Sunday, February 2, 2003

Connelly LaMar

Sex, lies and Internet-based deception

Deception, secrets and lies to Mom and Dad are an everyday part of the sex lives of many college students in Bangkok.

University students are living together, frequenting prostitutes and arranging meetings for sex via the Internet with increasing frequency. Forget safe sex, the number one concern for students is keeping Mom and Dad in the dark.

In an informal Nation survey at five universities, students said concealing their sexual activities from their parents was not difficult. Most parents are unaware of how easy it is pick up sexually explicit material in all forms, such as pornographic VCDs, or how students plan illicit activities in Web chat rooms.

"Media is sex education," said Nan, 20, a female sophomore at private university. "My sex education class was me and four other girls. We bought some po [porn] videos and watched them together in our dorm room. We had never seen anything like it before and sometimes it was gross, but we actually learned a lot."

All the students surveyed described a situation of media-savvy, sex-driven peers and clueless parents. Students want to know, but they're afraid to ask and their parents don't talk. More than one student used the word "wall" to describe the communication barrier that exists between the generations and everyone said their schools were no help in either bridging the gap, or providing quality sex education.

The students were asked about four subjects relating to sex. Their names have been changed and the names of their universities omitted to protect their anonymity.

Sex education and schools

Thai students dismissed their sex education classes in school as uninformative and useless. "I learned basically everything from magazines, Hollywood movies and friends. My friends are comfortable talking about sex and relationships," said Pat, 21, a student in his fourth year at a prestigious university. "The classes don't reveal anything about making love, or real sex, but just the functions of certain body parts and representations of internal organs," he added.

In fact every student interviewed said they needed outside material to develop any realistic understanding of sex. The lack of information leaves many simple questions unanswered.

"I remember asking a friend, will a boy just say to me can we have sex sometime, once we are dating? Or does it happen naturally? I was so scared for a long time that some boy was just going to ask me — the teachers at my convent high school know nothing about sex at all, so I could not ask them," said Veen, 19, a first-year student at a private university said.

The consensus among students is they are ready to learn more about how sex actually works, which would prepare them to deal with the reality, when the time comes.

"Condom Usage

"Students in long-term relationships do not practice safe sex with condoms, but use birth control pills to avoid pregnancy. Ad-spots and campaigns for condom usage in Thailand have succeeded ininstilling a positive view of condom use. However, the apparent success is rhetoric only. The reality is that many students in long-term relationships fail to use condoms.

Tan and Tong, 21 and 22, live together near their university. They do not use condoms.

"The thing that scares me the most is my parents. I don't want them to know I have sex. So, I worry most about unwanted pregnancy and take birth control pills. I trust Tan, so a condom is not necessary," said Tong.

Noon, 21, a fourth year student, said condoms detracted from intimacy: "I don't like to use condoms because they are not natural. There is a barrier still between me and the girl I am with — the feeling of intimacy is lost."

"Sex and Family

"University students use off-campus housing and rented rooms paid for by their parents to have relationships. Students feel it is impossible to tell their parents they are living with a lover.

One couple's parents rent each of them a room off campus, but the parents are unaware they simply live together in one. Their parents are aware of the fact they date, but cannot be told they live together, or are having sex before marriage.

The problem for getting into off-campus housing for first-year students is only in reasoning with parents. "My parents wanted me to live in a dorm," said Nan, 19, a female freshman at a private university, "but I explained to them that it was a problem as I often practised cheerleading late and the dorms close at 10pm. So they agreed to rent a room for me off campus."

Sung, 21, a senior at a public university, explained that he and his partner simply rented a room rather than deal with complicated explanations.

"Nobody lives in the room," Sung said. "We just rent it as somewhere to meet and have sex. It is quite easy to find a cheap room, and I think most students now don't want to go to some dirty hotel, or even risk their parents finding out they live with someone."

"Materialism and Paying for Sex

"The hardest fact for many to understand about teenage sex lives is that the drive behind much of it is the acquisition of material possessions — sex for money. Prada, Nokia and other expensive consumer brands that represent status matter on campuses across Bangkok.

Kanika, 19, a female student at a private university said: "Middle-class students feel a lot of peer pressure to be cool, or have the same possessions as rich students. Some of them will do whatever necessary to get them — even if it means going with a man like a prostitute."

Pen, a 21-year-old senior at a public university said: "My lover bought me a car — he is a lot older, but he takes care of a lot of things that make my life easier — and I like him. I will not marry him, but I enjoy being with him, and it is my choice."

The furthest extent of development in rampant consumerism is perhaps buying people. In the modern world, money surpasses the ideology of personal integrity and the individual next to the desire to have coveted material goods.

"I think it's alright, its a progression that is going on in Thailand where people want material things, and sex is being seen as less dirty, or bad," said Lek, a 19-year-old male student.

"So, if you need money and you can have sex for it, why not?"

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Created: April 13, 2003
Last modified: April 13, 2003
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