Where did we come from and where are we headed? — Sim Tong
FEB 23 — I grew up in Malaysia, so you could say when it came to sex education, I was a homeschooler. Sex is such a taboo subject that nobody talked about it. The teachers didn’t want to talk about it. Nobody in my family talked about it. That is the Asian way. We present a black-and-white world to our kids — context is too difficult to teach, so everything is either good or bad. There are good words and there are bad words. There are good guys and bad guys. There are good things and bad things.
Sex was put into the category of bad things because when you’re a kid, there’s just too much to explain. This is fine for about the first 12 years of life, but as kids hit puberty, they start to feel urges, and they start to question things. They are really left to piece together the whole picture by themselves.
Between the spread of HIV and babies in dumpsters, I think we can all agree that sex education is important. What we cannot agree upon is who should do the educating. The teachers think parents should do it, the parents think “The Authorities” should do it, the government doesn’t care who does it as long as they don’t use books with good pictures in it.
The children’s sex education book “Where Did I Come From” by Peter Mayle has been banned, a day after the sale of the book has been stopped by the Home Ministry, and some 30 years after it has been in wide circulation. This is a children’s book, 48 pages long in large font, including pictures.
We have to accept that some things are going to be difficult to explain to the next generation, and much more so if the previous generation didn’t explain it to us, but we have to stop this vicious cycle. We can’t get around it, we just have to get through it, to paraphrase another children’s book author.
Growing up, I’ve had my share of misconceptions about sex. I fumbled through my early adulthood and, despite a few embarrassing occasions, survived relatively unscathed. Others may not be as lucky. You also have to consider that some things are different now. Many parents give their children access to satellite TV, high-speed Internet, smartphones, Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. They are learning faster and asking questions earlier. The leaders of tomorrow will be asking all the right questions, relevant to their time. We won’t know how to ask these questions on their behalf. We cannot afford to suppress inquisitiveness now. If they have a question we cannot answer, we should feel proud of them, not shame them into silence.
Telling kids sex is bad is the traditional way of keeping them out of trouble, same as “don’t cross the road by yourself” and “don’t touch mom’s scissors”, but it’s not a long-term solution. It’s just a band-aid, delaying the inevitable. It’s a tough job and some parents try to scrape through, skipping that awkward stage altogether if at all possible.
Some parents undo this teaching when their kids hit puberty. Some wait until it’s time for them to study abroad. Some put a timer on it by introducing the concept of premarital sex. Sex before marriage is bad, but after marriage, they’re practically breathing down your neck to copulate and reproduce. This could work if puberty starts at the age of 25. In the real world however, there’s usually a decade or two between puberty and marriage. Yet other parents conveniently forget to undo their early teachings altogether.
After a few generations of parents skipping their responsibilities in sex education, the idea that sex is bad becomes ingrained in our culture. So what happens when a kid hits puberty? They start to have urges. If I have urges — natural urges — to have sex and sex is bad, does that make me bad? By the way, this is the sort of thing that goes on in the minds of sex assault victims. Now imagine a few generations of people carrying this kind of guilt. That’s our community.
You could say that the Home Ministry is half right — there is something very harmful to the morals of our community. However, this book is not it.
* Sim Tong blogs at www.bigbigplanet.com/blog.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.