Do boys know more about sex than girls?

Do boys know more about sex than girls?



WHAT do Malaysian youths know about sex? Not a whole lot, according to the findings of a survey on Malaysian Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH). The little that they know about SRH is gleaned from a hodgepodge of sources, including school, the Internet and friends.

Forty-two per cent believe that withdrawal before ejaculation is effective protection against unplanned pregnancy. Thirty-five per cent believe a woman cannot become pregnant when she has sex for the first time. The survey also reveals that boys know more about SRH than girls.

For instance, when asked whether standing up during sex will prevent pregnancies, 51 per cent of the female respondents said they do not know, compared with 20 per cent of the male respondents. Fifty-one per cent do not know that a woman can get pregnant during menstruation.

Many respondents do not know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and 25 per cent believe that protection is not required when there is mutual trust between partners.

SRH knowledge-driven programmes are focused on helping youths to understand their bodies, protect themselves and inculcate respect for everyone, but 25 per cent of those surveyed have the impression that SRH education is about teaching them how to have sex.

However, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) says the findings of the survey may not be representative of young people in Malaysia as “we must keep in mind that the survey results are based on a limited pool of respondents”.

A WAO spokesman says it is likely that boys are better informed about sex because it is a greater taboo for girls. “In Malaysian society, girls are expected to keep their virginity, abstinence is the only option that is encouraged and sex before marriage, let alone early sexual activity, is not openly acknowledged.

These factors may result in girls being less educated about sex than boys.” All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) programme officer Choong Yong Yi says it is not enough to only promote abstinence to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

“It is much better to implement comprehensive and age appropriate sex education for teens where they are taught about consent, peer refusal skills, safe sex and how to value their bodies. Contraceptives must also be made available.”

Her colleague, information communications officer Evelynne Gomez says the taboo over sex education must be broken. “It is a big taboo in Malaysia and it is going to be a difficult issue to approach, but looking at how unsure young people are in the survey, there should be more comprehensive sex education for youths on their sexual and reproductive health.

“There’s scarcely any information on sexually transmitted diseases and many sexually active youths would rather not deal with the issue.” The survey found that 11 per cent of sexually active respondents have had a sexually transmitted infection and 24 per cent did not seek treatment.

Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM) executive director Mary Pang says the organisation has been advocating sex education for a long time. “In fact, the topic of consent is a chapter on its own in our Life’s Journey module, which is a manual on sexual and reproductive health for adolescents.

“We use the module in all our training sessions at FRHAM centres, as well as in outreach sessions.”

In the chapter on consent, titled Are you ready for a sexual relationship?, Pang says the key messages are:

• Every right comes with responsibility.

• Make an informed choice. Think, before you act. Don’t just do it.

• Sexual relationships should be pleasurable and not under pressure.

• Pregnancy should be intended and desired.

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