Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby! These are Things You Should Have Learn About Sex Ed at School
We are now months into a national conversation about healthy sexual boundaries and consent or the lack of thereof. And it's about time.
And no, basic biology will not do! We're delving into consent, healthy relationships, safe sex and birth control. Get educated!
What is the problem?
“To paint a picture of how effective the current programme is, here are some facts from a recent 2019 study by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS): every single year there are approximately 3,000 rape cases, 18,000 teenage pregnancies and 100 cases of baby dumping. In addition to that, the study highlights that the public have some serious misconceptions about consent, healthy relationships, safe sex and birth control. In light of this, the current state of sexual health education in Malaysia can be summed up in one word: dire.”
What is sex education? What are we supposed to learn from it and why is it important?
First things first—sexual health education includes a comprehensive curriculum covering essential topics such as biology, bodily changes during puberty, sexuality, healthy relationships, and consent which allow you to make informed decisions about your own sexual health. It is a human right to receive a proper education, yet the rampant culture stigma, the there are inclination towards a negative or shaming attitude and misinformation with sex-related issues in Malaysia has prevented the implementation of an adequate or proper sexual health education programme in school outside of basic biology. In short, we shouldn’t cherry-pick sex education because it is part of health education curriculum, and education is the basic necessity of human’s right.
Based on the data by The National University of Malaysia (UKM), 90% of the their respondents which are school teenagers, agreed that sex education has not been taught in Malaysian schools. The teenagers explained that the informal information given by most of the teachers were vague thus defeating the purpose of the students to learn on the issues.
Here are some things that we should have learnt in sex ed (fyi its literally part of health education) at school but didn’t:
1. Consent can be taken back anytime
Consent is an agreement between participants especially when it comes to engaging in sexual activity and there are many ways to give consent. In short, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable.
It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it.
2. Sex isn’t just about penetration
Most “sex advocators” that you see when you were younger probably taught you sex equal to penetration. Intercourse discourse is pretty stigmatising and limiting for anyone who either orgasm or even have sex. Since a lot of sex focus on penetrating usually in the context of reproduction, it's worth noting that your own sex life may look nothing like that.
Most people don't necessarily fit into that one model of what counts as sex. Theres a lot of ways to get pleasure and feel intimate and be satisfied, whether or not it falls into some silly old idea of what sex definition is.
3. Safe sex is the best sex
With the rates of teenage pregnancy and baby dumping soaring, advocating for safe sex seems like a no-brainer; the unusually high incidence rates are evidence that a significant number of Malaysian teenagers are already sexually active. Thus, educating young people on the responsibilities that come with sex, the effects that pregnancy can have on their mental and physical health, as well as their options for birth control outside of abstinence, is imperative in reducing the current crisis we are facing.
4. Sexual Transmitted Infection (STI) testing is necessary and its normal
Sexual Transmitted Infection (STI) are infections or diseases that are passed on during unprotected sex with an infected partner. This includes vaginal, anal or oral sex. Some STIs can be passed on by just skin-to-skin contact. Common STIs include: gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Going for testing is actually just part of being a responsible, sexual adult. What you should get tested for — and how often — will depend on your age, your anatomy, and your sexual habits.
You can get tested at any gynaecologist around your area.
5. You won't always know someone has STI, you can have without symptoms
Although most STIs come with symptoms such as bad odour, itchy sores and pain when they tinkle, some STI don't and it really differs from person to person. As we all know that most STIs can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex, and some can even be spread through skin-to-skin genital contact. So just because someone says they "haven't had sex," it doesn't mean they've never been exposed to STIs. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure.
6. Birth control isn't one-fit-all
There's the female condom, the male condom, the implant, the ring, the shot, the patch, and the IUD, literally dozens of different birth control pills. Basically, you have options. It's up to you and your doctor to determine which one works best for you, and it may take a little trial and error.
As with all medications, there's a risk of side effects when starting birth control, such as spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain, mood changes and the list goes on, finding your perfect match for contraceptive could be a journey, so be sure to tell your doctor if anything feels off so they can help you find a method that actually makes life easier.
7. Respect gender and sexual diversity — even if you don't fully understand it.
There's a difference between sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. And it's important to remember that any one of those things does not automatically dictate another.
While it's helpful understand the various nonbinary identities and forms of sexual expression, it's even more important that you are respectful and sensitive to this diversity, regardless of how familiar you are with the lingo. That might mean challenging heteronormative/cisnormative assumptions when you see them (like a list of sex tips for "everyone" that's actually just for cisgender straight women) or asking someone what pronouns they prefer.
8. “Boys will be boys” is harmful
The phrase ‘boys will be boys,’ is often used to describe what some consider are normal masculine tendencies boys might have, such as being rough and reckless. These characteristics of what society deems as masculine can often reflect unhealthy and sometimes risky behaviours. Meaning, boys and men need to be stoic and suppress emotions they experience, other than anger. Recent research shows that these beliefs associated with traditional masculinity often lead to harmful behaviours toward themselves and others.
Hence, as an adult, you should learn and educate yourself and the children around you to embrace the idea of striving for emotional and mental complexity by engaging in self-regulating and problem solving processes. For example, let boys and men like the colour pink and wear makeup, let them cry when they feel hurt or pain and let them enjoy cooking or baking their favourite chocolate cake.
Teach boys to be held accountable for their actions, just like girls.