Books and Beyond with Bound

5.05 Leeza Mangaldas: The Sex Textbook We Wish We Had In School

February 08, 2023 Bound Podcasts Season 5 Episode 5
Books and Beyond with Bound
5.05 Leeza Mangaldas: The Sex Textbook We Wish We Had In School
Show Notes Transcript

Find out how to write a self-help book and start an open discussion about sex!

Leeza Mangaldas talks to Tara and Michelle about sex and how the cultural shock of this Indian taboo compelled her to write her book “The Sex Book: A Joyful Journey of Self-discovery”, a book that strikes a conversation about sex. Find out how to make your protagonist relatable to the reader without revealing their identity. How not to make a self help book sound preachy? How does she reach Indian youth and educate them about sex, as a content creator and writer? Tune in to find out!

Books & movies mentioned in this episode:

  • Come as You Are
  • Sex Education
  • Cyber sexy 
  • The Tragedy of Heterosexuality
  • Detransition, baby
  • Besharam
  • The Handmaid's Tale

If you live, eat and breathe books, subscribe to Books and Beyond!

Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav

‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.

Tara Khandelwal  00:02

Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Condell. While


Michelle D'costa  00:06

I am Michelle D'costa.


Tara Khandelwal  00:08

And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time,


Michelle D'costa  00:14

and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today.


Tara Khandelwal  00:19

So tune in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author. And a new idea. Yes,


Michelle D'costa  00:27

and after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with a bow factories and


Tara Khandelwal  00:32

five with hard hitting questions and life changing books. So let's dive


Michelle D'costa  00:37

in. Hi, everyone, we are super excited to get to know Lisa Mangaldas on our episode today, she is India's most beloved sex educator and influencer with a very popular podcast, YouTube channel. And now her book, which is called the sex book. And the book has everything like everything you can imagine from blue balls to period sex, to morning erections to dirty talk. And these are has addressed all kinds of scenarios that people face, you know, in their own lives within relationships with themselves. And you know, how to navigate sex for the first time, or how you even talk to your parents about sex, how you find the g spot and so much more. So we are going to be finding all of this out. And these are behind the scenes, you know, what drew her to talking so much about sex on social media and water kings? Wink wink.



Thanks so much for having me. So yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  01:39

I mean, like, it's, I've been following you for a while Lisa, and I sort of shared your content with my sister and her friends. And I think you were one of the first people to really deconstruct sex, make it easy, you know, and also the kind of tonality use is very positive, very inclusive. But I find it very interesting that, you know, we didn't have social media growing up, and now you're one of India's top most influencers and sex educators. So what did you What was the journey like back then what did you want to be back? Then? We read that you're an oil painter. And now how did you sort of venture to, you know, social media?



I actually. So, you know, I graduated from college in 2011. We were just talking about that. And back then social media wasn't quite yet somewhere where people thought they could have a career. Right? So I actually started working in traditional media. My first internship right out of college was with a news channel. And I did a lot of TV presenting and freelance writing for various different publications as well over the first five or six years of my career. And then I just started this digital project, to raise awareness around sex and sexuality and sexual health and the body and gender and all this stuff. That was really interesting to me, because I felt like I wasn't getting to talk about the stuff on TV branded content was already making its big appearance as the only format of content on all mainstream media. And so I was really getting to choose what I got to talk about on TV, but I had bills to pay. So I was doing that work. And I just started this myself on the side because I was so overwhelmed by the obstacle course that is navigating your sexuality and sexual health as an unmarried woman, right, I felt like I wanted to create the resource I wish I had. And I was really lucky in college to be an RA I was in charge of student life and residence halls for the three years of college right after my first year because you can only be an RA second year onward. And I received this wonderful training around inviting via to PA sort of consent workshops, and, you know, the basics of safer sex. We had condoms on doors that students could just help themselves to, because why not right, it's an adult. Everybody's 18 Plus everybody is probably navigating their own relationships and stuff and contraception and protection should be easily available. So it was wonderful to come of age in that environment. And I studied literature and art with a focus on gender and sexuality. So they will themes that were always interesting to me and then when I came back to live in Bombay, after college, I kind of wanted to bring a little bit of that with me because I found you know, even just like buying condoms as a woman going into a pharmacy and doing that can be so embarrassing and awkward. Finding a gynecologist whose first question isn't Are you married, you know, let alone navigating the intricacies of your own arousal and pleasure with a boy who was absolutely uninterested in your pleasure, you know, things like that. So that's that's how it all began. I never thought it would become as popular or as widely consumed as it's become, you know, I thought even if 10 People want to join me in This conversation, it'll be worthwhile. So I'm very overwhelmed in a good way. I'm very grateful for the kind of support the content has received in the last few years, it's become sustainable. And I no longer do the other stuff I had to I never thought I'd see the day that my sex ed project would, would, you know, be something that that becomes a Korea, quote unquote, so I'm really glad that we're here.


Tara Khandelwal  05:23

Ya know, for sure. And, you know, I remember sort of going to college abroad. Yeah, like, condoms on the door, and all of that, and I was sort of very nerdy 18 year old, right, who sort of had no idea. And it was such a culture shock for me. And I think as Indian women sort of growing up, you know, we never were never exposed to any of sort of these things. And we didn't grow up in a time of social media, sort of everything is kept Hush, hush, we never talk about it with our parents. So I think content like yours, it was sort of a door open on I think, is a door opener for many women.



Thank you. I, I hope so.


Michelle D'costa  06:03

Ya know, and for me, you know, talking about culture shock car, it reminded me of like, because I grew up in the Middle East, right. And it was quite a complex to navigate that, and also, they can have been raised as a Catholic. So I've had a lot of, you know, mixed views about it. It was very confusing. And, you know, reading your book, Lisa, it almost read like a very long sex education column, or, you know, it reminded me of those columns that used to appear in women's era, you know, growing up. So because we have such a huge Desi community, there are a lot of Indian magazines, a lot of Indian content. And your book has a lot of FAQs and answers. So I was curious as to you know, how you decided which questions or which doubts to answer in the book and what to remove? You know, it must have been really difficult. I'm sure you get like 1000s of DMS per day?



Well, I mean, I think that certainly questions that are the most frequently asked ones, I do get 1000s of DMS, but often, many people have the same question, you know, with a variation on the phrasing. But I've tried to I've tried to provide first and foremost answers to all the like, big questions that most people have, you know, and those in the book I just listed as a cue without an attribution to a particular person, because those are the types of questions I just get all the time. Like, does size matter? Is masturbation bad for health? How do I have an orgasm during penetrative sex? Why is it so hard for me as someone with a vulva? You know, or like, questions around hygiene anatomy, stuff around also safer sex, and can you have sex on your period is pulling out a safe method, etcetera, etcetera. You know, there were certain questions that I get asked every day again and again. And so I've tried to answer pretty much I mean, all of them, I've really tried my best, it's quite a long book. I mean, I think that I tried to put in everything that one might want to know, you know, as a starting point from which to springboard into navigating the sexual life or body or identity, etc. And then I also included certain questions that have a more specific texture or context or sort of scenario. Because I do think it's also very comforting to know that you're not alone. You know, when someone talks about the experience of veganism is or someone talks of the experience of really loving their partner but being underwhelmed by the sex, or when someone talks about their body insecurities, it can, you know, it can sometimes feel like you're the only one who is worried about the stuff or feels like something's up or not normal about your body or something. But I think the reason it's that way is because we never talk about this stuff, when in fact, a lot of us have similar concerns or conundrums that we're navigating. So I wanted to bring that sort of human quality to the questions as well. And I've obviously changed names everywhere. But I have tried to use some questions that are very specific and provide a little bit of context to the person asking it because I think it does make the question more relatable when you have a little bit of context as opposed to just a textbook style question, you know, yeah. And I wanted Yeah, I wanted the book to be an easy read and accessible read a fun read, as opposed to something very preachy, or, as I said earlier, textbook like because I think that we don't get that turn in information around sex often enough, often we don't get any information around sex. But when we do, like, let's say, a teacher's going over the reproductive system chapter or somebody from family planning is talking about condoms or something. The disseminator of the information is always you know, kind of speaking with a tone as if like they don't have sex or like sex. They're just issuing a PSA because it you know, it's their responsibility to. Yeah, it's more like a duty. Yeah. And there's a lot of shame, you know, even from the messengers of this information often and so I really wanted to eradicate that shame D stigmatize the whole thing make it feel normal and joyful and absolutely worthy of public discussion. I hope I've succeeded. You tell me?


Michelle D'costa  10:24

Yes, yeah. No, I think you've managed to cover you know, very different kinds of problems, you know, so, so what I was actually, you know, curious about is Nissa, let's say, okay, there are patterns that are very common, you know, DMS that pop up. But what would you say is the top most common DM, like, like, what I'm trying to understand is because you have covered so many different kinds of topics in the book, right, let's say, you know, first time sake, so let's say body insecurity, right, body shape, and all of that. So let's say out of all the topics, which is the most common like, which is the first thing that let's say, you wake up and you see that in your DM, like almost every day?



I would say there's a couple. I mean, I think one of the most common questions I get from women is I have never had an orgasm. You know, why is it that in the movies and inborn women seem to be having such a great time, whereas when I have sex with my husband, or my boyfriend, or whatever it is, penetration just never has ever resulted in an orgasm for me? Is there something wrong with me? You know, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we never provided any accurate information about our anatomy in relation to pleasure. When do you ever see an illustrated diagram of the clitoris or get told the clitoral stimulation is the most reliable route to orgasm for most people with vulva and that penetration alone is unlikely to result in orgasm for most people. Some amount of clitoral stimulation is also required we never get told that right we may just believe that sex equals penis and vagina erection penetration ejaculation and it ends when he comes which is not a very fulfilling or satisfying sort of script for sex when it comes to the pleasure of people with all of us. When it comes to questions from men they often a lot of insecurities around things like you know, penis size is my penis big enough how do I last longer? Is it hard enough? Things like that. I think you know there's unrealistic expectations there to set by mainstream internet Bong or ideas of masculinity and this like over association with the penis as being this somehow ultimate symbol of how masculine and sexually effective you are of something I don't know. I don't I don't resonate with those ideas myself, but I can empathize with young men who feel deeply insecure about their bodies and don't have a place to talk about it. You know, I can say on the internet, I have small boobs. I used to be really conscious about it growing up but I've now I've now learned to accept and embrace my body and feel more confident. I've never seen a cyst straight man seeing I have a small penis, but that's okay. You know? So I think I think like men keep each other in this. Like, it is not okay to be vulnerable or to admit to having insecurities kind of frame of mind where in fact, men are having these conversations even less than women absurdly. And then also I get a credit across the board. Lots of questions about masturbation, like is masturbation bad for me? Am I gonna get bimble? Careful? Will my athletic abilities be compromised? Will I lose weird muscle mass energy? You know, lots of young men have been fed a lot of misinformation by parents, teachers, sports coaches, you name it, religious leaders, about the fact about these these ideas that all kinds of terrible things are going to happen to you if you masturbate. And I think women on the other hand, often write amazing I've never masturbated. I didn't think it was something like women should do. It just seems shameful. You know, men are worried they masturbating too much. And women seem a bit worried about masturbating at all. And so often, I mean, I think it's a topic that's of particular interest to me, because I think of self pleasure as this wonderful gateway to understanding your body better understanding your arousal better. And it's also in so many ways, I mean, the safest and easiest way to experience sexual pleasure, right minus the risks of infection, unintended pregnancy, even rejection, it's this wonderful thing we can all do. It's a self soothing behavior. It's normal, it's healthy, it has health benefits, like improved sleep, improve mood. And you know, very few people are masturbating so much that it's actually an impediment to their daily life or whatever. I mean, if you did anything, if you ran all day, or danced all day, it would also be an impediment to your daily life. So I tried to ask the watch that fear that like, oh, my gosh, you know, some people will write and be like a mass weight once a week, once a month. Is that too much am I doing you know, what, something when I go to hell? I'm like, No, it's gonna be so I would say yeah, those are some of the most common questions I get. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  15:01

yeah. And, you know, I think all of us sort of, like, so many women deal with body image issues. And for me, you know, those videos about small groups don't have that help, as well. So, you know, you have a podcast, which is in Hindi, and that obviously, you know, reaches a much larger audience than the audience of you know, this book, because at the end of the day, this book is a book written in the English language. So I wanted to know, you know, who did you want to read this book? Who is the audience for the book? And how are you making sure that the people who need to read this book, actually, you know, getting the hands on it?



Well, I think everyone needs to read the book, to be honest. And I do also hope that there will be a Hindi language translation, and hopefully also other language translations. I think the wonderful thing about a book is that even if I don't know the languages, it can be translated because we can, you know, get the right people to translate it. Whereas it's much harder for me to create videos in multiple languages, or audio, anything that relies on only my knowledge of languages, means I'm limited to the languages I can speak. So I think it's a quite a big opportunity that I was interested in writing this book because it lends itself to being translated into as many languages as there's a demand for you know, that the first step was writing it. Unfortunately, I don't speak any language other than English well enough to write a book in the language. The Hindi podcast is a huge process for me, I have to write in English work with a translator to translate it into Hindi and then, you know, rehearse as if I'm rehearsing for a play. And, and then really doubt, yeah, I grew up in Goa, I grew up in Guan Kodaikanal. And, and studied in the state. So my Hindi is, I mean, I learned it in school, I can read it, but and I can understand it, but it's not the language I'm most confident in, I don't think in in the so it is, it is a process for me. And I am eager to do all I can to get better at it and to create content in Hindi, because I think it does make the content more accessible. But I love that with a book potentially translation could have a much wider scope. And I hope that that's something we can harness. So I really do think in that regard, it's a very useful resource. You know, it's a tangible, like, all in one place, primer to sort of anyone who wants to begin learning about this stuff. And I hope that it seemed that way.


Michelle D'costa  17:24

Yes, yes. No. And, you know, there was just one thought running in my head is that as I as I consume content, you know, on Insta, on your YouTube, your podcast and your book, there was just one question throughout, which was how, like, you know, how did she do this? Because if I, let's say, you know, I was putting myself in your shoes, and I was wondering, oh, my God, will I ever be able to talk about sex this openly? So you know, you mentioned quite often you know, about how progressive your parents have been, how supportive they've been, right? So I also want to know about, you know, whether that there has been a low moment in all of this process, Lisa, you know, because we know how nosy Indian people can get right, you know, has there ever been a moment, let's say, you know, it could be a family friend, relative, or even a stranger, like has their thought, or comments ever got to you? And how have you dealt with it,



I feel really lucky to have parents who are so supportive of my work and really understand its value and with me in the vision and mission that I have with it, so I feel like it would be much harder to do this work. If, within my own home, there were people who were trying to stop me, I think for many people who might want to do this work, often, it's not the trolls on the internet that are the big deterrent. It's the reaction that your own mom, dad or father in law brother, or whoever else might have, you know, and sometimes families can have rather adverse and severe reactions to especially women and queer people expressing themselves around themes like sexuality. So I feel deeply grateful and fortunate that in my case, no, none of my family members, from my parents, to my nanny to my siblings to like, I mean, we are all super chill about this stuff. And I mean, I really think it would be almost impossible to do what I do as freely as I do it, if I had pushed back in my own home. As for people on the internet or strangers, I mean, I don't let that really concern me too much. And I think also overwhelmingly, the response has been supportive. I mean, I would say that for every 200 messages, I get, like 175 ad like thank you the the alarm something, this is so useful, please, will you talk about this next? Can you do this in Hindi, you know, like people who are very, very sort of appreciative of the fact that I'm doing this and I think, very encouraging that I continue to do it. So that's wonderful. Of course, there's the occasional person who's you know, who tries to sled shame me or says something like, this is against our culture or like, Shut up, you slapped or whatever, but, I mean, I'm not gonna engage with that, you know, and I think, to a large extent people on the internet, you could be a comedian, you could be a fashion creator, whatever it is, and you're still going to receive some amount of just random, negative, you know, slight Shamy commentary, especially if you're a woman. So I mean, I wish it wasn't par for the course. But I think that you have to have a bit of a thick skin and not let it stop you. Right? To some extent. I mean, how many DMS? Can you even read? I try. And when my community was small, I would read more of them. But at this point, it's a bit hard



to keep up and I was gonna ask you that.



Yeah, I often if I'm, if I'm keen to hear people's perspectives on a particular issue, I like posting my stories being like, you know, what are your thoughts on sex after having kids if that's something you've experienced, and you want to share your, your take on that DM me, and then I'll look at my DMs for the two hours right after posting the story. You know, like, I'll make deliberate moments by a witch with a via which to engage with the audience that I have, and by which to read what they have to say. Because often the everyday stuff is, there's just like, so many messages that, you know, man. During the man, they'll make it by God. But yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people do think that a woman talking about sex is somehow free game or something is inviting sexual messages. Yeah, I think there's a lack of discernment around the fact that I could be providing information around a topic without wanting to have sex with you, you know, but as I said, I think anyone, unfortunately, doing work publicly on the internet is probably on the receiving end of many absurd, and you just like messages that seem like the sender has no boundaries, etc.


Tara Khandelwal  21:44

Yeah. And actually, you know, before this talk, I was thinking, you know, it's such an intimate topic, and you're sort of shining a light on on things that haven't been discussed before, you know, and lots of people sort of, you know, obviously must be looking up to you wanting you to interact with them. And you can't reply to any, to every one, right, we must be getting so many so many messages. So I must be difficult. Also, what the title, you know, I love the title, this textbook, you know, it says what it is, but I found it very difficult to read it in my house. You know, because it's exactly what you said about, you know, if you see a woman sort of talking about sex, or, you know, reading about sex, or watching even sort of intimate, like, I can't even watch intimate movies, in seeing movies with intimate scenes, you know, in my living room, because there is always a judgment, you know, there is always that shame. So, that was definitely, you know, very interesting. It was an interesting process to read the book in my How did you do it? What did you do? I sort of sort of first I mean, like, I tried to, like, hide it and read it. But then I was like, You know what, let it be. So I just left it on my desk. And now I just, I'm just reading it really openly without caring what anyone thinks about me. But it's a process. You know,



I am glad to hear that. That's exactly the journey. I was hoping people would go on, really? But so did did. Did your parent, did anyone see anything?


Tara Khandelwal  23:12

Oh, my parents, I was really, really cool. But I have some stuff in my house who like obviously, the mean, like you come in and, you know, so. So, and even my parents, like, they're very liberal, but we don't really talk about sex. Like, I don't think we've ever spoken about sex. You know, I can move like, stay over at my boyfriend's place and all of that stuff. But the the conversation is never about sex. So it's sort of okay to it's okay. If it's, you're not speaking about it, if that makes sense.



Hmm. And did yeah. The book ended up being a conversation starters. No, no, that it was just like they didn't


Tara Khandelwal  23:52

it was just yeah, that is sort of like, yeah, it's there. But it's not the I think that's the case in a lot of sort of, you know, Indian families.



Yeah, I mean, I really thought that it was a deliberate decision to call it the sex book. And of course, my publisher discussed like, you know, do you think it'll be an obstacle for people to be able to read it? Do you think that people will hesitate to hold it but I just thought if I give in to that shame, and call my book, something euphemistic, you know, like the birds and the bees or something I don't know. Then you know, who's gonna call it this? I mean, I felt like I had a responsibility to not sort of let that shame dictate that the title also be something apologetic or coy. You know, I really, I mean, my face is on the book. It's called a sex book and bold and while I've recognized and empathize with the fact that that might be difficult for some people, and therefore it's also available as an ebook and an audio book so you can listen to it and have it on your phone or Kindle or whatever and not have to deal with the cover. I do really hope that People will read this book, you know, at cafes or on the metro on the plane, and people have been sending me pictures of them doing that. And that it should just feel normal. And you know, it's interesting that you said that nobody really nobody said anything to you actually, it's fine. They're okay with it. Maybe they maybe it didn't yet create a conversation, perhaps if you tell your parents like, Hey, I'm reading this book, a friend of mine from Colombia wrote it, do you want to? Maybe Maybe they'd be curious. But in general, it's what's quite interesting is that I find that actually, if we overcome our shame, and we just read it, or hold it or to go about our business. Yeah, actually, not that many people are getting in our way. You know, I was holding my book and reading it, at a cafe and on the plane and things and I mean, people just went about doing their thing, one or two people asked me about it, and obviously saw that I was the person on the cup, like, oh, you wrote this book, or that's cool. So I feel like in a funny kind of way, if you don't have shame around something, you almost allow for others also, to start to let go of their shame. At least that's been my experience, even with so many people write to me with their most personal stories, because they think I'm not going to judge them. You know, I'm talking about the uterus, on masturbation on my small boobs, who am I, I'm not gonna judge them. And I think as soon as you feel like you're someone who's not going to judge another person, you almost create an opportunity for greater honesty and greater sort of, you know, intimacy and for communication around the stuff that a lot of us are worried about, even though we'd like to talk about it, because we feel everyone else is going to judge us and other people feel we are going to judge them, you know?


Tara Khandelwal  26:39

Yeah, no, I think that's so fascinating. You know, the, but that was exactly the journey that you wanted everyone to go to. Yeah.


Michelle D'costa  26:50

Yeah, no, for us. It was funny, actually, you know, so like, when I do books arrived from the publishers, usually, sometimes it's not me, but it's like my family. Who gets the book, right? They answered the door, they get the book. So I remember I opened the book and just kept it on the table. And then my mom saw it. And she said, Okay, what is this? This is interesting, what are you reading? Right, in order to walk away, just stay tuned back into my room. And once you're in my room, I can make you read whatever I want. But then I just realized that you know, to have a whole conversation about that is a different thing. So yeah, I think I think it always starts out with an awkward phase. And I feel we should, yeah, reach that point where it moves beyond an awkward face. Yeah. It's like baby steps are being taken.


Tara Khandelwal  27:28

But you know, I always feel that, you know, like, yeah, it's awkward with our parents and everything. But then the next generation, it's going to be so different, right? Like, with, like, people having kids now, like, even our like future children, it's going to be completely different because of resources like this Good point.



I mean, I think that's extremely powerful that, because I think parenting is such an important part of shaping the attitudes of a whole generation. And I really hope that our Gen, I mean, I'm 32 now, and a lot of my friends are getting married or having kids or both. And I really think that even if they never received sex education from their parents, that they're going to try to provide sex education to their kids and be sex positive and be more forthcoming with information around things like you know, even just accurate names for the body bonds when you're teaching a toddler about their body or, you know, inculcating an intuitive understanding of consent. Like, I think that I think that my peers are going to do that and believe that they should, even if they never received that, and I think that's really powerful, because instead of waiting around for schools to do it, and the government to do it, and this one to do it, or that one to do it, I think that one of the most powerful ways we can in in our own capacity and then collectively create, you know, societal level changes if we begin having these conversations in our families with our kids, even if we can't have them with our parents, at least with our kids as we enter that phase in our lives as a generation, where you know, lots of us having kids.


Michelle D'costa  29:04

Yeah, no, totally. And I think another thing, what resonated with me, as you said, Lisa, see, a person might not be able to consume. Let's see the same content in one form, right, let's say let's say the book is difficult, but then you could always just plug in your earphones and listen to the same thing on the podcast, right, which actually drew me to one of your films, Lisa, I was really surprised to see that you've worked on a film called W. Right? And it's also a very women centric script. And one of your lines, you know, that your character says is nothing can stop me it's not in my DNA. I thought that fit you. Really well, you know, I thought I didn't really fit your personality. So I want to know, you know, what was your experience of acting in that Bollywood film? And how did that I would say add to your views on sex in India?



Oh, wow. Well, that was a very random project that came my way. I was so young. Honestly. I was like, right out of college. I was I happened to be out I stopped, I had a headache. And it was driving from one place to another and stopped by this cafe to buy a bottle of water and something to eat. So I could take the medicine. And this, like there was a team of like, I don't know, I guess the filmmakers sitting there and they were like, you know, when this came up to me, when you were when you walked in, we just saw a character come alive. We're working on this little indie movie, can we send you the script? We just think you'd be great for the bottom. You know, it sounded like so too. How should I say, too random to be true, right? I was like, Okay, what if I give them my email address, and left, and then they sent me the script. And I was really, really young back then. And I feel like I was much less aware of a lot of the things that I understand better. Now. This was, you know, before, we had a lot of the vocabulary around gender and identity that we do now. And the film has its limitations. But it was a film that explored sexual violence, it was a sort of rape, revenge fantasy. And it was just, I mean, I don't know it was so you know, I was 21 or something. And how often do you get randomly cast in a movie, right, they might have they made me audition. And then they got the bad or whatever. But it was a very small film. I mean, it, you know, it was a very, very small film, I don't think a lot of people watched it, and had a very small budget and small release. But it was interesting to work on the project. And it was, obviously, you know, gender based violence and things like that topics that I've always had an interest in raising awareness around. So I'm glad I learned from a lot. I learned a lot from doing it. But yeah, I would definitely say that that was very early on long before it started the stuff I literally had just come back to like, like, a few weeks after graduating from college. So it was one of those just things that happen that you go with, you know, you roll with it your law, kind of kind of a thing. It wasn't so deliberate. Looking back, it might seem like oh, she did this, like it would make so much sense. But it was very, very random. And it was a one off. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  32:03

but that's how it always turns out, right, like Steve Jobs in that speech of it says that, you know, every all the dots end up connecting? Yeah, so you know, so yeah, yeah. So as content creators, you know, sometimes we sort of get in the niche, for example, I worked at she the people. And you know, we were constantly talking about women at work, and, you know, advocating for that, and I graduated from Barnard, you know, that's something that I really was very passionate about. And now with, you know, with bound in this podcast, we speak to so many authors about the writing process. As a creator, you know, how does one how do you keep things interesting, because oftentimes are speaking about similar things about the same things. So how do you experiment and keep the content fresh and interesting?



Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I hope it doesn't feel stale. I do wonder about that. I think that, that, partly the format, keep throwing new creative challenges your way as a creator, like Instagram used to be, you know, photos only. And so I actually started on YouTube, and YouTube was where people consume video content. Then, over time, Instagram also became more video centric, but it was short form vertical video, you know, YouTube used to be long form horizontal videos, now you're adapting to this new format. And I think it brings with it while it might be challenging to adapt, it also brings with it certain, a certain freshness, there's now this whole host of audio trends to work with and filters, like I, you know, really enjoyed using the beard filter to create a kind of masculine Alter Ego.


Michelle D'costa  33:48

I'm gonna add that I love that. Yeah.



And then, you know, when when Spotify reached out to me to create a podcast, that was this new audio format that I wanted to explore, and then doing the added challenge of doing it in Hindi. And then with the book, I mean, it's, you know, the written word, and it's illustrated, and it's, again, a longer format. So I feel like in many ways, I've had the opportunity to sort of rethink how I want to do things or reinvent the medium for my messaging, because of the inherent differences and evolution of the platforms that I'm working with. And the ones that have been sort of emerging alongside I think audio is quite a, you know, still in its nascent stages. I think, for me, hindi was like a big new challenge that I took on during the pandemic because I had more time to do this work. I mean, all my mainstream work stopped and it was quite an uncertain time of uncertainty. But amazingly, I'm very grateful. Somehow, my content really exploded during that time, you know, so after the first year of extreme uncertainty It became slowly like, okay, maybe this project is sustainable. It might seem like you have this very thought out path that you, you know, very deliberately created. But I mean, life will throw some curveballs, you will have some opportunities that you never anticipated ever having that you're so grateful for. But you'd also have some challenges. You never anticipated that you've got to walk around. I mean, and then, you know, somehow it all seems to make sense when you look back, but oftentimes, the nature of your trajectory is like, it's quite quite a surprise, even to you, you know?


Michelle D'costa  35:34

Yeah, no, I think it made me really think about, you know, how I think growing up in the 90s, it was more like, Okay, you just have to find something and you know, find your path and do whatever you can. But right now, the format is determined, you know, what kind of content we produce. But for me, I think it's slightly different, because I was just thinking about my writing, you know, so if I get an idea, sometimes I think, okay, it might work as a poem, or it might work as a short story, sometimes a longer piece, or sometimes even a newsletter. So I feel I feel the fact that we have so many different formats nowadays, it's really tempting, especially for a content creator. Um, but you know, what I really want to understand is Lisa, let's say that, you know, now you've been talking a lot about sexuality, right? Or all these platforms? Or do you worry that this will become your identity, let's say 10 years down the line. Okay. Let's say you want to experiment and talk about some other topic, how do you think you will navigate that?



Um, I mean, I think that this is certainly part of my journey, a significant part of my journey, and I have no problem with being associated with this, you know, I have, I'm proud of the work I do. I'm extremely passionate about this topic. So I think that I don't see it at all as a problem to be associated with this. And if I do choose to branch out and do other things, I think that that'll be its chapter in my life. And it'll be, you know, an interesting journey to kind of re invent or evolve or whatever you want to call it in that direction. But I really do think I mean, I have no regrets. I wouldn't change Ohio. Yeah.


Tara Khandelwal  37:12

No, I mean, I definitely don't. I mean, this is something to be proud of, I think, you know, it's more of, you know, like people sort of slot us as creators, for example, you know, like, we only speak about books, but like tomorrow, if you want to speak about finance? How would you sort of navigate you know, if you wanted to change that? Or do you think it just sort of, it's possible, and you just start doing it? And then if the content is good, you know, people follow you.



I mean, I really do want to continue to talk about sex for some time, though. So I'm not immediately thinking of shifting gears. I do think, though, that human beings are multifaceted. And that's such a wonderful thing. I mean, I think that we do ourselves and each other a disservice when we slot each other as if, you know, you're only capable of being interested or short or knowledgeable about one thing, and people do have a tendency to do that. I mean, sometimes, you know, also, I think many people don't know the whole picture. And we live in a system in a capitalist world where unfortunately, or fortunately, or whatever the way you want to look at it. Many people have to do things to pay the bills, we've all done work that might not resonate so much with us personally, but we do it because there's rent to pay. I mean, I was a football presenter for five years alongside doing that when this work was just a passion project, because life sport was one of the few things on TV that still had, you know, decent budgets, and I couldn't refuse that money. And I worked really hard at being good at it and took it seriously, because I think you all that much do any thing that you take on? I mean, why would I want to do a shoddy job of anything, but a lot of people thought I love football, or that I'm the football girl. You know, I when I really actually don't care that much about football, if I'm honest. I mean, seriously, and because I'm nerdy that way, and I wanted to do a good job. But do I stay up all night thinking about football? No. Do I even watch any anymore? No. So I think that I mean, you know, people do different things for different reasons. Sometimes it's out of financial compulsion, sometimes it's out of interest in that subject. Sometimes your interests evolve and I think we need to allow for that and then like beyond loss if you think that people are so like, you know, only do one thing in their whole life so I don't know I don't


Tara Khandelwal  39:22

know I say that Michelle has a fun quiz for us. Before


Michelle D'costa  39:28

we go into that, yeah, I just I remember something about I'm not stereotyping and snorting I just want to mention like an anecdote so back in my NBA days, I realized that a lot of when we have these group activities right they will just slot us as okay you want the creative person the other one is awesome at numbers you know, you are this you are that right? And I found that very problematic and I said okay, but let's take a you know, backseat, okay, what if we allow somebody to be creative, right? So I had just introduced the six hat thinking by De Bono to them just to just to make them understand that okay, let's say in a few means you get to change different hats, right? So then what? So I have often had this problem with stereotyping. Okay. And yeah, that's


Tara Khandelwal  40:07

a good that's a good exercise. But you know life changing. Yeah.


Michelle D'costa  40:11

Okay, cool. So now we can have fun quiz Liza, which we all will be which three of us will be participating in. And of course our listeners can also you know, note down their answers and if you want you can even share your answers with us at about India. Okay, so the first question is, you wouldn't be embarrassed if a your tooth falls off while kissing be. You are caught masturbating. See you fought on a first date. I mean Okay, what do you


Tara Khandelwal  40:46

think I would be like, embarrassed if I fought it? No frosting?


Michelle D'costa  40:51

Yeah. Okay, I think for me a is really embarrassing. But what UniSA



I mean, I think that all quite embarrassing scenarios. But I think that, you know, I would happily laugh about it. Hopefully, hopefully, the truth isn't a painful injury. Why has my daughter fallen off as an adult? I'd be quite I think I'd be more worried about my dental health than the man I'm guessing at that point or person. And the other two I mean, I guess Yeah. Farting and masturbating. I don't lock the door. Yeah, I think they'd all be like, pretty embarrassing. Yeah, that's pretty



embarrassing. Michelle.



All pretty embarrassing, but hopefully the other person is like compassionate enough to have a laugh and you know, carry on as opposed to making it a big deal.


Tara Khandelwal  41:43

So you get turned on. When a your date is chivalrous. Be your date is handsome. See your date is a good listener.



My dear is a good listener.



I agree. Yeah. Wow. Okay, you guys listening? Yeah.


Michelle D'costa  42:01

Yeah, cool. Okay, all right. The next one. This is your deal breaker. A bad breath. Be playboy. See Trump supporter.



Oh god Trump supporter.



Yeah. Follow all three are really bad. Yeah.


Michelle D'costa  42:21

Yeah, I think three in one would make it like the worst. Okay. The last


Tara Khandelwal  42:25

101 thing you miss about an ex they're blank their smile their smell okay. Honestly, like, honestly,


Michelle D'costa  42:41

all or nothing there. Nothing Awesome. All right. I think this was really fun. I hope our listeners have had fun too. So this brings us to our reading recommendation section, which are the three most spicy and interesting love stories you've read.



Ooh, love stories. I feel like I haven't read a love story in a long time. I've been reading so much nonfiction lately. And books about sex and gender and all of that good stuff. The most spicy love stories Gosh, it's not spicy. It's actually quite sad but one of my favorite books and I don't know if we could categorize it as a love story but what disgraced by GM could see I don't know if you guys have read it. But it looks at love and loss and sexuality and violence and all kinds of things. Sorry, sorry, gosh, look at me like being the choice. I don't know I've never actually been much of a reader of like mushy love stories to be honest. Somehow it's just not a genre I was drawn to don't know what that says about me.


Tara Khandelwal  43:52

I love watching like rom coms and things but I just can't You know, I don't read much. I don't even mean books, which are sort of love stories, but I actually wanted to know, you know, since there's so much research so much sort of, even like scientific material is gone into your book. What kinds of sex education tools did you access for? Do you access your own work books, you know, it can be books, podcasts? What's the material that you use?



I love books. I'm a very book person myself actually. And so I do really enjoy reading about this subject some of my favorite books. I could name a lot but why don't I give you three? I love this book called come as you are by Emily Nagurski. I think affiliate it's become very popular because it got a shout out and sex education. Maeve mentions it at one point in the last season.



I love I love Navy. I



love I love sex education. Such a good show. Yeah, but but it's a wonderful book by Emily Nagurski. And one of my favorite books around sexuality by an Indian author is sigh Ibis sexy by rich uncle but it's called Cyber sexy rethinking pornography and it really looks at you know what is pornographic as well as the impact of internet Bong, very contextualized, India. What else, I really, really really enjoy a look. I enjoy the podcast, the Instagram as well as their book Beyond the gender binary. I think I learned so much every day my witness or listen to anything they say. I also am a big fan of this book called The tragedy of heterosexuality by Jane Ward, who is a New York University professor, and it's this sort of lesbian feminist take on heterosexual relationships and what we can perhaps learn from queer relationships. I think it's brilliant, highly recommend. What else I enjoyed, actually, one of the maybe it's a love story, a book I recently read, that I really enjoyed was called D transition, baby. I don't know if you have read it.



Oh, no, no,



that's a good book. It was the first book I'd read by a trans author. And I think that the first fiction book I'd read by a trans author, but it was it was just such an entertaining read a delicious read, and yet also filled with so much insightful sort of social commentary, commentary on gender and relationships and things like that.



Five, five recommendations.


Michelle D'costa  46:38

Yeah, I think, yeah, since you know, Tara, and I love to read about gender. I think it's it's going to be like, it's going to go up rtpi Yes.


Tara Khandelwal  46:45

I cyber sexy has been on my desk for so long, but I've not gotten around to reading it. So maybe I'll pick it up. So now.


Michelle D'costa  46:51

Yeah, we should probably read it. Tara even me. Let's do that.



Good. Yeah. I also really liked this book called Bayesian by Priya Alika. Elliott's in case you're interested. She's such a talented writer. And it's sort of it's like personal essays, but just so well written. And so there's going to be so many moments where you're like, you just resonate so much for any brown woman. It's a wonderful collection of essays. Love, love, love for years writing.


Michelle D'costa  47:21

So the next one is one book you've loved in boarding school, and why



book I loved in boarding school. I mean, I think while I was in school, honestly, I had so much coursework that I was primarily reading what we had to read for school. I took English HL IB, English HL, and there was so much reading. And generally, there was so much I was very nerdy Ultra school in college. I feel like there was so much coursework related reading, and I enjoyed all of it that but I wasn't, I mean, you know, the curricula was dictating what I was reading more than me being able to make time to read for pleasure, unfortunately. But, I mean, you know, I've read, we've read some really fantastic books, even as part of our coursework. So I feel like I really developed an appreciation for Shakespeare thanks to this wonderful teacher I had called James Shapiro, I never thought I could enjoy Shakespeare as much as I was able to thanks to his instruction. I think it's quite amazing how sometimes a good teacher can really shape your appreciation of a subject. And on the other hand, a not so good teacher can really make you not want to give it a chance, you know?


Tara Khandelwal  48:32

Oh, yeah, that's a whole other topic, but I did IB HL two IB English HL to and, yeah, the kind of books that we read, you know, really, really fantastic. The teacher that I had as well, Mr. Beatty. Had a really great selection. Really? Yeah. Do you agree? Well, even when I was in, I was in Bombay. Yeah.



He was my English teacher and Gordy before he left to Bombay. Yeah, Keith. KEITH And Michelle Bailey were like my favorite. Oh, my God. What are the Oh, wonderful. My


Tara Khandelwal  49:12

gosh, yeah. He's really sort of, you know, made it fun. And the selection that he had was was really really good. Yeah, I



remember he made me read The Handmaid's Tale for for like an assignment we had to do on our own. You know, read a book and write an essay about it book of our choice. And he was means to wow, that's cool. Yeah, yeah. He's wonderful. Gosh, how nice that we have the same English teacher. What


Tara Khandelwal  49:39

are the I know? Oh, yeah. One time he made us like sort of like right sort of paired up in twos and right like a therapy like a therapist conversation makes no book so there were all kinds of fun activities. He made us.



He made us like analyze song lyrics. He made us yeah.



Oh yeah. Awesome. Oh, yeah, song lyrics.



Yeah. And then I remember being most impressed by a book in my teenage angsty phase and when we were made to read the outside of by coming also called resonated with the whole class.


Tara Khandelwal  50:16

That's a good teenage book to read. Absolutely talks of podcasts. You know, you have a very popular podcast. So what are your top three favorite podcasts?



Hmm. I often I'm so busy just creating my own content that I haven't gotten to listen to that many podcasts lately. But one of my favorite podcasts, I don't know if they have any very new episodes. Maybe they do. I haven't listened to it for a bit. But one of my all time favorite podcasts is called invisibIe. Lea by NPR. I mean, it's an NPR production.



I love that podcast. Yeah, invisibility, I



read the hidden forces that such a great podcast and I think it's so well produced. And so like, I'm gonna listen from the beginning to the end of each episode, you know?


Michelle D'costa  50:57

Yeah, I think I think that's again, you know, it's got to add to RTB L. Willis. Okay, so the last question in this section would be what's your opinion on all dating self help books out there? Of course, there are not many, especially in India, but what do you think about it?



I think that a lot of the dating, self help books over time, mainly Western, I mean, I is at least the stuff that's coming to my mind. But I feel like they were very rigidly binary in their construction of gender. And there was this idea being reiterated that men and women are extremely different, you know, and where, that's why it's so hard men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that type of sort of language and, and terminology, you know, making arguments that were just so inherently different. And so how do you figure each other out? As if our differences are absolutely embedded and irrevocable and sort of quote unquote, natural, you know, biological, I think that that was quite limiting, because actually, more contemporary writing, and I think less sort of homophobic or even if even if, you know, in this not so intentional way, but I feel like so often, it is so heteronormative and very sort of restrictive, and its imagination around the possibilities, off identity, no matter what genitals you have, you know, it's almost like, if you have a penis, you're like this. And if you have a vagina, you're like, yes, yeah. And there's men are like this. And women are like this. And I really think that we're actually more alike than we are different. And a lot of the perceived differences are actually socially constructed. And socially, I'll reiterate it at every opportunity possible. So it's so relentless, that we can mistake it to be somehow sort of biological or something. But in fact, once you do the work, and once you kind of stopped to examine a lot of this stuff, it's it's much more I feel socially imposed many of these differences than we are allowed to believe, you know, so yeah, so I don't think a lot of the self help books pay attention to that enough, like they're very much they're operating very much within that predetermined kind of construction around what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman instead of dismantling,


Tara Khandelwal  53:17

and just staying out to me like that's a new sort of way of looking at it,


Michelle D'costa  53:21

you read any dating self help book, which has, which is kind of progressive, which is not rigid, like, like the ones you mentioned.



You know, I am not a big fan of instructional books. And I hope my book also is not instructional because I really think that how you operate in the world as a human being and how you navigate your relationships and what you want to do or what you'd like to talk about what you'd like to do and when it's so personal, and you don't have to follow some book to the tee, you know what I mean? I don't like any kind of a lot of I mean, self help as a genre where the writer or the disseminator of the information is positive, some sort of guru who you should be listening to. And it's typically a lot of dude bros, you know, I mean, the whole genre of motivational speaking and motivational podcasts and motivational everything is something I personally cannot bear. I really think it's nice to equip people with information as a sort of Springboard by which they determine the cause of action. Here's some information now you decide how you want to make love and you decide how you what kind of a partner you want to be, if you don't have to dumb but I'm saying it's not the gospel that you have to follow verbatim in order to check all this off your list and that'll make you the best lover ever. You know what? I really think so often, the genre of self help kind of lulls people into believing that here's some simple easy to follow checklist that's going to change your life, but that's not how life works. You know,


Michelle D'costa  54:41

I don't think that like magic.



Yeah, exactly. Like magic. Exactly. And people want this quick, easy, some sort of like, you tell me what to do, and I'll do it and then I wondered, you know, but I think it's so much more about just setting the seeds of a thought or idea or like the potential for something and really But then it's up to the person to, to take that where they want to, you know, I think of it almost like giving you're giving the beans in the paintbrush perhaps to somebody but then they have to make the artwork.


Tara Khandelwal  55:12

Yeah, no, absolutely sad. In fact, this is a very interesting topic. And Michelle and I are gonna have another full episode about this. But this was really amazing. I loved all the insights. So to end the episode, we have a short, rapid fire out, which is exactly what it sounds like. So I'll begin one word to describe the Indian auntie who judges everyone having sex.



Oh, I'm trying to actually unpack the the connotations of the word auntie. Like, I used to use it that way to like, why it's such an anti so judgmental anti, but then I realized there's like some amount of internalized misogyny there. You know, and I wish that we could be sort of somehow okay involving that conversation across generation. Yeah. Oh, no, but


Tara Khandelwal  56:05

I think actually, what Lisa is saying is quite interesting. You know, I mean, learning something about, you know, I never thought of it in that way. But yeah, absolutely.


Michelle D'costa  56:16

Yeah, like, you know, the Hindi auntie, like, like all these stereotypes, so I think maybe we can remove the word Auntie's or like one word to describe the Indian who judges everywhere.



Um, oh, one word is hard. But I would encourage anyone who judges everyone for having sex to remember that they are the product of sex. You are a little one. So stop judging. And yeah, just like live in little hills.


Michelle D'costa  56:46

Cool. Okay. One movie you've seen over and over just for their sex positive story.



I actually sex education is this is a show not a movie. But I love that series. And I've watched it. I've watched every season. I love Gillian Anderson. It's just such a great show. And I think there's it's very entertaining and yet very educational. So I hope a lot of young people watch it.


Tara Khandelwal  57:08

Yeah, I'd love that show. So what is the funniest place? Someone has read this book? Do you know?



I don't know yet. I mean, I've read it in all sorts of places I have. People have sent me pictures of them reading it, you know, on planes on the metro in offices. I someone sent me that they did all them. This small business gave all of their employees a copy of the book. And they sent me this picture of the whole office holding the book. Like I thought that was so sweet. So yeah, I don't know what the funniest place but I'm great. I'm glad that people are reading it proudly and publicly.


Michelle D'costa  57:43

Okay. One sex educator in India who you find inspiring apart from yourself.



I love the work paramita Bora is doing with agents of ich. I've always been inspired by her. I think her writing her digital project of filmmaking. It's also fantastic. She's, and she's not just a sex educator. She's She's more than that. And I think that she has a whole team. It's a project. I don't want to reduce it to just education because I think there's a very strong artistic and creative element to it, too. But yeah, a big fan of barmy Guevara.


Tara Khandelwal  58:16

Okay, two heroes from books you wish existed in real life?



Who were your heroes you wish existed in real life? From



a good question. I haven't thought of that. So.



Right off the top of my head. I'm gonna have to come back to that one.


Tara Khandelwal  58:37

Okay, cool. So the last question is, what are you working on next? Oh,



I am not at liberty to say unfortunately. But I am working on some exciting things that I hope to be able to talk about soon. But in the immediate future, I also really hope that I mean, this book came out literally like last week. So I am also having to spend a lot of time sort of talking about the book promoting the book and hopefully seeing through some translations of it. audiobook is also out. So that's currently what I'm most excited about that's already on my plate that I hope that people will also enjoy consuming.


Tara Khandelwal  59:14

Yes, I mean, congratulations on, you know, congratulations on everything. Especially the book, you know, it's fabulous to have the sort of books you know, out there. And it's very, very well written and I'm certainly looking forward to what you're doing next. Thank you so much.



Thank you so much for having me.


Tara Khandelwal  59:36

So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Candela wall.


Michelle D'costa  59:45

I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bout a company that helps you grow through stories. Find us at sound India or all social media platforms.


Tara Khandelwal  59:55

So tune in every Wednesday if you live, eat and breathe books. Come and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and peek into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia.


Michelle D'costa  1:00:11

And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.