Body-unconscious

I was at the pool today when I overheard the two girls sunbathing next to me gossiping about a classmate.

Girl 1:    You got see the cold sores near her mouth or not?

Girl 2:   Oh my god, you mean…!

Girl 1:    Yeah, someone’s been having sex!

Girl 2:    Ha, she said she’ll never have sex before marriage!

Girl 1:    Dunno lah. But you think she got the cold sores from having sex ha?

Girl 2:    Dunno leh. Possible right…? But don’t you get herpes from oral sex?

Girl 1:    Yeah, I think so.

Girl 2:    But then Janine* is a lesbian leh – don’t you need a penis to catch herpes?

(*Name changed to protect privacy)

As titillating as their conversation was, I couldn’t help but shake my head again.

Yes, lesbians can contract herpes through oral sex. So can anyone else, by the way, if you come into contact with the body fluids (saliva, etc) from an infected person.

But more importantly, don’t they cover contraception and safe sex at schools?

Not really, according to my younger brother, who’s a Sec 3 student at an all-boys school. Although they do teach about contraception, they do so “quickly” and skim over the matter of safe sex to focus on abstinence. No explanations, no banana demonstrations on how to put on a condom properly. 

I agree with the Ministry of Education (MOE) that abstinence is the best protection against STDs and unwanted pregnancies. But not every teenager is willing to commit themselves to a convent and refrain from sex.

Moreover, not all teenagers are straight.

So it makes sense for schools to teach about contraception and safe sex for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Regardless of your views on pre-martial sex and homosexuality, it is important for youths to have access to reliable information about contraception — never mind if they will actually use it or not.

This is not only a fundamental part of their sexual  rights — it is also part of their right to good health.

In May 2009, the MOE suspended external sex education courses because they “promote[d] alternative lifestyles” (namely homosexuality) and “suggest[ed] approval of pre-martial sex”.

I wrote in to YouthInk, the now defunct Straits Times youth section. While the moderator thought I wrote “very well”, they were unable to publish it because they only received my email in August 2009.

Haiz

Nevertheless — and unfortunately — my points still stand – haiz:

Body-unconscious
By Kym Ng, 11 May 2009

I did Literature instead of Biology as an elective for my O-Levels. So I came out of secondary school with a head full of useful euphemisms for “hell” (particularly helpful when you’re trying to hex your Geography teacher), but knowing scant little about the human body – my body.

This lack of knowledge was made painfully apparent three years ago when the doctor nearly prescribed me medicine for heartburn instead of laryngitis because I complained that my chest, instead of my oesophagus, burned.

Had we not spotted my mistake in time, I would have probably suffered lifelong damage to my vocal chords.

However, it seems that my peers from the Science stream fared no better. A friend shared with me some time ago about how her first foray into sex was hardly the blooming effervescence depicted in romance novels and Julia Roberts movies.

She sheepishly admitted that they did not use a condom then because neither knew how to.

So as a former student, I read with interest about how the Ministry of Education has suspended external sex education courses after the furore by some parents over the homosexuality aspect and the supposed “pro-premartial sex” stance of AWARE’s programme.

Now I’m not here to debate morals, so let’s be practical.

Like it or not, homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a condition that has existed amongst human beings for ages. And contrary to what The New Paper would have you believe, youths usually have sex behind closed doors, without parental advice.

So this begs the question: Regardless of your opinions and beliefs on sexuality, wouldn’t you prefer your child/brother/sister/friend to be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform safe sex, never mind if they actually do it or not?

There are risks inherent in any sexual activity. HIV/AIDS, for instance, can be transmitted by both heterosexual and homosexual activity.

Although the current curriculum tackles almost exclusively heterosexual relations, it still skims over the actual act of sex and focuses on abstinence instead.

As a result, many straight kids do not use, or do not know how to properly use, contraception even after they leave secondary school. And what more for the gay boy or the lesbian schoolgirl?

The Ministry should not cancel out the homosexuality aspect of sex education. They should offer a comprehensive sex education that not only acknowledges homosexuality, but also teaches youths how to practise it in a safe and healthy manner if they are so inclined.

I rather my loved ones, or any other youth for that matter, get their information from a reliable educational authority than from other outlets like the Internet, which is a known purveyor of fantasies and inaccurate material.

Parents have the right to be concerned about the content of sex education programmes. But teenagers have the right to be educated, to make informed and sound decisions about their sexuality and their individual bodies.

To do anything less, just because of an adult brouhaha, would be irresponsible. It essentially would deny children the right to education, and to safety.

Because in the end, the biggest casualty of this tug-of-war of good and evil are not adults — it’s us youths, our future.

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