My premature sexual curiosity was awakened not by flipping through the glossy pages of “Where did We Come From?”. The “literary work” responsible for this was a one-page column in the URTV magazine circa 1980s known as “Tanya Abang Uda”.
Week after week, one of the problems posed in this column, would be a mind boggling conflict revolving around an incestuous relationship or any other forms of sexual exploitation.
Of course, there were no graphics of man and woman in “compromising positions” to accompany the stories of woman being subject to sexual manipulations by her brothers, step fathers or boy-friends, but the description of bodies being groped or touched may by the standard of that era, accredited as “steamy” and “highly erotic”.
As far as my young mind could recall, “Abang Uda” was never called to face the music for being a self-acclaimed relationship counsellor or sexologist. Meanwhile, the column continued to titillate readers in between pages of Noreen Nor or Raja Nor Baizura ‘s sexy poses.
The local publication of steamy fiction describing forbidden acts of love by the well in the village or in a secluded hut by the paddy field continued to keep some of us entertained and even perhaps, erotically stimulated for a while.
I remembered during my boarding school years (that would be mid-90s), every time I went back to my hometown by bus, I would peep at the rows of Malay paperbacks displayed by the boxes of oranges or drinks at the stalls by the bus station. Some of these paperbacks, with titles ranging from ‘Semalam Di Malaysia” to “Cinta Ternoda” (which I came to learn had nothing to do with great spots to visit in Kuala Lumpur), was full of provocative paragraphs about men and women’s suppressed sexual desires and how they are forced into having affairs with various men and women to quench their thirst for intimacy.
Let’s not forget the sleeper hit Malay porn fiction, “Mona Gersang”, that some of us might have heard of or read during our raging hormone days. I bet the fiction continues to erotically stimulate some of us, as I found online versions of the book in my Google search results recently.
It is not my intention to cheekily drop references on this subject for all of you to Google. I don’t really have to, either. Because every day, as we drive on the road and stop our cars at the traffic light, we see signs advertising adult sex toys, or when we stroll along Masjid India street, we see tables selling aphrodisiacs or local herbs to enhance male sexual prowess.
Even better, when some of us attend marriage courses, we ladies would blush or throw out an awkward laugh, when within the safe space of the segregated seating, the Ustadz would crack some “kelambu jokes” with a straight face under the “Tanggungjawab Isteri Kepada Suami” segment.
So tell me, how could we have the nerve or pardon my word, “balls” to explicitly condemn Peter Mayle’s book as immoral when we ourselves are confronted or perhaps subscribe to the supposedly taboo subject every day in our lives? Can we say with certainty, that these examples I mentioned above are safer and better outlets for information or understanding of sex as compared to Peter Mayle’s book? Or would the banning be one of those days where we shamelessly celebrate hypocrisy?
What do we find intolerable or unacceptable about the book? Was it the idea that the book is for children? Then how do we explain how some of us would allow girls as young as 12 years old to be married and to take up their “wifely roles” at such tender age?
To be fair, this is not merely a Malaysian syndrome. Recently, the Thai Ministry of Education was also in hot soup for introducing the following question in its Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) for Grade-12 students: “What should you do if you have a sexual urge?” Multiple answers offered ranges from “Play football” to “Go to a friend’s house and watch movie”. The question that was supposed to gauge answers based on the students’ opinion, was found by the parents to be an insult to their childrens’ intelligence and common sense.
On that note, banning Peter Mayle’s book on the basis of morality is also an insult to our intelligence.
Yes, some of us feel that we have done the right thing when Peter Mayle’s book is taken off the rack. Rest assured, in this time and era, our children’s curiosity will be satisfied through other means, which at the end of the day could be an even more disturbing option: downloadable 3GP movies, closed online forums where potential paedophiles roam free or perhaps, hold your breath… an upcoming manual by the OWC!