Malaysian youths pressured to have sex, yet ignorant on safe practices

Forty percent of Malaysian youth have felt pressured to have sex. — Filepic

Although 60% of Malaysian youths perceive sex to be pleasurable, two out of five continue to have sex despite it not being pleasurable, according to the 2022 Sexual Health and Intimate Wellness Survey.

And one in four found their first sexual encounter to be painful.

“The first attempt can be traumatising, especially if someone is pressured into having sex, so we have to empower our youth to say no,” said counsellor and sex therapist Chan Fun Shin.

Engineering student Sharvendran Selvan believes that anything done aggressively and without consent is a red flag.

“As we all know, sex is something pleasurable, as such, each other’s choices and feelings should be respected,” says the 22-year-old.

On the psychological front, linguistics student Priya*, 23, notes that: “Commenting and making weird remarks on someone’s body while having sex is a definite ‘no’.”

The survey, conducted online by Durex Malaysia among 1,089 young Malaysians between the ages of 18 and 30, also found that two in five Malaysian youths have felt pressured to have sex.

“The rise in sexual grooming among youths has led them to be vulnerable to the coercion of their partner,” opines linguistics student Arung*.

“Trauma from past experience compels someone to agree to any requests made by the partner despite one’s unwillingness,” she adds.

The 22-year-old believes that women are on the receiving end of such pressure in most relationships, as they are easily affected emotionally.

“Although pressuring someone to have sex is straight up a red flag, people tend to give in to their partner to protect their feelings, although refusing and saying ‘no’ is everyone’s individual right,” she says.

Language student Wong*, 22, agrees, saying that: “Different expectations in a relationship lead to one pressuring the other, however, forcing someone to engage in something without consent is considered a toxic relationship.”

“Anything that is done forcefully is equivalent to rape, as sex should be natural and consensual,” Sharvendran strongly emphasises.

Learning from media

The survey, which was done by Durex Malaysia, also found that the number of youths engaged in sexual intercourse in Malaysia had doubled from 18.8% from the first survey in 2016, to 35.4%.

Wong found the number unsurprising, and in fact, thinks it is actually less than expected.

“Even at the moment, I know a few of my peers who are sexually active,” she says.

Sharvendran believes the rise in the numbers is mainly due to the westernization of Malaysian culture.

“As we adopt a new culture, we get influenced by their ideologies and practices,” he says.

“In this case, Malaysians nowadays are more open-minded and casual concerning sex-related topics.”

Aside from the influence of movies, Wong believes that the increase in sexual activity among youths is also due to their easy access to various dating applications like Tinder.

The survey did indeed find that 60% Malaysian youths learn about sex from online articles or watching movies and videos, including pornography.

Nearly half (48%) of Malaysian youths learn about sex from pornography, and one in three believe that what is shown in pornography is normal sex.

“Although pornography tends to be viewed in a bad light, I think it plays a significant role in educating the youth about sex,” says Sharvendran, adding that it is a substitute for the lack of proper sex education in Malaysia.

But he adds: "It is a no-brainer that the sexual activity shown in pornography is beyond human capability and far from the reality.

"However, it is in our youths’ hands whether they take it positively as a mere source of knowledge, or negatively by implementing everything that they have seen.”

On the other hand, Priya opines: “Pornography is not the right place to learn about sex as they practice unprotected and unhygienic sex, and could potentially be a bad influence on youths.”

Ignorant about safe sex

With such sources of information, it is perhaps unsurprising that two out of five Malaysian youths believe in myths and misconceptions about sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

In addition, 16% believe it is shameful to get tested for STIs and would rather not get tested at all.

“In a country like Malaysia, where sex-related topics are still considered taboo in many places, it is hard not to be judged by the community and this is what prevents youths from seeking help,” says Arung.

Priya believes that awareness of safe sex is crucial, especially among youths who primarily engage in sex for pleasure.

“Having some level of knowledge on safe sex is vital to encourage more youths to practice it.

"Youths should realise that safe sex is important to prevent unwanted pregnancies and health-related issues such as STIs.”

According to the survey, 42% of youths prefer sex without a condom.

“Youths should not be careless and be prudent in their actions to prevent unplanned pregnancies,” Sharvendran says.

Arung agrees, saying: “This awareness is especially important among youths who are not ready to start a family and do not have a strong support system to provide for the child.”

Wong believes though that Malaysian youths are actually just too timid to buy condoms in person.

“Youths should realise that there is nothing wrong in purchasing condoms, in fact, it is only shameful if they don’t use them,” she says.

The survey findings were released on Aug 9 (2022) in conjunction with the launch of Durex Malaysia's #COMETOGETHER campaign to encourage more open conversations about sex.

*not their real names

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Sex , youth , sex education , STD , STI , safe sex


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