What's fit to print, and what's not?


I was shocked that The Straits Times saw it fit to publish The New York Times article "Life Without Sex" by Sophie Fontanel (Saturday section, July 27, 2013) whose content seems to imply that pre-marital sex is a norm in our modern day society judging from a statement from the second paragraph, "I had a boyfriend. He often said that we were happy sexually..."

I disagree with such a notion and I am utterly disappointed in the editors for allowing publication. 

First, abortions and teenage pregnancies have been on the rise in recent years in Singapore. What message is The Straits Times communicating to the public, especially the youth who are easily influenced by the media and perhaps even more so by a reputable newspaper?

Second, the entire article is in poor taste, and goes against the very mission of Singapore Press Holdings, which is, to inform, educate and entertain.

Yes, the article is informative but what facts are being put forward? That "most people mainly want to prove they are sexually functioning"?

A highly controversial point that was not backed up by any qualitative or quantitative date. The article is neither educational nor entertaining. If it were meant to be educational, again, there is the issue of missing data or empirical studies.

Can such a sensitive subject provide entertainment? Only if one were to downplay the subject's sensitivity and trivialise the significance of sex.

I understand that the article was penned by a foreign journalist but this does not mean that foreign writers need not be subjected to the stringent editing and gate-keeping that has helped the Straits Times maintain its high standards of news reporting and journalism.

I urge The Straits Times editors to carefully consider what articles to publish in the future, in accordance to the interests of our government and society. Clearly, the article promotes a promiscuous lifestyle and severely understates the significance of sex, relegating sex to merely an activity that proves the ability of certain body parts.

Our reasons:

Thank you for your letter. The piece in question from the New York Times was well-written and informative.

Its tone was sober. It does not overtly glamourise or promote pre-marital sex.

Indeed, the main theme of the piece was to suggest that modern Western society's obsession with sex is overdone.

It is a slice of life piece, not meant to titillate, but merely to record one woman's abstinence for a certain period of time.

The Straits Times' s mission is indeed to inform, educate and entertain. That means we must not be blind to what goes on in other societies. We believe in giving our readers a diverse and rich diet of commentary in The Straits Times.

As a mainstream newspaper with a broad readership, and as a serious newspaper dedicated to advancing intellectual knowledge of issues, we do not shy away from giving space to articles that may be provocative if there is merit in publishing them.

RICHARD LIM, Copy-editor, Saturday section

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