Leeza Mangaldas believes India deserves more space to openly discuss sex and sexuality.
“Imagine a world where all sexual experiences are consensual, safe, and enjoyable,” reads the Instagram bio of digital creator Leeza Mangaldas, who seeks to normalize conversations about gender and sexuality.
The 30-year-old influencer from Mumbai speaks openly about sex toys and demystifies “female pleasure”. She divides sex in a way that is easy for her audience to understand through YouTube and social media. “I get so many messages from women and vulva owners that they had their first orgasm because my content helped them find their own pleasure … that’s just so enjoyable for me,” she notes.
At a pivotal point in life, when Mangaldas mastered her own sexuality while studying at Columbia University, she recalls that due to the non-judgmental ecosystem that existed there, she was supported with adequate information and health resources. She herself was a counselor at college, where part of her job was to talk about topics like consent and point out where to access resources like contraception.
Mangaldas is now creating a needle shift by creating content in Hindi on their platforms as well.
For Mangaldas, the content she creates is simply a way to recreate this space online and facilitate important conversations about the human body, gender, and sexuality, among other things. On her return to Mumbai in 2012, she felt the need for a safe place to initiate such conversations without shame or judgment.
“In the [Indian] In schools there may be a chapter on the reproductive system or a session where girls and boys are separated and the girls are informed about periods, ”she says. “Even when you find a sexually active unmarried gynecologist to turn to for information and support, it is difficult to find,” she adds. Because of the stigma and shame associated with sex and sexuality, most young people live a “double life,” says Mangaldas, and cannot be their authentic selves in front of their parents, doctors and teachers, which is precisely what Gap wants fill by making sex education more accessible.
Breaking down taboos around sexuality
The path to becoming a full-time content creator has not been easy for Mangaldas. After returning from New York in 2012, she started as a television presenter. She quickly realized that mainstream media platforms would only study issues that brands were paying for, and that she would need her own platform if she was to discuss “shush issues” like sex. In 2017 she started her YouTube channel as a passion project and today it has amassed over 4.5 lakh subscribers. From the concepts of virginity and sexual positivity to practical advice on birth control and menstruation, Mangaldas covers a whole range of topics that have otherwise been silenced. However, creating content in this area has its own drawbacks. “By default, sexual content is exposed on YouTube because it’s not ad-friendly,” she says. YouTube demonstration means that videos or channels lose their ability to generate advertising revenue. Using pictures of female nipples even for educational purposes is not possible on Instagram, which often removes such posts.
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Being on the internet as a woman is not easy, but being someone who speaks openly about sex can be an even more difficult challenge. Mangaldas’ family supports her outspoken and unconventional career path and she credits them with their liberal upbringing so that she can speak up. She admits that growing up with open-minded parents with whom conversations about body and sexuality were never judged was a privilege.
While trolling sometimes finds its way, the barrage of positive feedback it receives more than makes up for it. For many who have felt choked all their lives, their direct messages become a place of comfort. Of the thousands of messages she receives, Mangaldas said that the most common thread was “Am I normal?” Is.
“There is so much shame in our culture that people are just so concerned,” she says. Even within the limited knowledge people have, most of it revolves around “penetration and penises,” she explains. “Most women and vulva owners would have difficulty correctly labeling a diagram of the vulva,” she says, adding that many fail to realize that climaxing through penetration alone is rare and that stimulation of the clitoris is also rare is crucial. “Her sexuality is mysterious to her,” she shares, referring to the mainstream message that pleasure is “elusive” for women and vulva owners. Mangaldas admits that until she learned and developed her own understanding, her own sexuality was also confusing.
While sexual content is sufficiently available in English, Mangaldas has started to manipulate a shift of consciousness through needles through her Hindi content and is eager to create more as she believes there is a need to make it more accessible and reach a wider audience.
Mangaldas thought about the future and noted that she was eager to “hand over the microphone”.
As a heterosexual cisgender woman, she doesn’t want to be constrained by her own perspective and hopes to work with other people of different identities and origins to create a platform for a wider range of voices. “I have so much to learn,” she concludes.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)
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