It was 11 pm on a Saturday many years ago, and my hands were shaking with nervousness. My partner, on the other hand, was relaxed. Unlike me, this was not her first. Pushing away every thought I had on abstinence, I undressed her. Everything else from that moment on was a blur, and it ended just as quickly as it started. Not once in this entire experience did I draw upon the knowledge I’ve gleaned from years of sex education in school. All that didn’t matter, and truthfully, it should.
My brief, forgettable encounter with sex was the reason for my interest to talk to the founders of shy.sg, a local website that is producing content related to sex for youths. These are things that teens needed to know, but unfortunately, was swept under the rug under the guise of Asian values and an obsession with abstinence.
I met with two of the founders of this project, Ruth and Charmaine (in velvet and red above) , to learn more about their endeavour.
This was to be my first formal sit-down interview, which explained my nervous tics—-shaking legs, sweaty palms, butterflies at the pit of my stomach. Amidst the mechanical whirr of coffee beans being ground, I heard my name being called. I turned and saw Charmaine, dressed in pastel pink, holding a cup of iced coffee in hand. Ruth was running late, so, for the sake of time, we decided to proceed with the interview without her first.
Julian Wong: How would you describe shy.sg to someone you’re meeting for the first time?
Charmaine: shy.sg was founded by a mix of four university students and working adults in their early twenties. We focus on giving proper and holistic sexual education. Currently, we are targeting youths specifically, but in the future, we would like to reach out to the general population.
We realise that Singapore’s sex education focuses a lot on repercussion and unwanted pregnancies. We want to disrupt this pattern and give real-life advice. For example, we talk about how to practice safe sex—different birth control methods and their effectiveness. do have other choices such as practicing safe sex, or taking birth control pills. We don’t want people to be shy when talking about sex. Hence, shy.sg.
There are also no sex ed websites explicitly catered to Singaporeans. So everyone googles for information or ask their friends when they have questions. Or even worse, rely on readily available pornographic videos for information. But if you do a google search, the search results come from sites such as scartletteens.com that are catered more towards the US community, where the culture is different from here in Singapore.
J: What inspired the creation of shy.sg?
C: When the three of us were in America for one year on an internship, we saw that the people there were very vocal about their intimate lives and sex. We realise that Singaporeans are not as vocal, so we hope to get rid of the taboo and reiterate that sex is a normal process of life. We want to tell people not to be shy about it. We pitched this idea to NUS and they liked it.
J: Sex education is something taught by schools, and in rare cases, by parents. Where do you see yourselves fitting into this equation?
C: Even when you tell people not to have sex, they will still do it. But that’s where we come in. We can’t change the ways schools teach sex ed, but we can offer a complementary service. We want to be open to talk about it—like if you’re going to have premarital sex, this is what you can do to protect yourself. It’s about arming the youths with the knowledge that they desperately should know and need.
J: What was your sex education like growing up?
C: Schools try to scare youths with the repercussions of sex, and only teach about abstinence. It’s a very one-sided argument—-they don’t tell you what were to happen if you were to do it. It’s just no.
It was at this point of the interview that Ruth joined us, just in time to share her own experience in secondary school.
Ruth: I think this has a lot to do with religion, too. Some schools are affiliated to specific faiths, thus they are more conservative when it comes to the topic of sex. I was from an IJ school, and I don’t even recall having sex ed—this was many years ago—I’m 26 this year.
J: Where do you get the ideas for your articles?
C: We get inspiration from forums like Reddit, questions we have ourselves and more recently, a Q&A campaign we had in light of World Sexual Health Day. We get feedback from Singaporeans on what topics they would like to see us write about. We produce tailored content for Singaporeans, something more localised, and we try to be detailed—like sharing condom prices, for example.
R: We also don’t want to add on the myths about sex; all of our information is medically and scientifically accurate.
J: What is the worst thing someone has said about what you are doing?
C: Generally, on Reddit, people have been quite supportive. But there were a lot of questions about our credibility.
R: To answer this doubt, a General Practitioner reached out to us on Reddit, and offered to fact check the information in our articles. His report can be found on the bottom of the articles. People must understand that we don’t aim to become sex gurus or medical professionals—we just want to inculcate a more open society where people do not shy away from talking about sex.
What do you aim to achieve with your website?
C: There are many youths out there suffering in silence because they are scared about what people think. We want to create a safe space and tell people that it is okay to talk about sex. That other people’s opinion shouldn’t matter.
R: We don’t want to merely write content. We are trying to build a safe space on a Facebook community page where people can be open. But there’s the issue of anonymity—it is after all your own personal Facebook account. That’s why we are exploring other platforms such as Reddit.
C: We want it to be a two-way thing—to reach out. People feedback to us what they want to see; then we give them what they want. Currently, the community is small, but it’s a start.
How do you see Singapore’s system of sex education changing?
R: Honestly, sex education is arduous to institutionalise, since a lot of it is based on religion.
C: Schools should stop focusing on abstinence. They shouldn’t just give incomplete information; provide the full picture instead. Schools must understand that giving the whole picture, telling you what you should do does not equate to encouraging youths to have sex.
Right now, shy.sg is more focused on online articles. Do you have plans to develop collaterals, such as books?
C: We have quite a few things coming up, such as our infographics. We are also going to collaborate with Smile Makers, a female sex toy company.
R: We recently launched our new glossary, which currently has seven topics. These are very common-sense subject matter, but they are things you think you know. For example, did you know you need a condom for a blowjob?
What is the endgame for you?
R: We want to have a forum, an open-minded community, where people can talk without judgement.
C: Just like when you think of a news website, you think of TSL. We want to be the site that people think of when it comes to sex ed.
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