Mum's sex education with 'field lessons'

Would you take your son for a walk down a dingy street in Geylang? How about slipping a condom into his school bag, just in case?

Some parents don't spare the details when it comes to shedding light on the birds and the bees.

SINGAPORE - There are no blushes when it comes to talking to her son about sex.

Indeed, Madam Jayne Goh is so upfront about it that she made her then 15-year-old son, Jaymes Tan, walk through one of Geylang's notorious streets - in school uniform, no less.

"He was in Secondary 3, and I'd heard some of his friends had been visiting Geylang out of curiosity, and that the prostitutes were approaching school boys for business.

"I decided to do a social experiment to expose him to the sights and sounds (of the red-light district).

"I'd rather allow him to satiate his curiosity than have him do things behind my back," says the 47-year-old, who works in the communications industry.

Her husband, Mr Christopher Tan, 54, an optometrist, supports her methods fully.

She simply watched - amused, she confesses - as the prostitutes pounced on her son from behind the curtains of a shophouse located on the street.

"I also popped a tape recorder into his shirt pocket. Later, I found out that they were offering services for as low as $10!" she exclaims. She had sent a friend to "rescue" Jaymes after he got too distressed by their advances.

A poll sponsored by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) revealed that more than 80 per cent of parents felt that it was important to broach the subject of sex to their children, but less than 50 per cent had actually done so, reported The Straits Times recently.

Many parents lacked confidence and did not feel comfortable broaching such sensitive topics, the HPB survey said.

A separate survey by Durex released last week revealed that Singapore's students are 30 times less likely to use condoms when they have sex for the first time, compared to their peers in other countries.

The survey claims that Singaporeans only begin receiving sex education when they are 141/2 years old on average, ahead only of countries like China (15.3 years) and India (15.9 years).

Most parents The New Paper on Sunday spoke to say they rely on sex education provided in primary and secondary schools.

Dr Petunia Lee, 48, pulled her children out of their sex education classes because she "did not know what they were teaching", and preferred to inculcate the values herself.

She made her children, then in primary school, research and do a presentation on venereal disease. Graphic pictures included.

Dr Lee, who holds a PhD in psychology, believes in introducing the notion of being responsible when having sex.

She also maintains that showing her children a realistic picture of what parenting entails works far better than nagging against premarital sex.

She explains: "We've all been teens and at that age, they will explore and push boundaries.

"Instead of just saying that premarital sex is wrong, I think it's about finding teachable moments to hone their judgment."

Madam Goh, too, is convinced that her style of parenting has worked well for her family.

She explains: "When I was young, my parents were conservative, and at school, sex education classes were giggling sessions and the teachers were shy.

"So I decided that with my son, it should be different. We've never covered his eyes when kissing scenes came on TV and when the scenes black out, he would ask what happened. We would then explain the process of sex," Madam Goh recounts.

She and her husband also showered with their son as a child, and taught him that the body was a beautiful thing and body parts were nothing to be ashamed of.

"I remember giving him a book which was actually quite explicit when it came to different positions of sex. I think arming him with the information, then stressing the social consequences of sex, is important," adds her husband, Mr Tan.

For the record, Jaymes, now 21, says he is glad that his parents did not shy away from addressing the topic of sex with him.

The Geylang experiment definitely turned him off the idea of visiting prostitutes.

"I think more parents should be like my own, because avoidance of the topic (of sex) increases curiosity, which may lead to youngsters going astray without proper supervision," says the Singapore Institute of Management undergraduate.

The younger Mr Tan adds: "I remember that there was a male teacher in secondary school who was teaching us about the topic of masturbation.

"When my friends and I asked him to elaborate and explain a little more on it because we did not understand, he told us to just read the text."

Madam Goh even wanted to put a condom into his bag when he started seeing a girl - he was 15 then. She recounts: "He protested vehemently, saying I would get him into trouble when the discipline mistress did her routine spot checks and that he would die of embarrassment.

"He promised me he would not have sex irresponsibly and get girls pregnant, and so far, he hasn't let me down."

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