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Teach me about sex

Published in The Malaysian Insider

Forget that when people think about sexual prowess, they don’t automatically think keropok lekor. Forget that the amount of Tongkat Ali additive available in health supplement products is too little to work. The fact that Terengganu thinks it’s a prudent idea to sell Tongkat Ali-laced keropok lekor reflects that there is a sizable demand for it.

Perhaps it is time to admit that our society is obsessed with sex. More accurately, we are obsessed with ubat kuat-kind of sexual performance, but not so much the aspects that would benefit from sex education.

Last month, my fiancee and I attended the nationally-mandatory two-day kursus kahwin. If anything, we were looking forward to the class about sexual health, in particular family planning. Instead, we were left unsatisfied (your mileage might vary).

How many kids do you think can a woman bear in her lifetime? Six? 10? By some dubious mathematics, a preacher suggested that women can bear 30 kids in their lifetime, and therefore the participants must breed as many children as biologically possible.

“If you don’t breed, we Malays will be over-run in numbers by the non-Malays. We will then lose our voting power,” he explained. “Just look at Singapore, where Muslims are the minority.”

It sounded like a bad joke, but many of the participants took the advice to heart. The preacher also warned against masturbating: “Your testes are gifts from God, the human race will disappear if you don’t take care of your sperm.”

“You only have 30 million sperms in your ejaculate, you need as many of them as possible to inseminate the egg,” he urged sternly. I hesitated to tell him that’s not exactly how it works.

This emphasis on performing as a way to prove your manliness, and delivering babies upon babies is in stark conflict with the attitude towards unmarried couples who are expected to remain chaste.

All too often we see the outrage towards abandoned newborns, with the “offending” young mothers usually named and shamed in the papers (the fathers are rarely shamed, if at all). During festivities, we hear moral crusaders raiding cheap hotels to catch young couples in khalwat red-handed. More outrage, but no solutions would be offered, save for some chastisement and tired reminder to abstain from sex… well at least until you get married.

This is what happens when society pretends that young people only have sex on Valentine’s Day, and not the other 364 days.

The approach to abstinence ties in with the reluctance to let youths know the existence of protection, lest they have more sex. By trying to keep sex “secret” this also indirectly affects married couples, who are not only rarely educated on the options available for them, but at the same time are urged to procreate for the good of race/religion/all of the above.

If I’m not mistaken, the pharmacy in MidValley Megamall’s Carrefour only sells condoms inside a glass cabinet. In order to buy a box, one needs to hassle the pharmacy cashier for the key to the cabinet, and then have the cashier wait beside oneself while choosing what to buy. Unnerving for some, especially if it’s their first time.

I remember an anecdote of a Ministry of Health officer who was tasked to educate villagers about family planning, specifically about using condoms. While she was explaining how to wear one, she used a broomstick to illustrate the erect penis.

A couple of months later, when she came back she found that some mothers with a large number of children were still getting pregnant. She checked, and found out that the villagers had slung the condoms on their broomsticks!

It is easy to laugh at such stories, but ask ourselves, are our friends and family aware of these facts, and if asked, would we mind explaining?

The latest blow by the authorities of course, is ordering “Where Did I Come From” off the shelves, an illustrated (some say too heavily illustrated) sex education book by British author Peter Mayle. It was published 38 years ago, only to be stopped by the Home Ministry a few days ago.

Umno Youth community complaints bureau chairman Muhd Khairun Aseh explained that he has received many complaints that the book is available in the children’s section for those below the age of 12, despite having cartoon illustrations of the human genitalia.

Well, that is the precise point isn’t it? The book IS meant for children to understand where they come from (it says so obviously in its title). Would you suggest that we keep our children forever in the dark with the same old lies until they stumble upon the facts through porn?

Maybe that is how parents are urged to educate (or rather NOT educate) their kids on sex, especially with remarks like “the book might be suitable for children at the writer’s country of origin, but is still not suitable in Malaysia.”

Have we ever thought that this might be the exact reason why other countries do not whine so much about teenage pregnancies and abandoned babies? Have we ever thought that maybe, maybe after all these years of ineffective approach, we might want to try something more practical instead of wishful thinking?

I say let’s leave sex education to the sex educators, those who regard sex as it is: a pleasurable way of connecting two consenting adults, and an essential biological process from which we give birth to our next generation. Do not leave it to those with the gutter porn mentality — those who find sex dirty, something one should be ashamed and shy of.

Let me start with myself: teach me about sex. And when my future children start asking where did they come from, I’ll give them a straight answer. Isn’t that, after all, what responsible parents should do?

Published inTMI column
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