Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TODAYonline: Talking Sex with Mom and Dad
by Frances Ong Hock Lin

This should be fun....heh heh. But evil malicious thoughts aside, I'm going to use this as a launching pad to discuss one of the oddities of some discussions I've had with social and religious conservatives and the somewhat contradictory stance taken with regards to the Naturalist argument a.k.a. the Naturalist fallacy i.e. if it is natural it must be right.

An example would be a discussion on homosexual rights where I exercised my right to free speach and basically ripped into a truly horrid post arguing against homosexuals having rights (on the basis that their act was unnatural and therefore their act should not be condoned etc.). But in another post on the same thread, I (amongst) some others) was challenged to provide a defence to rape on the argument that since it is natural i.e. baboons amongst other primates and some other species use rape as a form of assertion of dominance, keeping control of the pack and ensuring their genes can passed on.

Well the obvious answer is that some animals mate for life. A better argument is that it causes harm to 3rd parties and hence flouts the Harm Principle or some varient of the Golden Rule can be used here.

But more intrinsically, the argument is quite a bit of bunk because just as something happens that way, does not necessarily mean it ought to happen that way. Dawkin, author of the Selfish Gene, called by others a militant atheist and a believer in determinism and reductionism, nevertheless argues that as humans and bestowed (or at least having the appearance) of rationality and logic can and should transcend such naturalist tendancies. And I think that is right.

Anyway, I make no apologies for ripping into such posts. I simply get annoyed when our Sedition Act protects the supposed vulnerability of our fragile social, cultural and religious peace while denying equivalent protection to a much more vulnerable class i.e. sexual minorities. But that's a post for another time.

And now, back to the post....

The other day, my seven-year-old son told me he can only have "baby sex" when he is married, while it is perfectly okay to have "talking sex" all the time. I was caught off-guard and wondered what he meant.

But I soon recalled that in one of our many talks with our children, we had made a distinction between social intercourse (talking sex) and sexual intercourse (baby sex). We just hope that when our son announces to the whole world that he is having "sex" with his parents, we will not be arrested!

I don't see anything particularly wrong with pre-marital sex, not considering the day and age in which we live in, mostly the ready availability of multiple forms of contraception. The other stuff can be handled by education.

We have this long-standing tradition that when our children reach the age of eight, we would answer any question they have about sex — a mere three-letter word, yet much misunderstood

In Singapore, there is an interesting dichotomy. Teenagers and young unmarried adults are actively having sex and going for abortions, while married Singaporeans are too tired to even reproduce enough to replace themselves.

Um...why is this even a dichotomy? It's basically a false one for a number of reasons.
1. Pareto's Law. For most issues, it tends to be a disproportionately small number that account of a disproportionately large number of that incidences. Which is why, the old stat that one in three marriages in America end is divorce is very misleading. Similarly, five programmes make up 80% of the US Budget, which has led Paul Krugman to describe it as a huge pension fund (Social Security is the second largest programme) with an army.

2. Who has and get abortions? Her argument only works if it is indeed true that "teenagers and young unmarried adults are actively having sex and going for abortions" WHEREAS "married Singaporeans are too tired to even reproduce enough to replace themselves". And in fact, for this comment to be even not misleading, the first category has got to be more or even substantially more than the second.

Why are we parents so afraid to admit that we enjoy the art of making babies? Like many, at first I felt shy letting my children know we have an active sex life. It was also difficult to see my children as potentially active sexual beings; like my parents before me, it is more comforting to think of one's children as asexual.

Sex is not merely for procreation. And the sooner we can around to admitting that, the sooner we can have proper comprehensive sexual education, one in particular that does not simply involve the sort that believes that sex equals tab A inserting into slot b.

At this point, I'm honestly wondering whether she really "talks sex" with her kids or whether her notion of sex equals simply vaginal intercourse. That's a very dangerous stance to take. We pretty much know of the dangers of the transmission of STDs through unprotected vaginal intercourse, but the risk is still there with unprotected oral sex.

Studying in a convent in the 1970s, our only sources of information about sex were our friends, magazines and, for some of us, our boyfriends.

Fortunately, the convent had a good sex education programme. The irony of it was that it was the nun and priest — having taken vows of celibacy — who were the most open adults we knew on this issue.

I'll take her word on this but yes, that's truly truly ironic. I've also always wondered about RC priest giving marriage advice given that they are not allowed to marry either.

From them, we learnt to understand our own sexuality, that being masculine or feminine was not a crime, and being interested in the opposite sex was part of growing up. When my husband and I were courting, we were sorely tempted like any hot-blooded teenagers. However, we choose not to engage in pre-marital sex because we were not sure that we would be marrying each other.

The first sentence must be understood in a very particular context. Google her name and look at some of her previous articles. When she says feminine, she means the subservient sort (submissive wife anyone?). I'm not sure what she means by masculinity but I fear for the worst.

And I think it's rather cute that pre-marital sex is alright if you know you're going to marry your partner. Kinda sweet actually. But still, fully misguided. In fact, I'm still waiting for a moral argument against pre-marital sex that does not involve either an appeal to some religious authority or text or based upon some truly fallacious logic like the "meaning" of marriage.

Now we are married, we are glad we had waited. We need not live with the fact that we had a shotgun marriage or that we were pressured to get married because we'd had sex.

Hmmmm...ho hum. See above.

Sex education is more than the process of acquiring information. The education system is doing its part in systematically providing our students with relevant information.

Oh really now. *Snort* If sending in a Catholic group to give a lecture on sexual education is actually providing people with relevant information, I'll eat my socks. Unless one considers lying to students a good thing to scare them away from a misconception of sex. Click here for my take on what happened at AJC.

But, sex education should also be about developing attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. It is equipping our children with a set of skills so that they can make educated choices about their sexual behaviour. Moreover, they have to feel confident about acting on these choices, and not be tricked or pressed into doing something they might regret later.

I absolutely agree. But see the next paragraph on how we diverge.

That's why sex education must begin at home. Sex between two happily married people is so seldom portrayed on TV shows or other mass media; instead, teenage or pre-marital sex is glorified.

And the problem with that is? The problem is that the premise on which she makes this assertion is never substantiated. I would love to see a post on why pre-marital sex is necessarily bad. Heck even Asst Prof Tan Seow Hon couldn't do that in her last article in the ST.

As parents, the best gift we can give our children is to help them understand that sex is best enjoyed within a marriage. Hopefully, this will plant in them a value system that does not include sex as a tool to gain approval or acceptance.

Bah humbug, more unsubstantiated assertions.

At the age of five or six, we teach our children to respect their bodies and that no one should be allowed to touch them. We introduce the subject so that they do not find it difficult, shameful or mysterious. When they reach their eighth birthday, they are allowed to ask us any questions about sex, and we answer them as best we can — factually, truthfully and sincerely.

This information is better coming from us than from friends or strangers.

With our three teenagers, we acknowledge that if they want to engage in pre-marital sex, we won't be there to stop them. This in no way implies that we encourage them to have sex. But if they choose not to heed our advice against it, we want them to protect themselves against Aids and sexually transmitted diseases.

We hope that having cultivated the value that sex is the deepest form of communication between two people in love, our children will not be seduced by the heat of the moment and regret for the rest of their life the choice they make.

Okay, getting repetitive now. So let me end here.


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At 8:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Shaun for taking the time to tear my argument down. I truely enjoyed what you did. Gulity as charged.

Somemore I did philosophy.

BTY if you are interested go to .

I had hours of fun participating in Singapore one and only philocafe.


At 2:36 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

Cheers. I'm just surprised people actually even bother to read it =)

Thanks for the invite but I'll be leaving Singapore soon and will only be back next year.

All the best to your column.



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