A few months ago, I stumbled upon a website which had a very interesting approach towards sex ed. It had feature pieces (interestingly illustrated) about why too much sex didn’t call for judgement, how boys and girls should freely talk to their folks about sex, informative cards on STDs — and erotic poetry from the Mughal period.

Paromita Vohra Photo-Milan GuptaThe site is called Agents of Ishq — and they “give sex a good name” — and is the brainchild of documentary film-maker Paromita Vohra. So what triggered the inception of Agents of Ishq? “In some ways, AOI is an extension of the work I’ve been doing for a long time — my interest in a non-compartmentalised conversation about sex, love, gender, politics, artand life and the ideas that shaped AOI have been touched on in some of my films.” That is quite true. Some of Vohra’s films, like Unlimited Girls, Where’s Sandra? And Morality TV aur Loving Jehad are eye-openers about the way society treats and deals with women, gender roles and sexuality. “But in a more specific sense,” Vohra continues, “it is a response to the way sex is being talked about in the online space. Too much is normative — earlier, people felt shame about having sex, now they feel shame or loser-ness about not having it.”

As a project, Agents of Ishq talks about safe sex, sexual experiences, shares information and creates conversations sans vulnerability, fear and confusion. It is trying to create an evolved platform where people can speak honestly and not be judged, and where they can gain reassurance and the possibility of thinking about themselves differently. “We wanted to talk about sex lovingly, non-prescriptively and beautifully. No talking down, no lecturing, no boring stuff, no sanctimony. No saying monogamy is better than polyamory, or polyamory is superior to monogamy. It is about pleasure, awareness, conscious choice, agency,” says Vohra.

A still from the Consent Lavni
A still from the Consent Lavni

What works for Agents of Ishq is the unabashed Indianness of the content. The connotations, examples and situations are easily connectable. A difficult conversation on consent was treated frothily with Maharashtrian lavni, making it an entertaining yet thought-provoking watch. But how are people reacting? “The responses are grateful, loving and most of all — which was unplanned for us — taking ownership. We had a lot of young people saying — thanks, I can actually watch your films with my mom, people asking if we’d come and talk at their school, people writing from small towns, doctors, sex-educators, teachers, all wanting to collaborate, use the material, share their stories. The site is in English and Hindi, so we got mixed audiences in a sense.”

The Lavni video, titled The Amorous Adventures of Shakku and Megha in the Valley of Consent, has become a major hit online. “When we made it, people were particularly grateful because there was no blame involved. Rather than the violent polarity of Yes and No, we explored the complex territory of Maybe. We feel this lessens the idea that it’s a Men vs. Women thing and opens the door to discussing how something we do together as humans can be done with more regard and an ability to listen,” says Vohra.