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Sex education

An early 20th-century postcard on the dangers of sex (Public domain; source: Wiki commons)

LET’S talk about sex … and how ignorant our youth are about it.

Anyone remember the Malaysian science syllabus in secondary school? The chapter with diagrams of male and female genitalia, and little explanation about what to do with them? Perhaps you had a teacher who, with a deadpan face, stuck strictly to the scientific facts about the diagrams and said nothing else about hormones or feelings or sexual intercourse.

Perhaps no one, neither your parents nor teachers told you what sex is for, why people do it, how it is done, when you should have sex, who you should have it with, and the emotional and medical consequences.

Little wonder then that reports about incest and abandoned babies in school toilets or garbage dumpsites have been regular features in our newspapers. Heart-breaking too, are stories of young women who face arrest and prison simply because they “didn’t know what to do” with their dead newborn.

The Nut Graph is both intrigued and appalled by a 30 Aug 2009 New Straits Times report that cited surveys to demonstrate just how uneducated our youths are about sex.

In one survey, conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board, some of the things youths were clueless about were where a foetus develops, and what the male and female reproductive organs are.

In another survey, conducted by Universiti Malaya, there were youths who thought that a woman could get pregnant just by sharing a bed with a man.

At the same time, youths are found to be more sexually active than ever. So, if many youths are exploring something they have little knowledge about, not to mention the maturity to handle, we shouldn’t blame them if they don’t behave responsibly.


What’s to fear?

Malaysia is still ambivalent on having formal sex education in schools. Till today, there is no formal syllabus. Instead, it is incorporated into subjects like Moral Studies, Islamic Studies, and Biology, says the Education Ministry.

Past government attempts to introduce sex education in schools have seen much tip-toeing around the topic. The government chose to weave sex education into other subjects or tried to deal with it solely in the context of HIV/AIDS. Such measures are of course inadequate.

In the 1990s, there was even debate as to whether the term “sex education” should be used for fear of misunderstanding. The official term accepted then was “family health education”, underlying the patriarchal value that having sex is only for pro-creation and not for pleasure.

But sex education could be so much more than about reproducing to start a family or to stem a disease like HIV/AIDS. Teaching youngsters about sex should involve teaching them about self-respect, responsibility, choice and consequences. A girl must know she has the right to say “no” and a boy must know that girls are not sex objects. Comprehensive sex education could go beyond the scientific and medical facts to address other dimensions like gender equality and sexual diversity, morality, culture and human rights.

Because, beyond the headlines about baby-dumping are larger stakes if sex education is ignored. Our society is already grappling with rising crime, including domestic violence and sexual crimes. There is also rising healthcare costs to consider. Sexually transmitted diseases happen because people don’t know how to take precautions to protect themselves, resulting in additional burdens to the public health care system and a loss in working hours. There is also gender and sexual discrimination which can be addressed through sex education.

It’s hard to fathom just what the authorities are afraid of in the words “sex education” and in teaching the subject itself. Greater knowledge about sexuality does not automatically lead to higher incidences of teenage sex. Ignoring sex education does not mean youths will not have sex, either. The common parental wisdom when dealing with teens, that they’ll do anyway what you tell them not to, is worth remembering. That being the case, isn’t it better for youths to be equipped with knowledge?

(Pic by zts / Dreamstime)

Learning from Singapore

Singapore, considered a conservative Asian society, is addressing these issues much better and faster than Malaysia. It’s only practical to do so. Sex education is formally taught in schools there from upper primary to pre-university levels. The Singapore Ministry of Education‘s objectives in teaching sex education appear focused on building mature and responsible individuals.

What do you think? Who should we leave sex education to? The prevailing culture? The media? Do you think it’s necessary? What are the roles of parents and schools? What’s the best way to implement sex education?

Tell us your thoughts in six words only. Here are ours:

Cindy Tham:

No sex education ≠ no sex.

Abandon conservatism. But don’t abandon babies.

Deborah Loh:

Ignorance may not be so bliss.

No need for shyness. It’s serious.

Jacqueline Ann Surin:

Effective method for cautious social behaviour.

Sex education does not equate promiscuity.

Pendidikan seks perlu untuk mengelakkan kehamilan.

Tanpa pendidikan seks, AIDS susah dibanteras.

Macam mana orang muda bisa belajar?

Birds and bees. Protection and safety.

Mills & Boons was my education!

Kitzinger’s Woman’s Experience of Sex recommended!

Shanon Shah:

Responsible kids become responsible adults, no?

Why censor information about human bodies?

Sex kills when done in ignorance.

My body, my right to information.

Maybe parents need some education, too.

Maybe politicians need the education more.

The Nut Graph supports sex education.

Inspired by Ernest Hemingway‘s genius, the Six Words On… section challenges readers to give us their comments about a current issue, contemporary personality or significant event in just six words. The idea is to get readers engaged in an issue that The Nut Graph identifies, while having fun and being creatively disciplined.

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15 Responses to “Sex education”

  1. banana says:

    What? Girls are not sex objects?

  2. Yeo Kien Kiong says:

    May sex education be with everybody.

  3. Educate, but promote human values, please!

  4. Miles says:

    Pornography is the unofficial sex education.

    Ignorance will not make us saints.

    Sex education? Go find out yourself!

  5. lezzo says:

    Kids do it. Don’t ignore it.

    Smart sex = Safe Sex. Easy!

    Condoms. Condoms. Condoms. Condoms. Condoms. Condoms.

  6. khenghoe says:

    In, out, repeat…what’s to teach?

  7. Ramlah Ramadan says:

    Moment of rashness=lifetime of rashes.

    Even Minister mentions ‘erections’ on TV.

    Katak bawah tempurung, tak pakai sarung.

    Know your body. Control your future.

    Orgasms can give rise to organisms.

    Coitus interruptus (Latin): Oops, too late.

    Tak payah malu, baligh keluar bulu.

    Ignorance stands between childhood and motherhood.

    PS: As a Singaporean transgender person of colour, I love The Nut Graph!

    Editor: And we sincerely thank you for your support!

    Shanon Shah
    Columns and Comments Editor

  8. Sean says:

    Alt f4 say no to knowledge.

    GUM’s a lousy place to learn.

    Try thinking out of the box.

  9. M.K. says:

    Sex education for survival of [human]kind!

  10. Ibnu Zaini says:

    Learning sex education from the Quran.

    Sexual orientation from as-Sunnah assures safety.

    STDs caused by unnatural sexual acts.

    So-called safe sex (adultery) ruins emotion.

  11. Andrew I says:

    Let’s not just talk…let’s do.

  12. terri says:

    Mummy, eat VERY FULL = baby?

  13. zids says:

    Accidents in backseats may cause babies.

    Sex education instead of moral education.

    What does sex education really mean?

    Who should be teaching sex education?

    Can we please know the syllabus?

    Will it follow religion or opinion?

    What do experts have to say?

  14. makelight says:

    Don’t be naive. Ignorance has consequences.

    Please give sex education a chance.

    Sex is good if you know.

  15. Zozo says:

    Rakyat tidak dibenarkan ambil tahu seks.
    Pemimpin kononnya lebih tahu tentang seks.

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