“Young girls having sex. But why?” (July 14), the My Paper headline asked.
“Because they do … (young) people have sex” would be the obvious answer, unless a scientific study has thrown up findings for discussion. Instead the report read: “Social workers, counsellors, and teachers told My Paper that they are seeing more cases of teenage girls having sex”. Consequently the supposed explanations – that “decisions [to have sex] often spring from a lack of maturity”, that there might be “little parental involvement”, and that some girls wish “to get luxury goods” – are built upon these individual anecdotes.
This lack of (academic) rigour leads to more questions. Why were girls singled out? Are the boys not having as much sex? Is under-aged sex the concern? The commentary suggests there are more cases of teenage girls having sex, but what is the basis for comparison? Across which years or periods of time? Are there figures? How many “social workers, counsellors, and teachers” did the newspaper speak to, besides the social workers and counsellor quoted? What were the sampling methods, and is the sample necessarily representative?
Most importantly, how does this commentary contribute to broader discourse? Surely that is the object of the media, to inform and provide fodder for conversations. It is the researcher’s duty to produce findings, and since the journalist does not have the same research skills it is therefore their job – on behalf of their readers – to ask pertinent questions.
We are often blinded by reductiveness. Perpetually in search of that one reason, or set of reasons, to explain the phenomena of young girls having sex for instance. Yet human motivations and interactions are complex. Rather than dwell on these different permutations would it not be more meaningful to consider the implications of more young Singaporeans having sex (assuming this is even the case)? Is the ABC model – abstinence-be faithful-use contraceptives – conveyed adequately through sex education in schools, or through the parents? What are the perceptions towards sex? Are we too quick to condemn all sexual interactions as being necessarily negative, as something to be ashamed of?
And if sex with minors was a concern, there could have been a probe of whether there is correlation between stricter laws and the number of suspected or actual cases of under-aged sex. How do the numbers compare over the years? Singaporeans now hold the media to higher standards, and with this lazy commentary My Paper does itself no justice.