Attacking the Abstinence Scapegoat

AWARE is at it again!

In their recent roundtable discussion on women, AWARE put sex education in the spotlight, with the main focus on the harmful constructions of young women in some sex education curricula.

Here are some snippets from the article:

Cate Smith’s research on abstinence-only sex education showed that not only do such curricula often disseminate false facts on contraception failure rates, but also promote very harmful images of young women and their behaviour.

“Every guy wants a wife who is beautiful inside out”, says one of the sex-ed pamphlets Cate collected in her study, describing a woman who has premarital sex as a person without character, tainted with diseases.

I think we can all agree that while there may be differing views on what ‘every guy wants‘, it is not illogical to believe that someone ‘tainted with diseases‘ is not very high up on their list. I do not understand why such pamphlet are being heralded as sex education gone wrong. This has nothing to do with gender constructions; it is purely, and first and foremost, a public health issue.

Engagement in premarital (and extramarital) sex increases the rates of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. This is a scientifically-proven fact. Saying anything otherwise is akin to deliberately turning a blind eye to the volumes of statistical data on this issue regardless of your moral inclinations. This has got to stop.

We are invariably hurting more young men and women by pretending STDs are a non-issue in the equation. Let’s not kid ourselves. 2 plus 2 is not 5. Abstinence is undeniably the most effective preventive tool against teenage pregnancies, extramarital sex. It is a shame we have to live in a world that literally discards science due to the need to be political correct.

Another point is that AWARE has a false understanding and a misrepresentation of values-based sexual education. Maybe this is the case in the USA, but it is not so in Singapore! Obviously, when AWARE invited a guest speaker from the US, they should have known that a direct comparison of what is being taught in schools abroad and locally would not be possible. It seems as if the self-proclaimed feminists of AWARE themselves do not fully appreciate what values-based education is and yet is so quick to pass judgment on it.

In values-based sex education, women are NOT depicted as being devoid of sexual agency. On the contrary, an important distinction is made between adult women who are free to have sex, preferably within the confines of a loving marriage, and girls (children to teenagers) who are not mentally and physically prepared to engage in sex because they cannot fully grasp the implications.

Instead of trying so hard to ’empower’ women to be as sexually active as men, AWARE should consider empowering men by teaching them about exercising self-control and restraint over their baser urges. Perhaps then we could avoid tragedies such as the case of Ong Theng Kiat – a 63-year-old gynaecologist who ruthlessly took advantage and sexually exploited a 14-year-old schoolgirl and tried to cover his tracks with an abortifacient.

It is a bit of a mental stretch to believe that all young girls, barely out of puberty, need to be given so much information about sex. Intellectual curiosity is always a good thing to have, but a comprehensive sex education would only burden them with too much knowledge at too young an age.

My personal counter-proposal is to spend less time discussing ‘sexual agency’ and more time on encouraging and inspiring girls to think about their personal development, interests and career.

I would think young girls would rather spend a day visiting an interactive science museum and learning about the wonders of the stars and the universe, or take part in a confidence-building drama and dance workshop, rather than observing a person drone about gender constructions in a stuffy classroom.

We have to stop thinking young girls need to be re-educated in the liberal strain of thought. Instead of telling them about how women are viewed as victims in sexual attacks, why not let them feel empowered by speaking to a female judge, prosecutor and policewoman? Instead of telling girls about how men are systematically shirking from responsibility, and reinforcing this stereotype, how about introducing them to good male role models who love their wives and family and have made sacrifices to keep their family together?

AWARE must stop attacking the abstinence scapegoat. Just because they feel uncomfortable advocating a certain conservative position does not mean it has no merit at all. Moreover, they cannot be blind to science and logic and their good friend, common sense (who has been taking a long vacation of late), which clearly states that sex has consequences whether we like it or not.

Ultimately, good sex education starts at the home. Parents play a large and extremely valuable role as gatekeepers; they must not only protect their children’s innocence, but also function as role models for them. Without parental guidance and education, a solid foundation will not be built, and a child will turn to classmates (who almost always are the wellspring of wrong answers) and other unsavoury sources of information, namely the Internet, to satisfy their curiosity. This, I can reasonably foresee, will only end up doing more harm than good.

This is part of a series: (Gender Constructions: Part I)

About SingaporeLDW

Breaking the authority of chaos...
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