Singapore's Sex Education Materials Are Horribly Sexist, and One Student Is Speaking Out

Sex ed is generally a rough time for everyone, no matter where you live or who is teaching it. But Agatha Tan, a sex ed student in Singapore, brought her horrible experience to light by sharing with the Internet the "educational materials" that were given to her in class.

The workshops were problematic in several different ways — they promoted rape culture and harmful gender stereotypes, not to mention the fact that they completely excluded LGBTQ+ groups from the teachings altogether. Students were given a pamphlet teaching them how to "decode" what girls and boys actually mean when they say something (which prompts me to ask the question: WHY CAN'T PEOPLE JUST MEAN WHAT THEY SAY?). Here are some of the things the students were taught:

  • If she says "I need" she really means "I want"
  • If she says I need another five minutes to get ready, she really means "Give me another half an hour"
  • If she says "I'm not upset," she really means "of course I'm upset!"
  • If she says "sure...go ahead," she really means "I don't want you to"
  • If she says "Do you love me?," She really means "I feel insecure and I need to know that you value me"
  • If he says "I'm tired," he really means "I'm tired"
  • If he says "I've got nothing to say," he really means he's got nothing to say
  • If he says "I'm hungry," he really means "I'm hungry"

You get the idea. These archaic, harmful, problematic ideas have no business existing in any sort of education, let alone sex ed, which is a really big deal in shaping the way students think about sex, sexuality, and gender, some of the most important issues we could be teaching them about. Tan wrote a response to the administrators in which she talks about how dangerous these ideas could be, especially when students actually adopt them in their day-to-day lives.

But Singapore isn't the only country where this kind of thing happens. The U.S. is responsible for some pretty crappy sex ed as well, like many state's abstinence-only education policy where the students aren't actually taught how to have sex safely with condoms and contraceptives but are just taught to abstain from it; or sex ed where students are taught that there is no such thing as rape.

I spoke to Lauren Hank, a senior film student at Emerson College, who also had a less than stellar experience in her sex ed classes in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. "We were taught about sex in a purely biological sense, there was no discussion of the social implications or the intricacies of sexuality on a larger human scale. The only sex education I got was a small unit in health class that concentrated mostly on abstinence and discouraged sexuality in me and my peers."

Sex ed should be a space for questions, discussion, and safe information instead of a place to indoctrinate students with issues surrounding morality and, to be frank, misinformation. Tan took a step in making her problematic education less horrible by exposing the harmful nature of it and articulating her thoughts to the administration. It's time the America does the same.

Images: Giphy; Agatha Tan/Facebook