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SEXtember: Talking about the S-Word

FOR Tiffany Leong, growing up in Malaysia meant sex was “a word censored on the radio, a deleted movie scene and a topic hastily swept under the dining table before your mom turns green”.

Growing up, sex was nothing but a box you ticked to declare whether you’re a boy or a girl on the identification form. Sex was a word censored on the radio, a deleted movie scene and a topic hastily swept under the dining table before your mom turns green.

Back home in Malaysia, sex is a myth.

Coming from a moderately conservative Chinese family, I have lived by my mom’s one-and-only sex-related advice: it is a “gift” reserved only for the man you marry in the future. Otherwise, sex is something “evil” or “sinful”,  had only by people who are too young or too drunk to remember. Sex is a caught-up-in-the-heat-of-the-moment mistake for the hormonally-charged teens who obviously “don’t know any better”, with teen pregnancy as the worst-case-scenario.

Indeed, sex can ruin your future. I have heard of real-life cautionary tales where a friend’s friend’s friend’s friend knocked up a girl, quit college and resorted to selling mobile phones for a living. The couple got married before the baby was born, and divorced shortly after. In most cases, there is no happily-ever-after – except more diapers to change and life decisions to regret. So, how does one go down the road less taken?

As for the rest of us, while feeling secretly relieved that we have yet to become parents, sex is still a thorny topic that could prick the curious. Sex education doesn’t exist in my country – you learn it from movies like American Pie (worst example possible), or your equally ignorant peers who giggle at the names of reproduction organs.

Sex is often scandalous too, commonly associated with blurry homemade videos and rumours that spread like wildfire. Back in my high school, girls who are believed to have had sex will be automatically labelled the “S” word  – with her reputation and social life at risk.

All this fuss about sex seems to be in stark contrast with Melbourne, however, where there appears to be more freedom. All you need to do is look around at the number of strip clubs there are. And  then there are those crazy O-week “sex-capades” I’ve heard about. Admittedly, I was delightfully horrified when I was told of a certain residential college where you could even earn “unofficial” room points from sleeping with someone!

But as time passes and we grow older, some things are changing. Condoms are no longer that big a deal, now used as a birthday prank to pull on your friends. But I still wonder when we will ever openly and appropriately address the topic of sex in Malaysia.

How did you learn about sex?

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The author will be washing her mouth with Listerine after counting the number of times the word “sex” has appeared in the article. This is not to say she is a shy, socially inept Asian girl who blushes at the sight of the opposite sex. She does have a boyfriend – but all stereotypes and comments are welcomed.

This article is one of many different views we hope to share this Sextember. Find out more about the campaign and how you can contribute here.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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