When it comes to sex, accepted terms are hard to find. Most people simply point at their body parts or use euphemisms, says Nandar, a local activist who translates feminist literature. In theory, sex education is offered in schools, but most teachers skip the topic. They are often too embarrassed to talk about sex in the classroom. Last year an MP from the ruling National League for Democracy proposed giving the subject more prominence.
The government did not take up her suggestion. Laws about sex are a muddle. The morning-after pill is freely available on supermarket shelves for less than a dollar a pack. Abortion is illegal, but widely practised. So is adultery. Marital rape remains legal. During a recent Burmese New Year festival, Yangon officials banned the sale of contraceptives and Viagra in the hope of curbing sex crimes. The urban elite is loosening up a bit. A few years ago the mere publication of the V-word, in English, in a local paper created such a furore that the paper apologised.
Women are told that washing their hair when menstruating could be fatal. Eating tea-leaf salad or guava at the wrong time of the month is also dicing with death.
Those expecting babies should not eat spicy food, let alone have sex. But even if the sexual revolution has not reached Myanmar, the technological one has.
Smartphones are changing the way ordinary Burmese understand their bodies. In anonymous chats, young women dare to ask doctors questions they would never broach in person, says Michael Lwin, who developed maymay, an app providing guidance about maternal, child and female health. Demand is high. The offending material was quickly taken down, but not before the police launched an investigation into how it ever came to be put up in the first place.
On the plus side, at least they now have indisputable proof that masturbation does indeed exist. This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "Speak no evil". Reuse this content The Trust Project. Can it be? America and the Taliban prepare to sign a peace deal. The best of our journalism, handpicked each day Sign up to our free daily newsletter, The Economist today Sign up now.