The Awkward Ways Malaysian Parents Talk to Us About the Birds and the Bees

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Do you remember the scene in (500) Days of Summer, when Tom and Summer shouted ‘penis’ in the middle of a park?

If any Malaysian parents were there, they’d call them crazy before punctuating it with “Ish, tak senonoh.

Mind you, that was just a genital. Imagine how talking about sex would be like?

Sex is such a taboo subject in our society that we cringe whenever we talk about it. The conversation is an uncomfortable one, and we hush away all talk about it. Despite our ‘open-mindedness’, it’s still awkward for parents to talk to a child about sex.

We know because we have experienced it ourselves.

If your parents personally talked to you about the birds and bees, I have two things to say – You’re either lucky, or your mom and pop aren’t Malaysians.

For the rest of us, I’ll safely assume that sex talk hardly existed in your household. Maybe it did, but you shelved the embarrassment into the deepest corners of your memory.

Nevertheless, there are parents out there who managed to pull through. They knew it was time to talk about it, and they conveyed it as succinctly as possible.

This mother managed to do it in the simplest way ever –

“Virginity is important”

…and that was pretty much it.

It happened to Fatihah* when she was 15. Despite the awkwardness of it all, she described her experience as quick and easy.

“Back then, I was curious about Pap smear and asked my mother about it. After she explained everything, she said something out of the blue, ‘You know, your virginity is very important’, and that was it,” she laughed.

“At that time, I already knew about sex. I just cringed and walked away,” she said. “Looking back, it was funny that my mother actually thought those words were enough to fully explain what sex is.”

Well then, what would be the right way to speak to a child about sex?

“Honestly, I’m not sure. By the time I have kids, I hope schools would have proper sex education. That would make sex talk easier at home. As of now, it’s something that every present and future parent should be concerned about.”

Well, not these parents,

“You don’t want to be an easy woman”

The sex talk that TJR* had was basically out of tough love. As a matter of fact, it sounded more like a warning.

Instead of talking openly about sexuality, her parents kept mum until she was 12.

“Honestly, I don’t think they explained it out loud or talked about it explicitly. However, they taught me ‘no sex before marriage’ or I’ll be considered an easy woman,” she shared.

When TJR recalled how she felt about the talk (or the lack of it), she found it awkward and vague.

For her, things would have been different if her parents practiced open communication. “I hope my kids will be comfortable enough to confide in me. When the time comes, I’ll tell them sex is normal, but they shouldn’t be doing it for the sake of it. They must always practice safe sex.”

…or maybe she can consider this subtler approach?

“What are these pamphlets?”

Rekha* had a different family situation. She was raised by a single father. The only female adult she was close to was her paternal grandmother.

“Imagine asking my poor grandmother about sex. I don’t think her heart can take it!” she humoured.

As much as Rekha tried to avoid it, it happened. “When I was in Form 4, I had my first boyfriend. My father knew about it because he once saw us walking back from co-curriculum,” she began.

“When I returned home from school, I saw two pamphlets on my table. One was about the female reproductive system, and another was about pregnancy and breastfeeding,” she said. “I remembered laughing out loud. Eventually, I realised my Dad did it because he cared.”

She also understood how hard it is for fathers to talk to their daughters about it, especially when sex is a sensitive subject. Realising the courage it took for her Dad to share these pamphlets, she texted ‘thank you’ the next day.

And then, there are fathers who are more open than most.

“Daddy goes on top of Mummy”

If Cookie* has a chance to revisit any moment in her life, it would not be this one.

When it happened, she was a curious 11 years old.

“We were watching TV and my younger sister asked how babies were made. My parents literally said, ‘Daddy goes on top of Mummy and they exercise’ and that’s how babies are made,” she laughed. “There wasn’t much about the birds and the bees, to be honest.”

Cookie wasn’t surprised by the explanation, but she managed to chuckle. “I kind of learned about it in school. The boys in my school were using the dictionary to search for words like ‘penis’, ‘vagina’ and ‘sex’. So yeah, they were stupid kids,” she explained. “Some of the boys also told how it worked because they once walked into their parents doing the deed.”

If parenthood comes knocking, what would be Cookie’s way of managing these questions? “I would tell them facts about sex. If they’re younger than the appropriate age, let’s leave that to children’s books,” she discussed. “If my kids asked more questions and I don’t have the answers, my husband better explain it to them!”

It’s tough to talk about sex when there’s a child in the room. The subject can turn awkward and uncomfortable, and no parents like to be caught in that situation.

Here’s the thing, though.

It does make a difference when our parents talked to us about sex. For instance, the love and passion that comes with it. And sex being an affectionate way for couples to start or grow a family. Mums and Dads can also discuss sexuality, puberty and safe sex, which aren’t discussed enough in schools.

It’s better to start now than never.

If parents are not going to educate their kids about sex, you know who will?

Stormy Daniels.


*Names have been changed to protect their privacy

For more articles on Sexuality, read Being Pressured into Sex Made Me Learn How to Love Myself. Here’s My Story, and I’m a Guy on Tinder Looking for Hookups. Here are 4 Ways to Avoid Me.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at
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