Let's talk about sex and its misconceptions among youth

HURIN EIN
12 Aug 2022 02:23pm
Panellists in Durex ComeTogether Campaign from left Tengku Aira, Tiffany Tan, Siti Aishah, Arwind Kumar, Chan Fung Shin, Jerome Goh and emcee Daphne Iking
Panellists in Durex ComeTogether Campaign from left Tengku Aira, Tiffany Tan, Siti Aishah, Arwind Kumar, Chan Fung Shin, Jerome Goh and emcee Daphne Iking
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Conversations around sex are typically met with responses in many forms - awkward silences, intimidation, shame, curiosity.

Understandably, sex is viewed as an intimate, private matter that happens behind closed doors.

But cultural and social conservatism also makes it difficult for open dialogues on sex to take place.

A recent survey by Durex revealed how Malaysian youths are being more sexually active and what their misconceptions are towards sex.

The survey, was conducted among 1089 Malaysian youths aged between 18 to 30.

The findings further revealed eye-opening results. For example, 31 per cent were not aware that a woman could get pregnant the first time she engages in sex, 60 per cent choose to refer to the Internet to learn about sex.

About 40 per cent believe the myth that STIs are only transmitted through penetrative sex and 42 per cent of youth prefer sex without a condom.

With all these findings, it’s evident that the context is ripe for change.

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There is, however, some progress on this - Durex launched a campaign called #COMETOGETHER, where it aims to encourage more open conversations on sex.

At the launch, a panelist made up of SPOT community project founder, Siti Aishah, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programme analyst Malaysia country office, Tengku Aira Tengku Razif, counsellor and sex therapist, Chang Fung Shin, as well as content creator and social activist, Arwind Kumar engaged in a conversation on sex and how to engage the topic among the youth.

(L-R) Councellor and Sex Therapist Chang Fung Shin with other panellists Siti Aishah, Tengku Aira and Jerome Goh at the Durex ComeTogether campaign
(L-R) Councellor and Sex Therapist Chang Fung Shin with other panellists Siti Aishah, Tengku Aira and Jerome Goh at the Durex ComeTogether campaign

Reckitt Benckiser marketing director Tiffany Tang said sexual health conversations are crucial to ensure that Malaysian youths are empowered to makeinformed decisions about their sexuality. “The fear tactics implemented in the past nolonger work. Through the#COMETOGETHERcampaign, Durex is providing honest,age-appropriate information and skills necessary to help them take personal responsibility for their health and overall well-being.

Sex therapist Chang Fung Shin said we all know what sex is, we can feel it but we never talk about it.

“Even if our parents ask their parents about it, with no specific manual, they too, wouldn’t know what to sau.

“Our parents learn how to be parents through a role model (our grandparents) so they also learn based on our grandparents’ generation to not talk about sex.

“Not talking about sex creates this environment of shame surrounding topics of sex. So the youth wouldn’t know what to ask and are also very unsure.

She said 40% of the survey result revealed that youth feel pressured to have sex. What can be done is to empower the youth to say “no”. It’s a very important thing to talk about and to be pushed to our education system.

Left, SPOT Community Project founder Siti Aishah and, Reckitt Benckiser Marketing Director Tiffany Tan
Left, SPOT Community Project founder Siti Aishah and, Reckitt Benckiser Marketing Director Tiffany Tan

What is the best way to get youths to talk about sex? Aishah said we should engage as humans first.

“We are humans first, this is the thing that a lot of people forget because a lot of people associate the word ‘sex’ itself with news, headings that make you feel upset about.

A very interesting term was introduced by Aishah, that Malaysia is suffering from “communication fuzziness” where we do not want to say things as it is.

“For example, if we want to say penis, we say ‘pp’,” she said.

In SPOT, they seek to create a safe space for young people to converse about their sexuality in a respectful environment, without judgement.

When young teenagers as young as 13 and 14 year-olds asks Aisha about sending nude pictures, their questions are taken seriously.

“They are asking as humans and not asking because "I want to have sex tomorrow".

“It is very important in our job to remove the hypersexualisation of the word ‘sex’ itself and every thing that comes under it,” she said.

YOUTH’S PERCEPTION ON SEX

In regards to the youth’s perspective on sex, Arwin feels there are a lot of things we need to understand as a community.

Before, our youth was much more obedient.

A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will be heeded. They will listen to ‘do this, do that’ or ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’.

But now, instead of blatantly telling them not to have sex, we need to be more dynamic and rationalize with the youth on the consequences of their actions.

Content Creator and Social Activist, Arwind Kumar
Content Creator and Social Activist, Arwind Kumar

“Our responsibility is rather than putting a full stop, it is to expand the understanding so they get to make their own decision because we live in a generation that wants to be independent,” Arwind said.

Different strategies need to be implemented so our youths feel safe and comfortable opening up their curiosities about sex.

“Sex is about pleasure but we need to take note that it comes with safety. That’s the protection we want to give to the youth”

COME TOGETHER

Aira said major stakeholders in Malaysia must come together and play their part in constructing a holistic approach to educating our youth.

“Everyone needs to come together, the govt, the NGO, the academicians, experts, NGOs like Women’s Aid Organisation, Federation of Reproductive Health Association, religious leaders, media, the corporates and teachers,” she said.

For the conversation to start rolling, our education system needs to be revamped and include a comprehensive sexuality education where elements like consent, respect, love and having safe spaces are considered.

The efficacy lies within the acknowledgement of Malaysia’s multicultural and multi-religious identity, so that the concerns of every different community are taken into consideration and both similarities and differences can be integrated.

“We do have to take the multi-cultural setting and how we can work to integrate,” she said.

It was briefed that Malaysia has taken steps to bring forward the issue of sex to the people.

For instance, sexual education has been included in school curriculums since 1989 by the Education Ministry.

We also have the Family Health Education as well as the Reproductive Health and Social Education or mainly known as PEERS established in 2016.

Despite that, all of these initiatives are still disintegrated according to health, academic and religious-based sections.

Programme Analyst, UNFPA Malaysia Tengku Aira Tengku Razif
Programme Analyst, UNFPA Malaysia Tengku Aira Tengku Razif

“The importance here is we must come together with all the different stakeholders to work together in a holistic manner,”said Aira.

Our religious leaders also bear a substantial responsibility to support these causes because they hold a significant influence over the people. To some, their final say is important.

The inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education is needed to curb various social issues like teenage pregnancy, baby dumping, abortion and others.

“As of now we have made progression but there is a lot more work to be done,” said Tang.

For the time being, the target age group for the survey remains for 18 year-olds and above. Until then, Durex will continue to collaborate with relevant organizations and key stakeholders so that those younger than 18 will not be left out.

Conversations need to start so they can be empowered and conscious of their body. Buting condoms is not shameful but it’s vital to ensure protection against pregnancy.

Marketing Manager of Durex Malaysia, Jerome Goh
Marketing Manager of Durex Malaysia, Jerome Goh

Youths need to be empowered so they can be firm in matters of consent.

“We want to make a change in the lives of the youth. It is about making a wise and informed decision, that is what #COMETOGETHER is all about," said Goh.