This post is inspired by the recent controversy surrounding Ms Elizabeth Wong's resignation, where some strongly commented that it is morally wrong for her to engage in pre-marital sex, and so, she must resign.
My honest personal view is that such comments are full of assumptions and hypocrisy. And hypocritic leaders cause far greater damage to the society than the society care to admit publicly.
And as a parent today and a kid once a long time ago, I know that I disliked being brain-washed. The problems with brain-washing kids is that kids today are a lot smarter than that. They have far greater access to information today than 20 to 30 years ago. They have plenty of time and interest to discuss extensively with their peers, or to be pressured by their peers if they lack information. I believe the best thing that we can do as parents is to pro-actively encourage our kids to discuss the issue with us in a open, non-threatening and approachable manner, so that they can come to an informed view about this matter, before they are peer pressured. In reality, parents have no choice anyway -- all kids eventually grow to become adults, and the best thing that parents can do is to try to ensure that our kids grow up to become independent and responsible adults.
It is with this spirit and intention that I share the following information with you.
1. Pre-marital sex amongst adolescents in Malaysia
The study is reported here in 2006 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16752015.
Basically, this is a confidential study conducted on 4,500 students aged 12 to 19, in Negeri Sembilan, published in MEDLINE. The full report is also available in the Internet. The results are highly interesting:
* 8.3% of Males students aged 12-19 have had sex before.
* 2.9% of Female students aged 12-19 have had sex before.
* The average age of these group first having sex is ... 15!
* Of these 4,500 students, 20.8% had taken alcohol! 14% smoked cigarettes! 2.5% tried marijuana! 1.2% tried ecstasy pill! etc.
* As much as the society tries to pretend that this doesn't exist, the truth is they do, and an open and honest admission that these practices exist is the FIRST step that the society can take to tackling these issues.
* Also note that the study is on school kids up to the age of 19. Of course, kids can get married late, and there are some who don't get married until they are in their 40s.
2. Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003
Link here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17236611&log$=activity. This is from a 2002 survey also reported in MEDLINE, and is a bit dated, but my own view is that it is still representative. The key result is that by age 44, 95% of respondents (94% of women, 96% of men, and 97% of those who had ever had sex) had had premarital sex.
* This should not be surprising.
* Notwithstanding what Christianity teaches that pre-marital is against the Bible's teachings (see here for example - http://www.allaboutworldview.org/premarital-sex.htm), the reality is that the American society engages in pre-marital sex.
* It is best not to be quick to jump into conclusion about anything, but just observe.
3. Premarital Sex in China
Link here: http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Oct/76980.htm
* Also a bit dated (Oct 2003).
* The key result here is that the ratio of premarital sex in China varied from region to region, ranging from the lowest 44 percent to the highest 90.75 percent. The bulk of the regions are in the 60 percent to 70 percent bracket.
* This is an incredible study - it analyzes 196 Research Reports conducted from 1990 to 2000.
* If the report is true, this study appears to be the right first step for China in formulating responsible public health policies. You cannot have truly successful policies without accurate data.
4. Malaysia Durex Survey on Teens Pre-marital Sex
* A bit dated, reported in 2003, and the survey probably done at the start of 2003, if not earlier.
* Key findings are 46% of Malaysian teens have pre-marital sex.
* Note that this figure is substantially higher than the Study in 1.
* The Durex study refers to "teens", and does not appear to include those in their 20s, 30s, 40s who also engages in pre-marital sex.
* It is difficult to pre-judge whether the Durex figure of 46% is more or less reliable - my feeling is that this seems to be higher than what I have personally expected (since we are talking about teens who are mostly not yet adult and independent), and the Study in 1. appears to be a little bit on the low side.
* Is 46% figure within your expectation?
So, what are we to make out of these statistics?
The American study showed that 95% of Americans engages in pre-marital sex. The China study shows that pre-marital sex is on the rise, and as early as 1990-2000, the ratio is already around 60%-70% of Chinese, and in some region, as high as over 90%. I have no doubt the figure today for China is rapidly approaching Americans, although my guess is say 80%-85%. The Malaysian Durex study showed that nearly half of our teens are already engaging in pre-marital sex. I have no doubt the true pre-marital sex in Malaysia (including adults in the 20s, 30s, 40s) are higher than 60%-70%, and maybe 80% would be one guess.
In short, there are very strong evidences to indicate that pre-marital sex is definitely the norm rather than the exception. I have no doubt that the majority of Malaysians today engages in pre-marital sex. I have no doubt that the trend is on the rise since the 1970s.
MAYBE we might engage it less than the Americans and the Chinese, but the truth is I'm really not so sure. The reason is because we are human beings, with needs, just like anyone else, and in traditional, closed, hypocritical cultures like Malaysia, more often than not, the under-reporting is usually a more prevalent problem.
But the thing to realize is that Malaysians have a choice. We don't have to choose to continue to be hypocritical. The majority does it, and the key is to be informed and be responsible. No one wants to have more single mothers and unwanted pregnancies in this world. No one wants more sexually transmitted diseases in this world. No one wants to create more emotional wreck amongst teens and young people in this world from irresponsible sexual practices. This is something we can all agree.
But the solution is not to pretend that pre-marital sex does not exist, when it clearly does and the majority engages in it.
The solution is not to create more guilt by bringing in religion and then demanding that we stop engaging in pre-marital sex. This just creates more emotional wrecks and psychopaths if pushed to the limits.
It would be naive for governments and political leaders to think that they can dictate our lives and our freedom of choice, and to dictate our moral values. These are individual human rights. Furthermore, public health policies that relies on closing our eyes and being blind to reality is extremely dangerous, and a complete waste of public funds. More often, corruption and personal gains are the norm.
No doubt it is a complex society issue. But as responsible parents, whilst our first plan is to not want our kids to engage in pre-marital sex, for many parents, not only would that be hypocritical, it would also not work and not be effective. We must remember that eventually, our kids will grow up and as parents, we have a role to play to ensure that they grow up to become a responsible and independent adult. It is futile to try to stop time, and to try to stop this growing up process.
And the truth is -- if I must choose role models for my kids - between Elizabeth Wong, and Khir Toyo/Syed Hamid, there is no doubt who I will choose.