Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sexual fantasies. I mean, fallacies.

We're now in the heat of seminars, where we get to talk about our fieldwork and our findings. I liked F's research a lot, and her topic of teenage sexuality and pregnancy is something that I've been picking at for some time -- I want to start a research project on that in Singapore (someone sponsor me please!) because we have a disproportionate number of teenage Malay girls getting pregnant.

I think the failure of the abstinence-based interventions so far are the fallacious assumptions behind it. They assume that these young people have equal power in their interactions to say no. Unfortunately, the campaign "Lebih Seksi Katakan 'Tidak!'" (Say 'No', It's Sexier) makes sex appeal the incentive, which is not helping someone trying to abstain because then what is that sex appeal for?!

In conventional reality, girls may feel pressured to say 'yes' to a boy because they're afraid of losing affection. It's a classic case of 'if you love me you'll sleep with me'. Girls, contrary to popular belief, also make the first move. Boys then may feel pressured to say 'yes' for fear of being mocked by both girls or their male peers for not being 'man' enough. So if one says 'no' but the other doesn't, what happens?

No, but yes, okay maybe

That's if I assume that teenagers are having premarital sex with each other. What if one of the parties is older than the other? Conventionally, older men sleeping with younger girls. Can the girls really say 'no'?

They look about the same age here.

I think abstinence as a broad campaign works if everyone shares the same moral standards. The campaign assumes that Malay youth take religion seriously, and that a religious argument alone is strong enough to help them overcome their own desires. Abstinence campaigns are easier if there is strong social pressure to conform e.g. youths who are part of a church or mosque group who don't want to seem like they don't belong. Unfortunately, if having premarital sex is part of trying to conform to their group...

Plus, this campaign has other problems. It warns against sexually-transmitted infections, but you can still get infected if your future spouse has had previous partners. This campaign's posters (I haven't seen all though) also reproduce patriarchal ideas about parenthood and manhood.

"Is this your dream car?"

One of the posters used in the campaign (visible in the last 2 seconds of the video here) shows a young man looking rather crossly at a baby stroller, with the heading "Is this your dream car?" Not only does this erase any young man's paternal instincts, it mocks the involvement of fathers in bringing up children, while reproducing ideas that men are selfish and (should be) more interested in cars than babies. (At least, when they're young.)

I digress.

Assumptions about who has premarital sex, who initiates it, and why it's done inform any solutions that are put forth. Fallacious sexual assumptions result in ridiculous suggestions like buying sex slaves to solve the problem of adultery and premarital sex, when these solutions don't even dignify the Quranic concepts of women, men and marital relations in the first place.

Which just provokes outrage at how religion is used to defend slavery,  Even worse is when hadith can be used to twist Quranic verses taken out of context to justify slavery in the name of 'Islamic tradition'.

Men aren't the only ones who have lust. Women lust too (story of Prophet Joseph, anyone?). And this is okay. It's just that for the sake of social order, God said you should satisfy them within the safe institution of marriage. If you can't marry, then fast to dampen those desires. And if you end up doing it, then it's a sin, but it's not going to make you fall out of Islam.

Right is easily distinguishable from wrong (2:185, 2:256, 77:4, etc. Endless examples of the Qur'an as furqan or a criterion to tell right from wrong). Buying women, owning women, having sex with them against their will just because you 'own' them, men being allowed to satisfy their lust with impunity -- do any of these have any notion of right in them?

Whether in today's or yesterday's world?


orange streaks said...

What would be the alternative to the 'is this your dream car?' advertisement? In terms of making it less patriarchal, yet still portraying the harsh reality of unplanned parenthood? An image of a payslip of a regular NS-men / despatch rider / whatever occupation a teenager with low qualification can get, juxtaposed against the expenses incurred in giving birth to and caring for a baby? But then again, in the heat of the moment, would that kind of image ever scare any hormonal teenager (both male and female) off (assuming it actually makes enough of an impact to even linger in their minds)? I've always wondered why teenage girls expose themselves to such a risk (girls are the more likely victims - they are the ones who get pregnant and have growing tummies to hide and can be left to shoulder the responsibility alone). Are they that deprived of love from their own parents and families that they have to find a sense of self-worth and being loved via their partners (and fulfilling them)? What else could drive them to have premarital sex? What about in other communities, when premarital sex is somewhat considered a norm or not such a religous taboo - why don't they seem to have this problem of unwanted pregnancies among teenage girls? Is it because abortion is considered an acceptable solution? What about those Malay teenagers / unmarried adults who consciously make a decision to have premarital sex and do so safely? Woud they not be in the radar / be the target of 'no premarital sex' campaigns just because theia 'safe sex' lifestyle do not contribute to the 'societal problem' statistics?

Sya said...

I've no problems with the images -- teenage boy with child's pram, which definitely show harsh consequences! But it's the text that bothers me, because they had to link manhood with cars (so typical). Maybe something like 'Are you ready to be a father?'

I think your brainstorming about why teenage girls have sex has some truth in it. At least, it's quite believable.

No unwanted pregnancies can be because of abortion, or prevention (knowing how conception works and using contraceptives because they know and/or can afford it, and not shy to go and buy it in public).

Actually I think there's probably the same percentage of teens having premarital sex, but lower education and income may have something to do with the less use of contraception (just my hypothesis!).

And for your last point -- exactly.


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