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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The deal with sex

Let us be honest here. How many of us clicked on the link to this article because the salacious title caught our eye? 
Not too long ago, I was browsing the home page of a local mainstream news portal. There was a small section at the side of the page featuring a list of the five “most viewed” articles at the current time. Here were the headlines of those articles, in the order of which they originally appeared: 

- Maid saves boss from naked man
- Lonesome women seek lust-ing relationships
- Man exposes self in front of mistress’ house
- Paying a heavy price for e-love
- PM: Don’t idolize the bad guys
The obvious observation to make here is the fact that four out of five of the news portal’s most popular articles involve sexual elements of some form or another. 
When news of a leaked video depicting a certain prominent politician having sex first leaked out earlier this year, everyone — be it the press or the public — went absolutely wild.
Mobile phones beeped incessantly as links to the video went viral via text messaging, commentaries from various politicians were splashed on the front pages of newspapers for days, and for quite a while, it was all the town talked about. 
At that point, it is also interesting to note that even the earthquake disaster that struck Japan at around the same time, as well as the ensuing issues with damaged nuclear reactors, failed to warrant coverage that was nearly as extensive. 
More recently, we see the latest political warfare surrounding the vicious rumours implicating the young son of a politician. Whether or not such rumours are true lie beyond the scope of this article; the point is, the sex card is played time and time again because it just works
Indeed, news of extramarital affairs, sex rituals, and the ever-improvising modus operandi of the flesh trade, never fail to grab headlines [and public attention]. 
Everyone seems to love talking about sex. We appear to be fascinated by the idea, and eagerly lap up the spicy offerings that the media dishes out to us on a daily basis. 
The media cannot be entirely blamed for their extensive coverage on such news. Why? 
The public wants to read about sex. 
Sex stirs controversy. Sex is sensational. Sex sells
It is probably not unreasonable to say that the values embraced by a particular society can be reflected in its interests and its reaction to certain events. An optimist would suggest that this means we care very much about marital faithfulness and respecting the dignity and autonomy of women. This might also indicate a strong public disapproval of the dirty flesh trade. 
We therefore exhibit interest in such news because we feel very strongly about these values and issues; it is a manifestation of our attempts to safeguard these values. 
A cynic, on the other hand, might say that such keen interest is merely propelled by sheer curiosity. From the cynic’s point of view, everything can simply be explained by twisted curiosity for sex and other tabloid news of the sort. 
He may laugh at the optimist’s assertion that this is merely our response in defending noble values, and derisively point at the sexist remarks uttered by some of our MPs to counter the optimist. Worse still, he sees that the very fact that such happenings are rampant breaks down any argument of that line. 
If we are tired of seeing the sex card being played and thrown about for cheap political mileage, and headlines of the latest sex scandal unnecessarily dominating the front pages [as well as the talk of the town!] when we could be focusing our attentions on more pressing matters, perhaps it is high time we reshape our priorities and do a little soul-searching with regards to the values we hold dear. 
Do we really just have a tabloid-ish curiosity? Or has this always been about protecting our values that we care so much about — values of being faithful, of not being promiscuous, and of respecting women? If it is the latter, can we strive to behave consistently with these values? Do we live up to the very standards that we purport to adhere to? 
The cynic, in the meantime, continues chuckling as he flips through the daily papers, splashed with colourful news of MPs making scathing sexist comments, of people blaming rape victims themselves for getting raped, and of unfaithful husbands being caught in the act by their angry wives. 
“We care about these values? What values?” The cynic asks. 
This is surely depressing news for all of us! 
Yizhen has just completed her undergraduate law degree at the University of Oxford.
The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.


Pelawat Sejak 30/09/11

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