SEX IN SINGAPORE

SEX IN SINGAPORE

In Singapore there are sex education classes in school but walking around your house naked can be a crime. In Singapore, prostitution by women is legal if carried out at approved areas, but soliciting is an offence. Anal and oral sex as well as frontal nudity are forbidden and Playboy magazine remains on the ban list and TV shows like Sex and the Single Girl stays unaired. A survey by Time magazine in 2001 asked if premarital sex is okay: 57 percent of males and 42 percent of females in Singapore said yes. In the same survey 38 percent of males and 36 percent of females in Singapore said they thought they were sexy.

A newspaper poll discovered that only half the men and women believe in love at first sight. More than two-thirds said they had never fallen in love this way. In the 2001 Time sex survey 34 percent of males and 35 percent of females answered yes when asked if they had every been unfaithful.

In the early 2000s, one of the hottest markets in the world for push-up bras and sexy G-strings was Singapore. A recent graduate from an Australian university told The Star she loved to pose in G-strings because: “What is the point of having a great body if you can’t flaunt it. When you grow old, no one would even want to look at you.” In the 2001 Time sex survey 21 percent of males and 34 percent of females said they needed external stimulants to get aroused.

Lack of Sex in Singapore

In 2005, condom-maker Durex ranked Singapore for three straight years near the bottom of its list of sexually active nations. among 34 nations in the frequency Peter Edidin wrote in the New York Times, “Singaporeans do not appear especially, or even adequately, eager to have sex. In an annual global sex survey conducted by Durex, a condom manufacturer, Singapore ranked last, for the second year in a row, among 34 nations in the frequency with which men and women reported having sex. (Hungary is No. 1.) According to another study, of 1000 Singaporeans younger than 40, conducted by professor Victor Goh of the National University of Singapore, only 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women wanted sex more than six times a month. [Source: Peter Edidin, New York Times, February 8, 2004]

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In this hyper-expensive city, many young workers still live at home. Others are deferring marriage in favor of career and lifestyle. Those who do have children stop at two because of the high costs involved. The job market is so competitive here that when young workers land a good position, they'll do anything to keep it -- such as staying long hours at the office or taking work home. "This society is a pressure cooker," said Singaporean sociologist Angelique Chan. "The feeling is that you've got to keep performing on the job or you're going to be left behind. People feel so overworked and stressed out, they don't have time to go out and find a partner. Married people have even lower sex drives. "People are always talking about this here. And the consensus is that Singaporeans just don't have enough sex." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2006]

Carmen Leow is typical of many residents. "I work 10 hours a day and when I get home and my boyfriend even mentions sex, I just sort of recoil," said the 20-year-old bartender, adjusting her serpentine bicep bracelet. "A relationship in this city is like a second job. You just get so tired out." Although she plans to marry next year, Leow said, "we're not having kids for at least 10 years. I just don't have the time or energy." [Ibid]

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star in 2012, “The latest study by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, however, showed improvements – Singaporeans are having sex about five times a week on average. The sexual emancipation of women is obvious. They are having sex about as often and want to increase the frequency to about seven monthly romps, Pfizer said. Despite their relative wealth, Singaporean men are a bit sex-starved, it concluded. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Star, December 29, 2012]

Sexual Practices in Singapore

In 2009, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Some 46 percent of Singaporean youths, for example, think it is okay to have sex before marriage. The biggest impact is felt among school and college students where 24 percent have admitted in a survey that they were sexually active. Some are as young as 13 or 14 years old, with a handful of pre-teens. It was found in a lifestyle survey that 60 out of 1,000 students aged between 13 and 15 years were having sex.” [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, August 15, 2009]

In the 2001 Time sex survey 73 percent of males and 18 percent of females said they were the ones who initiated sex. The 18 percent figure for the women was the highest in Asia. When asked how many sexual partners they had had: 35 percent of males and 50 percent of females said one; 44 percent of males and 35 percent of females said two to four; 14 percent of males and 10 percent of females said five to 12; and 8 percent of males and 0 percent of females said more than 5.

Until fairly recently oral sex under some circumstances was a crime punishable by prison time in Singapore. In the 2001 Time sex survey 74 percent of males and 64 percent of females said they had oral sex.

In the 2001 Time sex survey 89 percent of males and 63 percent of females said they used a condom. In the same survey 22 percent of males and 31 percent of females said they had never used a contraceptive.

Koro

Koro is a mental disorder found in Malaysia and Singapore (similar to other disorders found elsewhere in East Asia) characterized by intense anxiety that one’s sexual organs will recede into the body. Some afflicted with it become so obsessed with the delusion they mutilate themselves, in some cases causing death. There are occasional epidemics of the disorder. One in Singapore in the 1960s was quite famous. [Source: Cultural Mental Illness: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by American Psychology Association.]

Professor Kua Ee Heok of the Department of Psychological Medicine, National University of Singapore, wrote in Transcultural Psychiatry: “Koro refers to a syndrome, which has for its central theme a fear of death due to the person’s conviction that his penis is shrinking into the abdomen. The panic-stricken man often clutches on to his penis with bewildered spouse and relatives assisting. The term koro is thought to derive from the Malay word kura which means “tortoise” – the symbolic meaning is that the penile retraction is compared with the retraction of the head of the tortoise into its shell. The syndrome in traditional Chinese medicine is known as suo-yang, which literally means shrinkage of the male sexual organ. In women it may take the form of retraction of the vulval labia or nipple.

“Koro is often viewed as a form of panic disorder with the symptom-complex of fear of penile retraction and impending death, palpitations, sweating, breathlessness and paraesthesia. The factors, which contribute to the occurrence of koro, include beliefs and attitudes pertaining to sexuality. A common Chinese belief is that the loss of semen weakens the body, and loss of yang occurs with masturbation and nocturnal emission. The loss of semen through sexual excesses is thought in traditional Chinese belief to lead to fatal ill-health. Personality traits associated with koro have been described as nervous temperament, suggestibility, sensitivity and immaturity.” [Ibid]

In the Singapore Medical Journal (1963, 4, 119-121), Dr. Gwee AL, describes a Koro case involving a male Chinese aged 34, seen on 24 March 1956: “He was at a cinema show when he felt the need to micturate. He went out to the latrine in the foyer and, as he was easing himself, he felt a sudden loss of feeling in the genital region, and straightaway, the thought occurred to him that he was going to get penile retraction. Sure enough, he soon noticed that he penis was getting shorter. Intensely alarmed, he held on to his penis with his right hand and shouted for help, which however was not forthcoming as the latrine was deserted during the show. He felt cold in the limbs, and was weak all over, and his legs gave way under him. So he sat down on the floor, all this time holding on to his penis. About half an hour later, the attack abated.”

Koro is very rare these days. But a new mental disease has appeared among the Chinese. Known to the Chinese as wi han zheng, it is a “fear of being cold.” Those afflicted with the disorder put gloves, wool hats and coats even when the weather is sweltering.

Koro and Chinese Ideas About Health

Nearly all the who suffered from koro have been Chinese men. Some sources cite a role in Chinese metaphysical beliefs, where abnormal sexual acts (visiting prostitutes, masturbation or nocturnal emissions) disturb the yin-yang balance, leading to a loss of the yang (or male) force with accompanying consequences on key organs.

Ng Beng Yeong, an expert in culture-bound syndromes at the Woodbridge Hospital and Institute of Mental Health in Singapore and author of a seminal 1991 paper on koro, told the New York Times: "What struck me with koro is that here was a mental disease that was directly caused by the traditional Chinese conception of health. It came from inside the culture. Nearly all the men who suffered from koro were ethnic Chinese." In a conceptual system, he explains, which emphasizes opposing male and female "energies" -- think yin and yang -- men tend to be obsessed with their masculinity, which they fear can be sapped from them. A koro-like affliction, Ng explains, appears in ancient Chinese medical texts, where it is known as suo-yang. [Source: Lawrence Osborne, New York Times magazine, May 6, 2001 ++]

"In ancient China, castration was the most feared punishment," Yeong said, "So when you felt anxious or unwell, you would often become obsessed with your penis." But in 1967, he goes on, there was an added factor contributing to the koro epidemic on the Malaysian peninsula. Racial tensions between Muslim Malays and non-Muslim Chinese were running high, and among the Chinese there was a virulent rumor that the Malays had poisoned their pork. The atmosphere was primed for hysteria. "Koro was like a collective anxiety attack," Ng concludes. "It was the manifestation of social unease." ++

Lawrence Osborne wrote in the New York Times magazine, “ In recent years, koro has almost disappeared from the Chinese diaspora in the Malacca Straits and Singapore. "It's almost as if changing social conditions produce changing syndromes," the Yeong said. But it has been replaced by equally strange phenomena: a condition that the Chinese call wei han zheng, or "fear of being cold." Ng calls it frigophobia. Patients bundle up in the steamy Singapore heat, wearing wool hats and gloves. Like koro, he explains, frigophobia seems to stem from Chinese cultural beliefs about the spiritual qualities of heat and cold. "I don't really know," he laughs. "Maybe it's just a reaction to mass air-conditioning. Frigophobia is so new, it doesn't even exist in the psychiatric literature. So far, it's unique to Singapore. I'm as perplexed by it as anyone else. I wonder if it will be in D.S.M.-V." ++

"One thing I've noticed," Yeong said, "is that modern psychiatry is essentially a Western import." In the East, Ng continues, patients tend not to distinguish between mind and body. "Our patients rarely talk about their moods per se, the way people in the West do," he explains. So even with mental afflictions that appear to have a clear biological basis -- like schizophrenia -- people's ways of expressing them are shaped by culture. ++

Great Koro Epidemic of 1967

In 1967 there was an outbreak of koro following press reports of Koro cases due to the consumption of pork from a pig that had been inoculated against swine fever. The epidemic struck in October 1967 for about ten days. Newspapers initially reported that some people developed koro after eating the meat of pigs inoculated with anti-swine-flu vaccine. A headline from the Straits Times on November 5, 1967 read: “A Strange Malady Hits Singapore Men.” Rumours relating eating pork and koro spread after a further report of an inoculated pig dying from penile retraction. The cases reported amounted to 97 in a single hospital unit within one day, at five days after the original news report. Government and medical officials alleviated the outbreak only by public announcements over television and in the newspapers. [Source: The annotated budak, , May 14, 2006, Wikipedia]

Dr. Gwee authored a study (in the Singapore Medical Journal 1969, 10, 234-242) about the 1967 epidemic, which affected over 500 persons. He wrote: “ …before the outbreak of the epidemic, there was concern about chickens being injected with oestrogen to increase their growth. Some men were afraid that the oestrogen in the chicken would cause gynaecomastia and avoided chicken meat. At about the same time, there was a rumour that contaminated pork was being sold on the market and that diseased pigs were being inoculated against swine fever. This triggered off the epidemic and a possible explanation of the outbreak is that the inoculation of the pigs was seen to be similar to the injection of chickens with oestrogen." His report also noted that the epidemic “subsided rapidly after ressurance and explanation from the doctors through television, radio and newspaper.”

Chris Buckle of the University of Ottawa wrote in his study “A Conceptual History of Koro”: “In July 1967, all swine in the country were inoculated with an anti-swine fever vaccine. It was an event that brought much public concern and considerable media attention. On October 29, 1967, rumors began to circulate that the consumption of this inoculated pork was causing men’s genitalia to retract. It is unknown how, why or where in Singapore the rumors began. However, there is some evidence that the kosher Malays were blamed for the event, an accusation in line with the background of racial tension that plagued Singapore in the nineteen sixties. While this idea was not described in the government controlled Chinese or English language media, personal accounts do give it credence.

“On October 30th a small Chinese language paper reported that “people developed koro after eating the meat of pigs inoculated with anti-swine fever vaccine”. A few days later, the same paper reported that an inoculated pig had died from penile retraction.” Within the week, public hospitals were seeing hundreds of koro patients, and Buckle notes that no statistics exist for the presumably high number of individuals who were treated by family or traditional Chinese physicians. It was reported that "men resorted to clamps, pegs, and even weights to ensure that their tackle remained in its rightful place."

“An alarmed Ministry of National Development issued an immediate statement claiming that ‘no one in Singapore need worry over the safety of pork from pigs slaughtered at the government abattoir where every carcass is carefully examined and stamped as fit for human consumption before they are released to the market’”. The outbreak subsided after press statements by the Singapore Medical Association that “koro is a culturally determined form of emotional ill-health affecting primarily the Chinese…the present incidence of koro is essentially due to fear and rumors which have no foundation”. Meanwhile, advertisements for Australian pork began to appear in the papers. The Chinese-language Nanyang also reported that a man in the ministry of production had apologised for comments about the link between the swine vaccine and koro. The final nail on koro’s coffin came with the televised statement of the Deputy Director of Medical Services, Dr. Lim Guan Ho, who stressed that koro “is only a disease of the mind and the victim requires no medical treatment at all.”

Sex and Young People in Singapore

In January 2007, Channel News Asia reported: “Forty-six percent of youth think it is okay to have sex before marriage, and 55 percent of youth feel that life will not be complete if they do not get married and have children. These are just some of the findings from a Singapore Polytechnic survey of 800 youth, aged between 15 and 29 years old. Fifty-four percent of youth surveyed think it is okay to use vulgarities when talking to friends, and half find homosexuality acceptable. "To youth, it's common knowledge that homosexuals exist in Singapore. In fact, if you ask any youth, he'll say that he knows at least one homosexual friend," says another youth. [Source: Channel News Asia, January 18, 2007]

In 2009, Channel News Asia reported: “More underage teenagers in Singapore view casual sex as being normal and acceptable. At the third Children’s Society, Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services, Singapore Children’s Society, said: "The media in various forms is giving that message that it’s cool to be quite open about your sexuality. They tend to experiment and try out, literally try it out, and if you are not in the group that has tried it out, then you are not cool." [Source: Channel News Asia, November 1, 2009 ++]

“Attorney General, Professor Walter Woon, said young people are becoming more open with their sexuality, with some even thinking that casual sex is inevitable. As such, legal cases that are emerging have become complex, with some minors even going to the extent of soliciting sexual services. Prof Woon said: "As what I see from some of the cases that come across my desk, they go out and solicit these contacts. In one case, she solicited it in her own home, not far from where I live.....It is not just the girls, but the boys (too)... male prostitute who went on the Internet, gay chatroom to earn money...." ++

“When it comes to cases involving two minors engaging in casual sex, Prof Woon said the law may not be enough to deal with the issue. "It is not easy and this is where the NGOs, the community services play a part. Obviously, it is not just for the judges. The judges cannot do very much by themselves. "There has to be some follow-up. Even if you send the boy to jail, or the girl to jail, or both of them to jail, there has got to be something done. "Sending them to jail per se would not make them reflect on their lives. That is the last thing that is going to happen. But good or ill, this is the framework that we have." ++

“The problem of underage teenagers engaging in sexual activities have seen an upward trend in recent years. Cases involving consensual sex with a girl under 14, which amounts to statutory rape, have nearly doubled over the last five years — from over 160 cases five years ago to 300 cases this year. Prof Woon said there could be more, as these were just cases that were reported. ++

Singapore’s First Sex Trade Show and the Accountant That Organized It

Jürgen Kremb of Der Spiegel wrote: “In what could be the first step towards shaking off its well-deserved prudish reputation, Singapore has just had its very first sex trade fair -- Sexpo 2005. Even Judy Kuriansky, a famous US sex therapist, was there to encourage the citizens of the Southeast Asia country to loosen up a bit. "You've made history! Yeah, aren't you fantastic," says Dr. Judy, as she is known to millions of households across the United States. The clinical psychologist, certified sex therapist and radio talk-show host is talking to Kenny Goh, the 35-year-old organizer of the ground-breaking convention. "How did it start Kenny?" she asks. [Source: Jürgen Kremb, Spiegel, November 25, 2005 /*/]

“Goh, with his waxy face and reedy voice, certainly doesn't look the part of sex industry mogul. But his motivation tells volumes about this city -- where much of populous seems constantly concerned with how they can make more money. That's because Kenny Goh is first and foremost a businessman. "I'm an accountant by training, definitely not a sex guru," he relates with a sigh. For years, he has sold HIV tests. It became quickly apparent to him, that many people hadn't the faintest idea how they'd contracted the disease. And then it occurred to him with all the logic of an accountant: "You have to be able to make money from that." /*/

“No naughty bits! But when Goh applied to the government to put on a sex fair, he met with raised eyebrows and skeptical faces. Southeast Asia's leading convention town is still stuck in the 1950s when it comes to erotic matters. Selling Playboy is still against the law, and even the TV series Sex and the City hasn't made it past official censors. /*/

“The fact that Goh can now stand in Convention Hall D and marvel at a condom with a built-in vibrator (invented in Taiwan) is as odd as Dr Judy's presence in Singapore. But the reason for both is the same: The population of the island has languished around four million for years. In particular the stressed-out Chinese, who make up 70 percent of the population, have not been having kids. Dr Judy advised bureaucrats in the government's Office of Social Development last week on how to boost, in particular, the sex drives of young academics. What insight did she glean from the workshop? "The government would also like to ease restrictions in the private sphere," she says. /*/

“Still, the police are not entirely on board. The list of rules Goh had to obey for his exhibition was very, very long. It was against the law, for example, to show anything that "bears a resemblance to any genitalia." Also banned were "obscene acts," or pictures of them, and "advertising" for the city's three big no-nos, which are: oral sex, anal sex, and even more adventurous practices considered sodomy that usually involve some sort of leather items. /*/

“Goh behaved himself. Which wasn't quite good business for a sex exhibition. But the police came one more time early on Saturday morning, as a precaution -- one hour before the fair opened -- and banned items from the showcase that the famous Chinese sex researcher Liu Dalian had been showing for a long time in his Shanghai Sex Museum. For example, "Representations of the Sex Act in the Tang Dynasty" or "Courtesans at Play." /*/

“But that hasn't deterred the visitors. Apparently Dr Judy has determined it's not just Singapore that is "undersexed", but also other countries in the region. The first visitor, who waited eagerly to be let in on Saturday morning, was from Malaysia. The Muslim Sharia laws that apply in the neighboring country lay down strict rules for its citizens, even stricter than those of the Singapore government. On Sunday, even large tour groups from Indonesia arrived. Most of the visitors enthusiastically watch the go-go-dancers who, wearing a respectable bikini, danced for a condom manufacturer. Especially the older sex-fans, with their noses pointed upwards so as to see clearly through their spectacles, crowded around the glass cabinets displaying little figures engaged in old Chinese sex acts. After all, there's got be a reason why the supposedly prude Chinese are so numerous. /*/

The slightly more youthful among the visitors were immediately drawn towards the three "health boutiques" that sold sexy lingerie and colorful dildos. And judging by the stampede at the checkouts one can surmise that there's a major shortage of such items on offer in Singapore and the surrounding region. The same goes for more daring activities such as Ronne Pang's "fantasy gallery". With pictures of fairly chastely clad porno stars he advertised for trips to the United States. In exchange for a sizeable fee clients can watch the filming of films that are still illegal back at home. "A great business" he sums up, just as two young women -- seemingly quite proper little office girls -- giggle nervously while signing up for the next trip. /*/

Swingers and Group Sex in Prudish Singapore

In 2006, Wee Sui Lee of Reuters wrote: “Every two months, dozens of couples meet in a pub in Singapore, have drinks, mingle, and then decide whether they want to sleep with one another. In Sydney or Seattle nobody would bat an eyelid, but the couples are part of a thriving underground swinging scene that is an anomaly for” Singapore. “There are more than 10 swingers clubs in Singapore, most of them private, some of them online. With more than 6000 members, the Web-based United SG Swingers is one of the biggest. "There are a lot more people that are open to the idea. It's so widespread now," said a 42-year-old Singaporean company executive who only wanted to be identified as Jack. "Swinging is all about sex. It's satisfying the urge to have casual sex and doing it with somebody you're comfortable with," said Jack, who has been swinging for 10 years. [Source: Wee Sui Lee, Reuters, November 24, 2006 *^*]

“For all their enthusiasm, few swingers tell family and friends about their lifestyle, although the practice is not illegal in Singapore. "In Singapore, most people will perceive us as perverts," said a 39-year-old publisher who has been swinging for five years. "Look at our government policies, they say: 'Let's open up.' But our policies have always remained very conservative." At United SG Swingers, people share erotic photographs, exchange personal ads and correspond about the next gathering. It is a close-knit community in which couples recommend good sex partners and criticise those who aren't. A police spokesman confirmed that swinging is not illegal as long as it is done behind closed doors, is consensual and no money changes hands. *^*

“This year, the organisers of United SG Swingers started holding "on premise" parties, where couples can engage in group sex in houses and hotel rooms across Singapore. At these parties, the bedrooms have a strict clothes-off rule and the "hard swingers" can engage in partner swapping. The "soft swingers" are couples who stand around and watch, or have sex with their own partners in full view of others.*^*

“Couples who swing say that seeing their own partners in action keeps their passion burning. "It's like looking at cake and wanting to eat it," said the main organiser of United SG Swingers, 37-year-old IT specialist Josh, as his 32-year-old wife nodded in agreement. But some swingers disapprove of these parties, saying they can degenerate into orgies. "You can't establish pure friendships when there's a large group," said Ishak. "Genuine swingers would want to establish trust -- you can't trust a person just by meeting them one time and then think they can do it with your wife." A 34-year-old Australian who attends swinging parties told Reuters that Singapore's scene is just evolving. "It's very innocuous here, it's not like other countries," he said. "Compared to Australia and Europe, it's more discreet and less lively. Singaporeans are pretty reserved in a lot of ways." *^*

Sex Scandals in Singapore

In the early 2010s public scandals involving teenage prostitution, adultery and molestation made headlines in Singapore. They involved people in high places, including top civil servants, an opposition MP, a senior bank executive, a school principal and others.Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Teenage girls were caught involved in high-earning prostitution. Some of them used the Internet to advertise their wares after developing the trade from chat-rooms. In a recent case, a university undergraduate told the press she was earning S$7000 (RM17,047) a month, while a 17-year-old polytechnic student said she charged customers S$250 (RM608) per hour for hot sex. On April 1, Singaporeans woke up to read that 60 men, including lawyer banker, principal, police officer, reportedly had sex with the same 12-year-old girl. The TODAY newspaper reported that they were busted in an online vice ring last December. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, April 7, 2012 ////]

“More worrying is the recent scandals affected a number of educators, including teachers and a school principal. A primary school teacher was jailed 10 years and given six strokes of the cane for molesting two boys and performing oral sex on a third. Another was arrested for installing three pinhole cameras in the school’s female toilets. There had also been an increasing number of cases of teachers having sex with schoolgirls under their charge. In one instance, a female teacher was charged for carnal knowledge with a minor, who was her student. The school scandals have prompted Education Minister Heng Swee Keat to appeal to people not to let a few incidents mar the image of Singapore teachers. ////

“Hardly a week passed without a case of sexual misconduct – big or small – making the headlines. On the day before Christmas, a taxi driver reportedly watched pornographic films on his mobile phone with a female passenger on board. Two days later, a member of public filmed a young couple getting intimate at a car-park rooftop within full view of the surrounding flats. It led a Chinese-language newspaper to nickname 2012 “the Year of Lust”. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Star, December 29, 2012 *=*]

“The year ended with the political downfall of two young promising politicians – one from the opposition and the other from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Both were married men whose extra-marital affairs with female colleagues were exposed within 10 months of each other. One was the Speaker of the House and promising PAP Member of Parliament, Michael Palmer, who resigned from all party and political posts earlier this month. Palmer’s other woman was Laura Ong, a constituency staffer of the PAP-related People’s Association (PA), who frequently worked with Palmer. Surprisingly, it was the PA that revealed her identity, forcing her to quit. Their romantic short messages were also revealed. In one of the messages, Ong complained to the Speaker: “You may not have noticed, but every time we meet on Mondays, the kisses are lesser... the time we spend getting intimate is also lesser.” Earlier in February, opposition Workers Party (WP) treasurer and MP Yaw Shin Leong resigned after his sexual affair with a party colleague was exposed. *=*

“But the biggest shock to Singaporeans was the arrest of two of the country’s top security chiefs on sex-for-favour corruption charges. They were ex-director of Central Narcotics Bureau Ng Boon Gay and former head of Singapore Civil Defence Force Peter Lim. Singapore’s Corrupt Practices and Investigation Bureau alleged that they had obtained sexual favours from a female employee of two information-technology vendors in exchange for contracts. *=*

“Then came a bigger shock, a case that occupied a large part of the court calendar for the year. More than 80 people were arrested for having sex with an underaged prostitute who was arranged over the web by a syndicate. So far, 51 have been put on a series of high-profile trials, including a high number of prominent people. It bagged Howard Shaw, the unlikely grandson of Runme Shaw and an environmental activist. Others were a Swiss banker, an Indonesian businessman who had just got married and a bagful of lawyers, police officers and academicians. Meanwhile, a district court will begin hearing another sex scandal case on Jan 15 – the sex-for-grades trial of Law Professor Tey Tsung Hang. He was charged with having sex with 23-year-old undergraduate Darinne Ko Wen Hui on several occasions, allegedly in exchange for helping her grades. *=*

In March 2009, a 32 year-old teacher was sentenced to 10 months jail and fined S$10,000 (RM24,370) for having sex with a minor, a 15 year-old student under her charge. This was the first such case in Singapore’s history. Two months later, a woman stall assistant was arrested for havitg sex on seven occasions with a 13 year-old boy. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, August 15, 2009 <>]

Singapore Government under Pressure over Sex Scandal

In December 2012, Philip Lim of AFP wrote: “Singapore Opposition parties urged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Thursday, Dec 13, to call a by-election after the parliamentary Speaker abruptly resigned due to an extramarital affair. The calls came less than 24 hours after Michael Palmer, 44, publicly confessed and announced his resignation from his parliamentary seat and membership of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). Confessing to "a serious error of judgment," the married father of one -- who was only sworn in as Speaker in October 2011 -- said he quit "to avoid further embarrassment to the PAP and to Parliament". [Source: Philip Lim, Agence France Presse, December 14, 2012 <*>]

“Local dailies on Thursday splashed pictures of Laura Ong, a 33-year-old married (but separated) community worker fingered as Palmer's lover, in the latest sex scandal to hit the city-state. The resurgent political opposition immediately urged Premier Lee to call a by-election to fill Palmer's seat in the Punggol East ward. "We strongly urge the Prime Minister to call for a by-election as soon as possible, to ensure that the constituents of Punggol East are democratically represented hereafter," Singapore People's Party chairman Lina Chiam said in a statement. The Workers' Party echoed the call and announced its intention to run for the vacated seat. Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said in a statement it was "strongly considering contesting this seat if and when a by-election is called". Opposition politician Benjamin Pwee told the Straits Times daily he was also intending to contest the seat, possibly as an independent. <*>

“Lee however gave no indication of his intentions in a Facebook post. "The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe," Lee said on his Facebook page late Wednesday. "I will carefully consider whether to call a by-election in Punggol East and, if so, when. I assure Singaporeans that I will make my decision based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country." Netizens weighed in on calls for a vote. "Who win(s) the by election is secondary, what is important is the democratic process. MP (Members of Parliament) are elected by the people for the people not appointed by the winning party," Ben Teo posted on Lee's Facebook page.” <*>

More Singaporean Youths Contract Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In 2008, Channel News Asia reported: “The number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among youths in Singapore has nearly doubled in the past ten years. Latest figures by the Ministry of Health (MOH) showed that 418 of every 100,000 people aged 15 to 24 had contracted a sexually transmitted infection, compared to 213 in 1998. In the last five years, the number of females infected have outnumbered males. 479 females contracted STIs last year compared to 362 males. [Source: Channel News Asia, September 16, 2008]

A Students’ Health Survey, which was last conducted in 2006, also found that students as young as Secondary 3 and 4 have had sexual intercourse. And of these, 24 percent were sexually active, having sex at least five times within 12 months. Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the National University of Singapore is conducting a survey to study the correlation factors, including the socio—economic and educational backgrounds. He said there are programmes to address the rising trend, including working with youth organisations. The Health Promotion Board also runs sexually transmitted infections and AIDS awareness programmes. These are targeted at Secondary 3 students, covering issues such as abstinence and condom use. [Ibid]

Attitudes About Sex in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Under Lee’s iron rule, such scandals were rare or seldom reported. Analysts have offered various reasons why this is happening. For one thing, the new generation – better-educated, widely-travelled and materialistic – is more exposed to temptations online and offline. More young girls are vulnerable to the lure of easy money that can be drawn from selling sex. Kids as young as pre-teens routinely watch porn behind the backs of parents and teachers. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, April 7, 2012 ////]

“Some feel the recent spate of scandals is a just flash in the pan and distorts the nature of society. The majority of Singaporeans, they feel, live clean, normal lives who overwhelmingly believe that infidelity is wrong. Others believe such misbehaviour had existed for a long time but are surfacing only now because of presence of the Internet. Young liberals think there’s nothing wrong with sex between two consenting adults. Some see the change as inevitable compared to the old days when a boy and girl holding hands in public was disallowed unless they were engaged. ////

“Twelve years ago, the government wanted to turn Singapore into a more bubbly metropolis, a fun place ... and leaders began talking of wanting to create “a few Bohemias” all over the island. “A culturally vibrant city attracts global creative talent,” then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had said. “Singapore needs a few little Bohemias where artists could gather to ‘soak in the ambiance, and do their creative stuff’.” Cynics were plentiful, most of them pointing out that the government’s highly-regulated approach to governance would make it almost impossible to take off. A visiting expatriate commented: “After decades of official control, most Singaporeans would not know how to be different from other Singaporeans.” ////

“The Republic has no history-changing catalyst like Woodstock 1969, a three-day festival of Hippie music, unfettered drugs and free sex that redefined sexual values in the West. But modern Singapore has a catalyst that is as influential as 100 Woodstocks in the form of the Internet, with its host of social networking sites as well as the latest mobile technology. Its influence has given rise to a new set of values that many Singaporeans may not even be aware of — a sexual revolution that was unimaginable to its founding fathers. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, August 15, 2009 <>]

From pre-marital or extra-marital sex to nudity and liberal values, the people’s idea of what is sexually acceptable or not is being redefined outside the control of any central authority. The latest online fad that is catching on is sexting in which teenage girls are persuaded or are pressured into posing naked to be photographed or video-filmed. These are then posted online or transmitted to others by mobile-phone. Reporting the new trend, the Chinese-language daily Wan Bao said some students are doing it for fun or to gain popularity. For others, it is considered an attractive pickup line to get a date. “I think this is very cool”, replied a 22 years old local student when interviewed. At the same time, sending each other sexually suggestive content is also gaining fashion. In recent months, there are rising webcam cases of students, some of them in school uniforms, filmed in intimate public acts, oblivious of onlookers’ presence. Wives openly blog about their affairs with colleagues and couples have written about group sex activities.

A sample of some recent headlines: 1) A woman says she is hoping to breed “beautiful mixed blood children” with a Caucasian man, saying: “I can bring the child up by myself if necessary.” 2) An 18 year-old student is openly selling worn-cum-unwashed thongs, panties and bras online, reports China Press. 3) TV and radio celebrity Jamie Yeo, 31, blogs about losing her virginity at 18, and telling the men it is their duty to romance women, “and don’t forget, you need us. We bear you children.” 4) A web advertisement on MediaCorp classifieds website mocca.com declares: “Female student escorts in 3-star hotel; 90 minutes for S$170 (RM414).”

It often comes as a shock to parents to discover that instead of studying in their room, their children have, in fact, been indulging in online sexual activities. In a weekend report headline: “Sharp rise in girls under 16 having sex”, the Sunday Times quoted the police as saying 310 girls below the age of 16 were caught having consensual underage sex last year, a 45 percent annual increase. “In most cases, the boys are also teenagers, though they are sometimes in their 20s or even 30s,” it said.

The political leaders have long rated social – particularly family – stability as important as economic well-being to Singapore’s future. The family is the basic building block of the nation, Lee often tells his people; if it is dysfunctional, the nation fails. To prevent cultural contamination, the Government has erected a protective shield around the island in the form of harsh censorship and controlled nightlife. That was before the arrival of the new technology, which is overriding many of Lee’s laws. What matters most these days will increasingly be dependent on the collective common sense of Singaporeans, rather than on regulations.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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