15 minutes on the treadmill?" asks the doctor. In men, sex also reduces the chances of prostate enlargement.
The benefit of having an active sex life is that the person's longevity is increased and his/her chances of getting joint pain, arthritis or heart disease are decreased. Regular sex helps in combating depression.
Sex Has No Age Bar
And age apparently has no bearing on a person's sex drive. Dr. Reddy says that 70- and 80-year olds frequent his office. "Sex is not bound by age. I have a 93-year-old patient who wants to enjoy a full sexual life. Age becomes a problem only when the participants are too young to understand all the implications of sex."
In a lighter vein, he expounded on the many misconceptions people have about sex. "Even now people think having a family planning operation done will affect their performance. A vasectomy is a simple operation, which can be reversed and which, anyway, will not affect the man's sex drive. And a family planning operation is easier on the men than the women. Another misconception is that people should not have sex during pregnancy or during the woman's periods. Sex between two consenting adults is always good at any time," asserts the doctor, adding that he would not recommend having sexual intercourse only when the woman has injuries in her genital tract.
"When the vagina is raw or slightly injured, any infection that the man has can be passed on to the woman."
Sexual Fetishes - a Harmless Deviation
On sexual fetishes, Dr.Reddy says that fetishes are okay as long as they don't hurt another person or cause problems. Some people might get aroused by strapless bras, but that's okay as long as the person's partner is also amenable to wearing strapless bras, he says. "Sexual fetishes can't be termed unnatural or deviant behaviour. Because so far nobody knows what is normal behaviour in a sexual relationship. So without having termed normal, we can't say fetishes are unnatural. I never interfere or advise a person on his sexual preferences as long as its not harming someone or against the law," says the sexologist.
Rural vs. Urban
On his clientele, Dr.Reddy says that, in his 27 years of practice, more patients come from semi-urban areas than from the cities. "About 60 to 70 percent of my patients come from rural areas in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. People from rural areas are more interested in getting help than those in the city. I have also found that my women patients act on suggestions more diligently than the men."
Natural Medicine to Cure Sexual Problems
The craze for natural medicine to cure sexual incompetency, he says, is due to clever marketing strategy on the part of doctors and quacks. "There is no 'natural' alternative that will not have a side-effect. Newton's law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Ayurveda has many aphrodisiacs and so does western medicine. But that's no guarantee that there won't be any reaction to it," he cautions.
Talking of crazes, he said it was wrong to think that that sex toys were flooding the market. "Even in the 1950s, there were sex toys in Burma bazaar in Chennai. But only now the media has started writing about such things, so people assume it's the latest in-thing."
But then sex toys are a grey area. Though sex toys might have their own use, only one sex toy - the clitoral Eros - has been approved by the US FDA. "All the other sex toys in the market have not been certified or approved by any government agency."
Dr.Reddy strongly approves of the move to introduce sex education in the school curriculum. "Sex education teaches the child life skills. Knowledge about sex will help the child protect itself from abuse. I feel it is better, if the child gets to know about the facts of life from its parents than teachers. Most children only get a garbled, inaccurate knowledge of the sex act from their peers. The child will get more correct and scientific knowledge on sex from a textbook than from a porn CD."
"Youngsters do get hooked to porn CDs. But it's just a passing phase. Only when they don't grow out of it, does it become an addiction."
"In my office, I can only use line diagrams to show the sex act, I can't show blue films. But when many adults themselves are quite ignorant about sex, I sometimes recommend that they watch porn films. Another instance when I recommend watching porn CDs is when the couple has had a stable monogamous relationship for more than 25 or 30 years.
Then monotony creeps in. They lose sexual interest because of familiarity or the wrong techniques. So in those cases to revive their interest, a dose of adult films would do more good than harm."
Sex Keeps You Healthy
While parting, Dr.Reddy stressed - "Abstinence is not a virtue! Sex is as essential as good food for a healthy and balanced life. In fact, research has shown that only when sexual feelings are suppressed does one exhibit deviant behaviour. In the last few centuries, Indians have started thinking sex is something to be ashamed of………This is Victorian prudishness and an unhealthy way of thinking about nature's gift…all this could change with appropriate sex education."