Azira debuts her column, “Connect the Dots”, with a consideration on the state of denial about sexual activity among youths and the need for sex education.
“Baby, if you love me then you’ll say yes…”
A young woman when in love does many crazy things. I can attest to that as I have in my not too distant younger years, been in love (single and rocking now). Though the courtship between young boys and girls usually include mushy letters, SMSes, I love you’s, and shy hand-holding between most couples, we cannot ignore a growing trend of pre-teens making out while going out together or dating, and as the relationship progresses and the couple grow older, the intimacy would eventually progress into a sexual relationship.
I am not restricting this to the non-Muslims. This goes across the board. Yes, Muslims these days have premarital sex lives, tudung or not.
Malaysia is a predominantly conservative society when it comes to sex. We don’’ talk about it. We pretend it doesn’’ exist amongst young people, and God forbid, must be stated with shock if some poor girl got herself pregnant. However, our media is flooded with it. Suggestive advertisements on television, radio, and other media selling products that supposedly make us more attractive and sexier to the opposite gender. MTV and music videos imported or YouTube-d from liberal nations with more than suggestive and sometimes explicit lyrics (“I want to love you” by Akon in Malaysia is a censored version of “I want to f*ck you” and also our very own Nina and Colby O’Donis’ “What you waiting for”) and we expect our kids to still retain their innocent minds and not experiment.
These days, our Malaysian Censorship Board is basically a useless institution filled with outdated old farts completely lacking in sense of humour and annoying the heck out of most Malaysians, as they merely censor sex scenes, and not excessive violence. Their function is useless thanks to the invention of Internet, where the whole wide world is at every little child’s fingertips. Hordes of young people download, stream and read a lot of sexually-related matters and are privy to the juiciest Hollywood gossips. The untouchable pornography, porn videos, sexually arousing photos of highly attractive men and women are accessible with a single click at the client’s discretion.
Our young boys and girls are receptive to this without any practical guidance. Most young people don’t care about morals and religion. What they’re getting is – sex is good, sex looks fun, sex sells, sex is everywhere and it’s cool. Even worse, young girls are being told that if they want to be loved by a boy in an emotional level, they have to concede certain liberties, and most of the time, is to bed the boy is some shady hotel. Their self worth is directly connected to the boy they’re with. Unfortunately, as I’ve observed, love may lead to sex, but sex, as one man gleefully clarified to my very innocent self back then, is merely sex.
Our education system does not cater to this aspect of a person’s life. You’re just told you’re not supposed to “do it” until you’re married and it’s supposed to be viewed as a duty, not a form of empowerment of self. If you’re unfortunate enough to be Muslim, you’re regaled with tales about so and so thousand years you’re burned in hell and if memory serves me right, an adulterous woman shall be hung upside down, spitted over the fires of the highest levels of hell (there’s seven layers in Islam), with red hot clamps over your breasts. Not that that deterred some girls.
When even your parents don’t talk about it, thanks to bodice-ripper erotica which is every young woman’s dirty secret, authors such as Judith McNaught, Norah Roberts, Julie Garwood, Mills & Boons, etc is the ONLY source of gender related information for most girls. Unrealistic fantasy worlds of story plots where character assassination of women, overly dramatised romanticism, and some form of kidnapping or another is the only resource for most girls, which is ridiculous (yes, I read them, little good that it did me – kes kena tipu tahap maksima.) I find this unacceptable.
With such disparity between what the plethora of sexual content material youths are bombarded with versus reality and the absolute lack of education for street-smart wits to handle such material, no wonder we are saddled with social problems such as teen pregnancy, abandoned babies, and sexually transmitted diseases. Even worse, the young girls and women who made the mistake of bedding the boy they thought they loved and carry the consequences in their wombs are stigmatised and scorned by society, while the boy who is just as guilty is allowed to walk free from responsibilities, as he is “DA MAN.” She will be called a slut and whore for the rest of her life, while the boy will move on with life and bed other women and/or get married.
I’m not being bitter. Those are facts. There are so many stories of so many women with the same template chronology of events.
I actually applaud Dato’ Sharizat Abdul Jalil’s proposed approach of abstinence education for schools. It means that the government is willing to at least admit that there is something that can be done. However, I’m sorry to say that the method has been tried in other countries, particularly in USA and proven to be a failure.
With this in mind, I must also respectfully rebut Tok Guru Nik Aziz’s objection that having sex education will cause youths to have more sex, because it has been proven that it does not, in cases where Effective Sex Education is implemented. It only makes youth more responsible in their life choices, which in our society would mean condoms and abstinence.
It also has been proven in studies done in the America, where Effective Sexual Education, which comprises of these characteristics work:
Offer age and culturally appropriate sexual health information in a safe environment for participants;
In short, what I’m proposing is that we are meant to teach and treat our youths as adults, as lessons learned in such programs is meant to prepare them for their entire lives, not merely to tide them by as they grow up. I’m proposing that we teach our youngest children that if an adult other than your parents touches your “pee-wee” and do painful things with it, to tell a safe adult or their parents. I’m proposing for teaching primary schoolers that adults who touches you in funny ways are bad people, and to always tell and never comply to the abuser’s request of “never tell.”
My causal link in how this would help solve pregnancy in teenagers and abandoned babies by unmarried mothers is simple:
Education -> Abstinence -> If sex occurs which usually is the case -> Contraception -> No pregnant teens/unmarried mothers -> No abandoned babies (as there will be no reason for it) + Both genders shall be educated on the responsibilities connected to procreation = a more empowered and well equipped youth population in Malaysia.
Forgive me if this offends you. I find it frustrating when the solution is readily available and common sense while our politicians, religious leaders, and old fuddy-duddies wrangle and scream about how it is against so and so religion, morals and deserve contempt and hatred for some vague reason. I find it hypocrisy to headline trashy sex-related headlines, while refusing to change in order to enact change for the better. I find it unreasonable to continue on allowing murder behind closed doors (abortion, abandoning babies in dumpsters etc) simply because all of US, yes, ALL OF US have not the courage to confront our “feared” sensitive issues purely because of our fear of how other people would perceive us.
Parents cannot just shrug the responsibility off their shoulders to teachers. They, as parents have the obligation to sit down with their children and tell them about these issues. My only form of sexual education from my parents was “Don’t do it because it is sin. Don’t break any boys’ hearts either” during a traffic jam when I was 19 years old. It did not help me in any way at all. Instead, I took the initiative to educate myself, as you can see in this article.
You need to provide a safe environment for your children to ask questions. It will be embarrassing for both parent and child, the thing is, do you want your child to walk blindly and make mistakes which gives detrimental effect for the rest of their lives? If you fail to prepare your child, you are preparing your child to fail in life lessons.
This is one of those social issues that is never-ending, and requires constant cycle of educational awareness and encouraging people to open up about. I’m very aware of the moral and religious grounds for and against sexual education, but I instead choose a practical path of recognising a problem, analyzing it, and finding the most feasible and realistic solution for it. It is better than “ish-ishing” in mamak restaurants and pretending to be shocked and disgusted at every news article featuring pregnant teenagers/unwed mothers and abandoned babies in dumpster and drains.
I hope and pray that you feel the same.
LB: The author made a promise of abstinence to her Mother that she keeps. For others, she suggests using condoms. Azira Aziz is a self-professed mongrel Malaysian. She hopes to have “Malay” and “non-Malay” relegated as a relic of the past sometime in the future. She is a UiTM graduate currently undergoing training to become a lawyer.