From ‘Singapore youths 20 times less likely to use condoms: Report’, 22 Oct 2012, article in Today online
Singaporean youths who were still studying were 20 times less likely to use condoms during their first sexual experience as compared to those who have completed their education, according to the latest Face of Global Sex Report. On the contrary, as a global statistic, youths still studying were on average 1.5 times more likely to use a condom during their first sexual experience.
…The Face of Global Sex Report 2012 was developed with the aim of investigating the correlation between using a condom at first sex and its impact on future sexual behaviour. The survey, which reached out to over 25,000 respondents in 37 countries, found that those who used a condom at first sex enjoy better sexual health and well-being.
…Amongst 506 Singaporeans surveyed, it was found that one in two Singaporeans (50.1 per cent) used condoms at first sex, while 62.5 per cent of Singaporeans used condoms during the last occasion they had sex.
In a 2010 survey conducted in conjunction with World Aids Day, 3 out of 4 gay/bisexual men reported not using protection during sex. The one cited above being a Durex survey, you would expect the design to be skewed towards demonstrating a positive effect of first time condom use. The problem is it doesn’t report how many actually CONTINUE using condoms after first trying them on. If you’ve had a horrible experience with protected sex, you’re likely not to go back to using condoms anymore once you’ve done it ‘raw’. Even if you’re stuck on condoms all your sex life, the curiosity of doing without it WILL kill you. It’s like taking the Singapore Flyer after skydiving. It’s possible that those who report ‘better sexual health and well-being’ are those who have, on balance, more unprotected than protected sex, especially if they realise early on that putting the rubber on means turning the pleasure off.
No matter what condom manufacturers claim, it’s common knowledge that wearing a condom during sex is like ‘shaking hands with a glove’ or ‘taking a shower with a raincoat on’. Our youths already KNOW what condoms can protect them from. They just believe that the pleasure that unprotected sex might bring is worth risking gonorrhoea for. I doubt there is inadequate sex ed in schools, so does this make Singaporean youth greater risk-takers compared to the rest of the world? And if so, could there be an underlying reason WHY? Could it be that they’ve found a cheaper alternative, like flushing their genitals with Coke? Or do they confidently believe they’re very well versed in the art of coitus interruptus, having been exposed to many demonstrations of it over the internet? Do we actually think we’re smarter than our genitals, or that we can outwit a very troublesome virus? Is wearing condoms to the Singaporean male a really WIMPY thing to do?
There’s no easy way to explain teenage sexual behaviour, but I’m postulating that overestimation of our powers of self-control aside, the cultural stigma associated with condom use, more specifically condom promotion, has something to do with it. And it’s not just the parents or teachers who are at fault here, there’s enough reason to point our fingers at the Government and some important Church members for trying to repress or neuter sex by curtailing safe means of doing it. I’ll work on the assumption that people, not just our youth, single or married, will have sex, protected or unprotected, ANYWAY. Teaching abstinence these days is like preaching vegetarianism to a lion. So here goes:
1. Going ‘EWWW’ at Condom ads
As recently as 2007, someone wrote to the Today paper expressing outrage at an Okamoto condom ad on the TRAIN. Condom advertising should also be STRICTLY functional, without suggesting that using it is in any way ‘fun’. It’s like trying to promote hand sanitiser and telling people not to do ‘high 5′s.
According to the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (2008),
6.7.3 Condom advertisements should also adhere to the following:
- Should be in good taste
- Should not promote promiscuity
- May include pack shots provided they are not suggestive or offensive
- Should not have erotic settings
- Should not include superlative claims
- Should focus on the protective function rather than the pleasure- enhancing aspect of condoms
Having sexy condom ads is not going to make people want to have sex. You have internet PORN for that. If anything sex in condom ads captures one’s attention, serves as a gentle reminder and if pulled off well, makes safe sex kinda COOL and ACCEPTABLE. It says ‘condoms are not just for family planning. Anyone can use them too’, and not a visual wagging finger to tell you ‘If you don’t use this you’ll get AIDS and DIE’. Which leads me to my next point:
2. Using condoms is BAD, SHAMEFUL and UNCOOL
The first ad to appear after a long-time ban in the eighties was GOVERNMENT endorsed, and featured RABBITS and the tagline ‘Family planning. Don’t chance it’. Even then, such ads could only appear in print and not on television, radio or cinema. And in BLACK AND WHITE. Of course the Archbishop had a hand in it, along with others who blamed condom ads on increased promiscuity among not just youths, but the UNMARRIED. Humour was a no-no, which made the ads at the time family-oriented, pedantic and BORING.
In the hugely popular House MD, Singapore got a brief cameo in one episode, except that the use of the phrase ‘credit card and a condom’ seemed to suggest that we’re a SEX paradise. Well, looking at the corruption scandals and underage sex crimes here, that’s not too far of the mark is it? Singaporean women are also reluctant to carry condoms about in their handbags, an attitude which is a result of years of ingrained prudishness and ministry bans making the condom as difficult a purchase and as awkward a handbag accessory as a pregnancy test kit or a dildo. If you’re ashamed to be even seen with one because you’re afraid people may think you’re a wayward hussy or a pervert, you’re less likely to USE or recommend one.
You also have to choose the right spokesperson if you want to promote condoms. Would you use condoms after watching Ris Low sheath BANANAS with them? Would you even EAT bananas after that?
Sometimes, all it takes is a couple of bored amateurs, a camera and a blog to be an overnight celebrity, which brings me to:
3. NOT using condoms is COOL
Look at Alvin Tan Jye Yee and girlfriend Vivian Lee. Do you see any condoms being used in their ‘artworks’? Should Durex strike a deal with them? How about romantic novels or movies? Do you see condoms making 1 second cameos in the heat of passionate lovemaking? Can Edward put one on for Bella’s sake without first ripping it too pieces?
Alas, the benefits of not using condoms, in the fictional, otherworldly celebrity sense will always outweigh the risks of going without. Which means you need the condom crusaders to up the ante. If one insists on censoring condom ads, you should also flash an advisory before every love scene in a movie that says ‘Hey kids!Don’t try this at home, at least not without a CONDOM’.
4. Our ADULTS are not setting an example
If the older generation shirk away from safe sex, you have to expect our kids to follow suit. A miserable ONE in FOUR men who visit prostitutes in Batam wear condoms. Hell, such reports may make kids more curious about Batam instead.
4. Choosing the wrong size
Men are almost certain to overestimate the size of their manhoods. And even if you train them to fit condoms properly they’d insist EXTRA LARGE fits snugly like a glove. And then they blame the manufacturers for poor quality if the damn thing falls off, which is really an excuse for not using any at all. Well of course you could teach them step by step how to put one on, but the reason why they still don’t get it is more likely their lack of INTEREST than lack of brains. Then again, we all lose function of our brains when it comes to sex. At least the one in our skulls.
So, I don’t have a solution to our horny kids’ problems, but I think we have nothing to lose by loosening our grip on condom promotion. Our kids are already having sex, and there’s no ad in the world that would make them hornier than they already are. Let the companies go nuts with their campaigns, and more importantly, leave the government out of it. If they could grant condom companies the creative licence to work their magic on our youth, whether through witty ads or inspiring spokespeople, it would be truly a feather in their CAP (hurr hurr).