Ilmu Seks: How to get more Malays to talk openly about sex

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https://hakam.org.my/wp/2018/02/09/ilmu-seks-how-to-get-more-malays-to-talk-openly-about-sex/
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Source: Malay Mail Online

(From left to right) Shayne Wyatt, Mischa Selamat, Herinza and Mussy Del C pose for a picture after an interview with Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa via Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — Medical graduate Shayne Wyatt, 24, first had sex a few years ago and it was also when he caught a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

For a month, he was in pain as he visited several general practitioners, even undergoing the uncomfortable procedure of a colonoscopy — an examination where a probe with camera is inserted into the anal cavity.

And yet, he was misdiagnosed as suffering from a haemorrhoid.

“I was at the same time nervous… not just because I was sexually active, but I was having gay sex as well.

“How do I tell the doctor, ‘I slept with a man and my butt hurts right now’?” Shayne (a pseudonym) told Malay Mail, when recounting his experience.

He was also humiliated by a female Malay doctor in a public hospital who performed a rectal examination on him right in front of nurses who were tittering the entire time, before questioning why he had anal sex while pointing to his Malay-Muslim name.

He finally got treated at his university’s hospital, but only after he “self-diagnosed” himself and personally requested a specific test for gonorrhoea.

“I was 21, I was a medical student… I was privileged to know my own illness, and even then it took me one month to get proper treatment.

“What about those below 21 who had earlier sexual exposure, then got STD with no knowledge at all? Do they see a shaman? Do they just wait until the pain fades away?” he asked.

That agonising experience drove Shayne’s desire to educate the public on sex, and he found kindred spirits in magazine editor Herinza, 23, whom he met on Twitter, and student-turned-activist Mussy Del C, 22, whom he met after at an event organised by progressive Muslim group Komuniti Muslim Universal (Universal Muslim Community, or KMU).

“We wanted to create a space for LGBT people to talk about themselves, we wanted to be more inclusive,” said Herinza.

Mischa Selamat, a transgender activist who has been involved with Seksualiti Merdeka and PT Foundation since 2011, joined them a few months ago, rounding out Projek Ilmu Seks — Malay for “Sex Knowledge Project.”

Vocabulary of sex

By their own admission, Projek Ilmu Seks is a “very gonzo” and low-cost production. Its set-up consists merely of Shayne’s Samsung Galaxy smartphone on a tripod, with the phone’s handsfree kit serving as its microphone.

But that has not been an obstacle for them and the group has already produced 10 videos of roughly 10 minutes each for the first season, addressing topics such as safe sex, consent, STDs and contraceptives.

Its most watched video, however, is still its first one — a 8:58-minute introduction by Shayne on the steps towards safe sex, which include knowing yourself and your partner, understanding consent, sex education, birth control, and protection against STDs.

The group collaborates on the draft script shared on Google Drive, before meeting after work to shoot. (Its first video was recorded in Shayne’s hostel room, Herinza’s office and a professional studio in Cyberjaya.)

“The funny thing about creating content on our side is we always write it in English… It’s easier to explain sex in English, but when we try it onscreen and talk in Malay, there is a lack of Malay vocabulary to speak about sex.

“For example, someone once asked me, ‘What is blowjob in Malay?’,” Herinza explained.

Shayne edits the video while Mussy inserts the subtitles when the video is uploaded to video sharing platform YouTube.

“For me doing the subtitle, the struggle is real… I would check Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka’s dictionary, but there is no entry for ‘blowjob’ there either,” Mussy told Malay Mail.

A chance to ask questions

Projek Ilmu Seks consciously chose to produce content in the Malay language in order to fill a niche that is largely underserved, leaving many Malay speakers in ignorance, superstition, and unscientific religious arguments.

Speaking in Malay opened them to a new audience, but also negative attention, with the biggest backlash so far on an episode on birth control where Herinza was shown holding a dildo.

“Some people accused us of not providing ‘true’ sex education. They thought we were encouraging sex.

“Our policy is we don’t want to put religion in our video at all, we just take the aspects of science and health,” Shayne said, pointing out that there would always be commenters who insist on them endorsing abstinence.

“There was a teacher who said, ‘Don’t let youths watch these videos, this is wrong sex education’. Another said, ‘You should’ve censored the dildo, then I could show this to my students’,” Mussy added.

The group also provides a chance for viewers to ask them questions on the anonymous platform CuriousCat, and they were surprised by what was asked.

A popular question, they said, is whether a woman can get pregnant if she has penetrative sex with her partner but practises coitus interruptus.

“Everyday I saw around 10 questions on the same thing… basically they were asking us for approval because they didn’t want to use protection. That freaked us out,” Herinza revealed.

Other topics that the viewers were interested in were virginity, length of the penis, methods to last longer in bed — and of late many have started to ask them for medical advice by listing out their symptoms.

“We’re not doctors, it’s illegal for us to provide medical consultation. So we provide them with a safe place to tell stories, and provide references to medical professionals like friendly clinics,” Shayne said.

Plans to cover more topics

Currently, Projek Ilmu Seks is supported by five NGOs: Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia, PT Foundation, Malaysian AIDS Council, All Women’s Action Society, and Federation of Reproductive Health Associations.

The group plans to explore more feminine topics in its second season, and to encourage more women to be more open about their sexuality.

“Girls should be more confident to talk about sex, virginity and sexuality, to explore those topics,” said Herinza.

It also wishes to cover topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation, and people living with HIV; and trying out presenting them through social experiments and inviting guests to talk on the show.

The group also has plans for outreach programmes aimed at university students, and joining public consultations with the Health Ministry and Education Ministry to formulate sex education for youths.

The public can subscribe to Projek Ilmu Seks through its YouTube channel and Twitter account @ilmu_seks.