By SEAH CHIANG NEE
The recent surge of nudity, streaking and promiscuity, signs of a more liberal generation, has everyone scratching their heads in this once prudish city.
A USEFUL message to greet the New Year today in Singapore could have read something like this:
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|Photos: Lianhe Wanbao
"Caution! Visitors to this island are advised to be careful of a mysterious syndrome that drives victims to shed off all their clothes in public."
It could be timely preparation, given the recent surge of such happenings as a more liberal generation leaves its mark on this once prudish city.
The government had long hoped for a new vibrancy to Singapore into the ranks of a top world city. Well, in recent years, it has got a little of that wish - but not all to its liking.
As promiscuity rises, one phenomenon has almost everyone scratching his head.
|Some do it for thrills, some do it to seek attention
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Amidst reports of a teenage girl selling her soiled underwear online and a young trainee teacher having sex with a 12 and a 15-year-old girl, interest centred on public nudity, including the following cases: -
* A man in his 20s went buck naked into a fast-food outlet to buy coffee (his custom was refused);
* A middle-aged man found sitting nude on a suburban pavement; and
* A middle-aged woman took off all her clothes and boarded a public bus, rejecting a jacket to cover up. The driver ordered her to sit at the back with the women, away from the men until her arrest.
They all happened in the past two weeks, their video shots instantly producing up to 50,000 hits online.
Meanwhile, Felicia, a teenager offered to sell her used underwear for up to S$45 a pair.
"All the panties will be worn by me for at least 12 hours," she pledged. Total sales - 12 pairs!
The most famous streak was that of a Singaporean A*Star (biotech research) scholar and her Swedish schoolmate, who were fined after they strolled stark naked through Holland Village last year.
"Those crazy Singaporeans can't seem to keep their pants on in public lately," expatriate Jeff Mills wrote before Christmas Day.
"The country best known for semiconductor wafers and caning has seen a rash of indecent exposure and slow streaking cases recently."
Adding to the tempo was the first reported case of a 30-year-old Filipino maid offering to appear in the nude on webcam sex for money on the Net.
And last week a China girl who drowned while swimming naked at a rich man's house several months ago was pronounced an accident.
At about the same time a nude 19-year-old girl was rescued clinging onto the second floor window of a hotel.
She explained she ended there by accident after a Christmas Eve bash with some girl friends.
The trend of indecent exposure has been rising since 2007.
Today an average of one case is reported every other day despite the threat of S$2,000 fine or up to three months in jail.
According to published figures, there were 105 cases in the first six months of 2010, compared with 166 for 2009, 146 in 2008 and 136 in 2007.
Psychiatrist Ken Ung, who has treated many cases referred to him by the courts, told the press that many were either exhibitionists or attention seekers.
"Exhibitionism is a sexual disorder where the exhibitionists get a sexual thrill from the look of shock and horror on their victims' faces," he was quoted as saying.
Others were mentally troubled, while some over-exuberant revellers did it because of alcohol or a bet with a friend.
Singapore bans pornography and has an ambivalent attitude to nudity. It wants to encourage the arts to enable the city to compete with cultural centres like London and New York.
But is has - as it did in 2007 - stopped a commercial gallery from showing a painting of a female nude in a public space.
"Its art scene still veers toward the safe, rather than the controversial, and artists avoid subjects deemed sensitive in the city-state, including politics and sex," said an observer.
That boundary is being pushed by unknown citizens all over the island. The streak has already raised calls for the establishment of a nudist beach nearby.
"Since people want to go naked, give them an isolated place to do it away from children," one blogger said.
Not only in the flesh, there has been an increase in the number of girls posing in the nude and outing the videos online - and ranked according to merit by peers.
It is vastly encouraged by a host of gadgets such as mobile phone cameras, handheld video recorders and digital cameras - all within the reach of Singapore's teenagers.
They have created a form of homemade pornography involving amateurs - often naive young ladies - filming themselves naked for their boy-friends.
Quite a few were shocked to discover they were widely circulated, making them soft porn stars.
After 40 years of strict control, under a new generation seems to be striving hard to push Singapore to catch up with other modern cities.
According to Durex, Singaporean youths are becoming sexually active younger, losing their virginity at the average age of 18.4 years - far lower than many Asian countries.
Unlike their elders, for example, 18% of Singaporean women initiate sex - a higher proportion than anywhere else in Asia, reported a TIME survey.
(Some 64 percent of students at National University of Singapore (NUS) are surveyed to have sex more than once a week.)
The recent spate of public nudity has led to speculation if it is a new trend, or whether Singaporeans are finally breaking down social conformity.
None, a self-employed tutor emphasised: "It is a cry for help from the despondent. Ours is a stressful place."