IGNORANCE is not always bliss. It is time to stop viewing sex education as a taboo and start introducing it to schoolchildren.
Such are the views of those interviewed by MetroPerak on the topic of whether sex education should be taught in schools as a subject to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Many of those interviewed believe youths and children today are exposed to a trove of information easily accessible on the Internet.
While it is difficult to prevent them from clicking on things on the Internet and experimenting without proper supervision, proper guidance and education should also be widely available to this impressionable demographic before they begin to stray.
Sales executive Daniel Lam, 26, wishes he had someone to talk to on the topic of sex when he was younger as he was often confused and fed with “ridiculous stories” by his parents.
“If it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t have known what was happening to my body after puberty – what was changing, and what was this sudden sexual need I started feeling.
“But things on the Internet aren’t accurate either. I tried asking my parents about this, but they even refused to tell me how I was conceived.
“All they said was that I was conceived when my mum and dad moulded me from flour in their image with lots of love,” he told MetroPerak.
On May 12, The Star reported that the recent Malaysian Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) survey found that youths do not know how to make responsible decisions about sex.
Many among some 1,000 youths between 18 to 29 interviewed for the survey admitted that they did not know the importance of protection to prevent pregnancy, and 35% of them did not believe a woman could get pregnant the first time she had sex.
The survey was conducted by Durex and public relations agency Perspective Strategies with the support of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
Earlier in March, Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon said sex education will not be taught in schools as students are already bogged down with too many subjects.
He added that sex education is already included as a topic in several other subjects.
Lam admitted that because sex was a taboo topic when he was a child, he was so curious about the idea of sex that he started going online with his friends to check out sex techniques and watch pornography to learn more.
“Talking about sex with the young shouldn’t be considered taboo anymore because it will only make them even more curious.
“The chances of doing it wrong is also higher if you continue to keep them in the dark,” he said.
Lam said it is high time that schools start introducing sex education as a subject, because children need to know the proper way to do it, how to do it safely and learn the consequences if they are reckless.
“I think a lot of youngsters today find out about sex on their own, like me, and many actually experiment to find out more.
“This not suprisingly leads to cases of unplanned pregnancies,” he said.
Homemaker S. Vasantha, 49, said the subject of sex education should be introduced as Safe Sex Education.
“It must be a thorough syllabus. Emphasis must be placed on the consequences of sexual activity if they are not careful, such as getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
“Everything must be laid out to them in detail, instead of only introducing the sexual organs and their functions like they do in the Form Three science subject,” she said.
The mother of two, aged 19 and 22, also said the subject of safe sex must be introduced to those in Standard Five or Six, as it is at this age that children start to grow more curious.
“If you teach them earlier than that, they might be too young to understand,” she said.
As the topic of sex is inescapable for the young, Vasantha, said whether schools teaches the subject or not, children are already exposed to this thanks to materials in films or the Internet.
“You can’t keep them in the dark forever. If they should know about sex, it’s better to teach and explain the ways they can protect themselves from having unwanted babies and STDs,” she said.
Like Vasantha, media practitioner Soo Khong Chin, 29, said sex education in schools should provide more in-depth content instead of merely grazing the surface.
“For sex education to be effective, children must be made to truly understand the consequences of having sexual relationships.
“Apart from girls getting pregnant and gravely affecting the lives of both genders, boys should also know that having sex with an underaged girl is illegal, and that having ‘hookups’ will make them susceptible to STDs,” he said.
With many Malaysian families being traditionally minded, parents rarely sit their children down to talk to them about this, Soo said.
“Having the subject of sex education is how schools can step in and help. Some parents might not even know how to broach the topic of sex with their kids.
“I think schools can work with non-governmental organisations on this by providing courses to parents so they can learn how to tell their children properly about having safe sex,” he said.
Cook Aini Jamal, 28, believes that sex education is important for the young as a school subject because then they will know the reason why they should not have sex at such a young age.
“The idea of having sex when you’re still a student may seem great, but the truth is they’re not at the age where they can carry the responsibility of caring for a child should they get pregnant after having unprotected sex.
“You can’t expect your parents to take care of your child that’s born out of wedlock, and in traditional families, you may even get disowned and your future is jeopardised,” she said, stressing the importances of sex education.
Using the United Kingdom as an example, Aini said sex education is given to schoolchildren as young as 10 years old and teachers there educate children about the use of condoms and other means of birth control.
“This is a good idea, because kids nowadays are curious. They want to experience new things, they want to know what their body parts can do and how they pleasure themselves.
“If they are going to do it anyway, they should be taught the proper way to do it and the consequences if they aren’t careful,” she said.
Other parents interviewed by MetroPerak also feel that sex education should be taught as a subject in school.
A secretary who wished to be known only as Choo, 57, said although parents might be concerned that talking about sex will arouse the curiosity of their children and make them feel compelled to try it out, it is better to let them understand how they can be responsible about it.
“There’s no way to prevent or stop them from watching it online or doing it if they want to. As adults, we can only explain to them the consequences of having unprotected sex,” she said.
Stockbroker Sarah Razak, 55, said the exploitation of sex in the media could leave many children confused and curious.
“To protect them in regards to their own sexual development and how to deal with sexual advances, I think it’s important that they are educated on this as well,” she said, adding that understanding this will better prepare them for the realities of life.