Narine Nersisian, a doctor in the sexology clinic of the Medical University and an employee of sexology department, is talking about Armenian myths connected with sex, as well as sexual education, existing issues and the ways of overcoming them.
– With what issues and problems are you being addressed the most?
Men are addressing me for erection dysfunction while women with Vaginismus. Those are the most common issues in my practice, although, there are no relevant statistics conducted about this issue on the national level.
– What is it connected with?
I can say that there are no professionals who would not only study but would also raise the importance of the question.
– There is a common understanding that people in Armenia, especially young people, are not informed on the topic of sexual health. Is it like that?
Yes, we have that problem. This is again connected with the lack of professionals. The child is not receiving any accurate information provided in a competent form neither at home nor at school. The sex educator is a common profession abroad; those are the people who teach sex education. The sexuality is a very complicated theme and each word is important. That is why the sexual education can’t be taught by random people; there is a need for professionals.
– When does the sexual education of the child begin?
It begins since his/her birth. The child is learning and recognizing its surroundings, so are the sexual relations, which are part of that world. It is natural that every child starts asking questions even the simple ones; why are female and male bodies different from each other? The first educators are parents and it is important that they answer his/her questions in an accessible language and without lying. It is wrong to scare the child, make her/him feel ashamed, because those questions are not something shameful or wrong but they are very natural. If the child gets the basic information in a right way then her/his sexual education will continue with its normal path, and many problems simply will not arise in the future.
– Talking about problems, is it risky to get treated in Armenia?
No, it is not risky at all. In the sense of the practical medicine, the field is more advanced than in many other countries. There is only an issue with lack of professionals in the regions; for example there is only one professional working in city Gyumri and that’s it. It means the patients from the regions are forced to come to Yerevan in order to visit a doctor.
– Are there any homosexual individuals that are addressing you?
Yes, but contrary to popular opinion, they do not come to change their orientation. Mainly the hardest period for them is their self realization and understanding of their own sexuality. Unfortunately in homophobic society each problem of a homosexual person is being linked to her/his sexual orientation. This is a wrong approach, because each individual regardless of their sexual orientation can have depression, suicidal thoughts and many other thoughts as well as problems.
– It is believed that people avoid visiting a doctor because having a problem related to sexual health is considered as something shameful.
It is connected with the culture. We are a traditional society, because our nation is small. Small nations have to be more conservative and traditional in order to keep their identities. Nevertheless, those traditions are not stones and they have to change and adapt to the given era and lifestyle. Each tradition is a complex of phenomenas and rules. The virginity tradition is the same way, so, many years before young girls aged 14 had to be virgins in order to get married. That is for 17th century, but what about now? How many girls do you know that are getting married at 14? As a result we kept this distorted understanding of a tradition and we keep putting pressure on women who are 25-30 to stay virgins, which can actually become a health issue. By this tradition we are not keeping an identity but we are abusing and humiliating women’s bodies. Many this kind of distorted traditions are becoming a ground for many myths and stereotypes, which are bringing inappropriate attitudes towards a real and existing issue.
– What kinds of myths exist in our reality?
There are actually many myths and are not only common in our society but also elsewhere. One of the common myths in contemporary Armenian society is the myth of “Saint Mariam and the prostitute”, which means that women are divided into two types: one type is for pleasure, who men will not marry ever and the type that is for marriage, who are appropriate candidates as wives. I think this is only complicating our lives, because you can marry, love, have sex and children with the same woman without necessarily labeling her.