The Scoop: Many young people in India learn about societal stigmas and the diseases they can contract by having sex. But honest answers to questions about contraception and sex outside of marriage are often considered taboo. Love Matters India set out to change those norms when it launched its online sex education platform in 2011. The platform offers educational resources to answer all of the questions Indian youth have about sex, love, and relationships. The Love Matters brand now includes more than 20 million users, and it has become a reliable resource for young people in India and around the world.
When Vithika Yadav got the opportunity to build a sex education digital initiative in India 10 years ago, she knew it would have to overcome many hurdles. But the country’s existing sex education programs often lacked information, and some were highly judgmental.
Vithika first wanted to understand what young people experienced when it came to sex education. She connected with high school and college students to find out what they did and didn’t know.
“We wanted to understand what the landscape looked like for young people in India. How did they find information? What were their burning questions? What were their desires?” she said.
Vithika and her team discovered that, if young people received sex education at all, it was typically from a disease-prevention perspective. They often learned strategies for preventing HIV/AIDS — and that was about it.
They also reported that much of the information they received about sex was academic, instead of learning how to build authentic, loving relationships.
Leveraging that research, Vithika co-founded the sex education platform Love Matters in 2011. The organization speaks to young people in a straightforward, honest way about many issues. Over the last 10 years, the platform has developed a robust repository of love, sex, and relationship content and answers questions many in India may consider taboo.
“The sex education given to most young people doesn’t answer their questions about love and relationships,” Vithika said.
Vithika found that young people were interested in learning about different topics, including contraceptives and same-sex relationships, for instance. And these questions clearly resonated with many in India.
“When we launched, we saw massive success immediately,” said Vithika.
Offering Non-Judgmental Resources on Sex
Vithika launched Love Matters in India for users ages 18 to 30, and the team was intentional about creating a non-judgmental platform. That’s why it focuses on pleasure in sex and relationships rather than the stigma many learned in school.
“Pleasure has been seen as controversial. It hasn’t always been part of the sex education movement. But we think of pleasure as a key component, not only in relationships but in youth organizations and health program support,” Vithika said.
Love Matters employs experts in sex education and healthy relationships to develop the platform’s content, which is fun and engaging, but it’s also well-researched and thorough.
The platform is also designed with accessibility in mind. One Love Matters writer named Auntyji has become one of the country’s most popular sex columnists because many young people struggle with judgment around sex and desire.
“We have an older, traditional-looking woman who speaks Punjabi, who is a go-to person to answer their questions. Yet she is conversational and very friendly,” Vithika said.
For instance, a man wrote to Auntyji about his “gent’s problem,” and she responded with this down-to-earth advice:
“One may need only you and your partner to ‘fix’ the issue, and the other may need antibiotics — very different things both, no? And very different service providers too.”
Love Matters also keeps the platform fresh by adding new content daily based on the pressing needs of young people.
“We map the realities of relationships people have. So we have to answer the kinds of questions young people have,” Vithika told us.
A Human-Centered, Feedback-Oriented Platform
Love Matters has grown its audience over the last decade as India’s internet usage has increased. The platform has also helped redirect many young people to better resources than they set out to find.
“Young people were going to pornographic websites but weren’t learning much about the relationships they wanted to have. They wanted to learn how to have happy, healthy relationships,” Vithika said.
Love Matters reached out to a diverse audience to help replace that reliance on porn. Users can access the platform on desktops, laptops, tablets, or through its mobile app, and connect with it through social media. Love Matters content is available in both English and Hindi, welcoming more people to use the platform.
Engaging users is an essential part of the Love Matters philosophy. Almost all of the website’s content is generated from user feedback.
“We found that our users had lots of questions, but felt that they couldn’t ask them in other places because of shame and stigma,” Vithika said.
Before Love Matters launched, many young people would ask private questions in public forums — if they asked them at all. But anonymous engagement has helped Love Matters become a much more open and honest community. Users can ask any questions they have about love, sex, or relationships without the shame they might feel elsewhere.
That is why the site typically receives 150 to 200 questions every day, and the more often users ask a particular question, the more likely the Love Matters team will answer it quickly.
“Everything we have is created with the audience in mind. We have human-centered design strategies. We produce fresh content every week that’s guided by these questions,” said Vithika.
Love Matters: Expanding to South Asia and Around the World
Love Matters demystifies sex and relationships for young people, which is why it has amassed a following of more than 20 million people. The platform has expanded around the world to include Love Matters China, Love Matters Arabic, and Love Matters Africa. The brand also operates Love Matters Hablemos de Sexo y Amor (a Spanish platform) and a French platform called Amour Afrique.
Vithika and her team are enthusiastic about continuing that expansion. Next, the Love Matters brand plans to reach more countries in South Asia. Furthermore, the Love Matters platform plans to add language options beyond English and Hindi. The team is also developing an app that focuses on intimate partner violence (IPV) prevention.
Love Matters is collaborating with the Indian dating app Magnett so users can seek dating and relationship information directly through its interface.
“The app is looking at how it can integrate the information we provide directly into its experience. Our goal in this collaboration is to help people engage in better relationships,” Vithika said.
Over the last 10 years, Love Matters has improved the accuracy and depth of young people’s knowledge of sex, love, and relationships. Vithika and her team are ambitious and want to make more global sex education programs focus on both pleasure and relationships.
“We take pride in the fact that we have some of the biggest supporters in the pleasure-focused sex education movement. Pleasure should be seen as a centerpiece of how we look at love, sex, and relationships,” Vithika said.