Sex education is a vital component in a teen's life. In many countries, such as the US and UK it has been implemented into their system, but a study done by the University of Bristol shows that the approach has often been negative, heterosexist and out of touch, taught by poorly trained and embarrassed teachers.

Many teachers find it hard to believe that the students they teach are sexually active and that leads to failure of discussion about important issues such as STDs, availability of community health services, what to do if they got pregnant, the pros and cons of different methods of contraception, or the emotions that might accompany sexual relationships.

The approach was also deemed as overly 'scientific' and mechanical, without taking into account the emotions that would be felt during the action. The topic was also presented as a 'problem' to be managed instead of being embraced. Stereotyping was also common as women were depicted as passive, men as predatory and there was little or no discussion about gay, bisexual or transgender sex. Similarly, it is known that in Asian countries, discussing about sex or sexual health problems is taboo and a foreign concept - and it is a growing problem.

Malaysian youths do not know enough about sex

In Malaysia, the findings of a survey on Malaysian Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) reported that 42% of youths believe that withdrawal before ejaculation is effective enough protection against unplanned pregnancy, 35% believe pregnancy cannot occur when a woman has sex for the first time.

The survey also revealed that boys know about SRH when compared to girls. 51% of female respondents did not know if sex while standing up would cause a pregnancy or not, compared to 20% of the male respondents. However, many respondents still do not know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitter infections and 25% believe that protection is not required when there is mutual trust between partners.

The findings of the survey may not reflect the entire group of young people in Malaysia as the survey results are based on a limited pool of respondents. A spokesman from the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) who says that boys are better informed about sex as the topic is a greater taboo for girls - due to girls being expected to keep their virginity and sexual activity is not openly acknowledged.

“It is a big taboo in Malaysia and it is going to be a difficult issue to approach, but looking at how unsure young people are in the survey, there should be more comprehensive sex education for youths on their sexual and reproductive health," said Evelynne Gomez, information communications officer of All Women’s Action Society (AWAM).

“There’s scarcely any information on sexually transmitted diseases and many sexually active youths would rather not deal with the issue,” she added.

Porn damages future sexual sensitivities and expectations

In Singapore, another problem arises as parents in the digital age have to face the fact that their children are easily exposed to pornography easily. Thus, it is important that conversations about sexual behaviour have to happen sooner and within the family.

Boys exposed to porn could have damaged sexual sensitivities and future relationships, whilst girls who would be less interested in pornography at the stage of puberty are at risk as their future partners could mistake fiction pornography as the "norms" for sexual satisfaction.

Most parents do not understand as the pornography today is different from their era. There is a specific focus on the destruction of the pride of women - language such as 'nailed', 'hammered' and 'pummelled' is frequent. Therefore the constant exposure would equate to the normalcy of such ideas and consequently condition boys to have unrealistic expectations of the women they would have sexual relations with.

According to a 2014 Institute for Public Policy Research study, 77% of young women say they feel pornography pressurises girls or young women to look a certain way and 75% say it has influenced them in the way they act.

Addressing the problem

General acceptance that youth nowadays are sexually active, by society and culture should be widespread. Parents should also be the first point of contact when their children are going down the wrong path of an unhealthy sexual habit. Pornography must be explained as a fictitious act and reality is far from what they see - friendship, romance and intimacy are not displayed.

Apart from that, the rise of STDs is a pressing issue globally and the Malaysian Youth SRH survey reported that 11% of the sexually active respondents have had a sexually transmitted infection, but 24% of the group did not seek treatment. As such, healthcare professionals have to encourage the use of contraceptives amongst the youth as much as possible.

Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists also have the duty to ensure that if a youth chooses to be sexually active, they are protected from unplanned pregnancies and STDs by providing information in a non-judgemental manner. MIMS


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