| On 12 months ago

One-on-one with Nicole Lim, host of ‘Something Private’: “Our sexual education in schools is very much still a fear-based system”

After listening to the podcast Something Private, a podcast about all things related to the vagina, your girl has been enlightened.

Here are just a few facts I’ve learned: Surprise! The vagina is not the same as the vulva, though most people seem to use them interchangeably. Plus, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to female masturbation, in fact, it’s a healthy release (pun, completely and totally intended).

Credit – Something Private

These are just some of the topics Nicole Lim, the host of podcast Something Private, discusses along with her guests which range from philanthropic heiresses, doctors focused on your sexual health, polyamorous couples, all determined to shed light on issues which were previously kept, you know private.

We caught up with Nicole to delve further into the world of female health and wellness as well as how Singapore fairs in terms of sexual education. Spoiler alert: we’re not the over-achievers we’d like to think we are.

Nicole Lam: How has running the podcast changed in the time of COVID-19?

Nicole Lim: We went from recording our podcast in our studio to going into complete lockdown. The studio had this comfy L-shaped sofa that was completely covered with curtains. Every time we interviewed a guest, it was like having a sleepover with your friends, especially those recordings that were after-hours because we could just lounge and have a tête-à-tête.

This way it helps to set the mood and allow people to share their stories in a raw, unfiltered way—something that’s quite unachievable via Zoom, which is what we used to record most of our episodes during COVID-19.

Credit – Something Private

But now, we’ve upgraded to a much larger space and started recording all our episodes on video as well. We have an entire set dressed up just for Something Private because people were demanding to see our faces. We’re kidding, although people did respond positively to watching the podcast!

What has been the most eye-opening episode so far? 

I hate to sound clichéd and self-centred, but honestly all of them. Simply because we put in a lot of effort every step of the way. From planning our content calendar, pre-interviewing our guests, scripting an episode, to finally, the editing.

Everyone that comes on the podcast has a very unique and interesting story and perspective to tell. But, if I had to choose one, it’d probably still be Ep 12: To Love A Man With HIV.

This episode dismantled everything I grew up learning about HIV/AIDS. While I would consider myself quite open-minded and ready to unlearn things, I didn’t realise my understanding and knowledge of HIV/ AIDS was so ingrained and backwards I was surprised that persons living with HIV could even have an active sex life. Let alone how antiretroviral drugs work and the strides the medical community is making with regards to HIV.

On top of that, it was also a love story and I love love stories so… double win!

Why do you think it is still radical to have a podcast talking about women’s health even in this day and age?

I think it just reflects on how conservative our society is. While I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, I do think it’s a cause for concern when people’s health and lives are on the line.

For instance, if someone who has HPV (human papillomavirus) doesn’t want to get treated because they are afraid of the stigma or backlash from their parents, what other options do they have to find out how they can get treated and seek help?

What are the current gaps we still have in Singapore when it comes to sexual education and sexual health?

I think a huge one which I learnt from speaking with one of my guests, Dr Angela Tan is that our sexual education in schools is very much still a fear-based system, whereas, on a global level, the UN has advocated for a comprehensive and holistic approach to sex education. This method teaches concepts like boundaries, consent, and that it is normal and healthy to have wants and needs.

You know how the idea of mindful parenting is getting more popular here—it’s exactly the same logic. If we teach our kids from a young age that they cannot have something, and that they should fear it, that thing will always be shrouded in mystery, fear, guilt, and if not addressed can be manifested in some really sinister ways.

How do you think women’s issues are different in the Singaporean context as opposed to the Western context? How are they different and how are they similar? 

I speak as a young woman in her early 20s belonging to a generation who is considered liberal. I think that we are in an interesting space where we have to navigate the fallout of conservatism in our parent’s generation and find a path of our own that is respectful and culturally appropriate in understanding ourselves.

We have very different roots and types of upbringing from our Western counterparts, which we cannot ignore—although we’re all on the same quest towards those liberal ideals. So, I guess we’ll have to figure out what is our own unique voice in understanding these issues.

What do you hope to see change in the landscape of women’s health for Singapore in the years to come?

I hope that people care more about their health! It’s in human nature not to think about the worst-case scenario, but Singaporeans have been trained from a young age to always hope for the best but expect the worst.

It’s quite literally always been survival mode for us, and I hope Singaporeans can apply the same mindset when thinking about their own personal health because every part of your body is linked.

Your mind, your soul, your physical body, if one aspect is suffering, the whole system takes a hit. I hope more people can own their stories and in turn, own their truths too.

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