When we were younger, the word ‘sex’ always felt taboo or dirty, so we used ‘it’ instead. In the context of a relationship, it’s common for friends to pose the cryptic “Have you done it?” question without further elaboration.
Among the Chinese-speaking crowd, sex was also commonly alluded to by the equally vague ‘zuo na ge’ (‘do that one’). Instead of ‘zuo ai’ (‘make love’), we preferred word and mind games that didn’t risk us feeling embarrassed.
But as we grow older, ‘it’ has evolved to ‘sexy time’, a far more literal depiction that leaves little room for second guessing its meaning. The latter is more commonly referenced in hookup culture, but to be honest, sounds more childish than raunchy.
In the event that we do discuss sex, it’s never about the pleasure, the mechanics or the intimacy. Instead, it remains this taboo subject, fit only for tabloid headlines or bragging rights.
Here are the very Singaporean patterns we’ve noticed in the way we talk about sex.
Typically masculine conversations about sex often take one of two forms: “Did you get it?” or “Was it good?”
Contrast this with women who tend to notice the details. Take for instance this story from a friend who hooked up with someone who was exceptionally sweaty. He was on top, the sex wasn’t going great, and she’d started to tune out. But halfway through her daydreaming, she was jolted back to the present when a drop of his sweat landed squarely on her nose.
For men, it starts and ends at, “Yep, I fucked her.” You don’t ever hear, “I feel really bad because I didn’t manage to make her come.”
2. We’ve gone from ‘Zuo Ai’ to ‘Are you planning to sleep with him?’
Unlike men, women often discuss having sex with someone before it happens, sometimes to seek advice but mostly just to share their thoughts and fears.
For women, the decision to get laid usually involves considering nuances: what stage the relationship is at, whether they think the guy will ghost them after, or if the risk of getting emotionally attached is worth a one-night stand. Unlike men, for whom every sex partner is often ‘another notch in the belt’, all these factors influence a woman’s decision.
3. We still can’t say penis or vagina
When was the last time you heard someone say the words ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’?
Outside of biology lessons, we’re culturally uncomfortable with plainly talking about physical anatomy. So we put our unique Singaporean spin on things.
Many have learnt to refer to big breasts as ‘tua neh bu’ (TNB) and penis as ‘ku ku jiao’ (KKJ) (this eventually progressed to ‘lan jiao’ [LJ] once we hit secondary school), and incorporate terms from other languages that don’t sound as vulgar. One example is using Malay to refer to the ass as ‘pantat’ and breasts as ‘tetek’.
We also use ‘dick’ a lot.
Suddenly sex doesn’t sound so serious and intimate anymore, but instead takes on a humorous and less direct approach.
If you understood what any of these acronyms mean, you’re likely familiar with typical sex forum lingo. For the uninitiated, the above-mentioned stand for: cum in mouth, cum on face, bare back blow job, fuck job, ass rimming and anal job.
It’s all about the male orgasm, rather than sex as interactive and pleasurable for all parties involved — arguably the result of sex ed’s failure to recognise female sexual autonomy.
Besides these acronyms, sex forums are replete with Singaporeans who love dishing out sex tips. There are the fairly decent (“Accept her for who she is, dude… Sex is not everything in a relationship.”) and the crass ones (“Your wife neh neh big bo? Intro me to your wife leh.”).
Then there are the suspiciously helpful (“If you find that your bird-bird very small, consume Tongkat Ali.”).
Still, I suppose where sex ed fails, Sammyboy and SgSexForum step in. One can only hope the young and genuinely curious who seek legit advice take everything written there with a bucket of salt.
5. ‘Housewife and Addicted to Sex’, ‘Seven Women on How They Lost Their Virginity’, ‘10 Famous Makeout Spots in Singapore’
In the media, most mentions of sex remain either focused on procreation or scandalised and extreme.
Whether they are sex-related offences or kiss-and-tell recounts in women’s magazines, these scandalous stories simply exist on the flip side of the same coin as sanitised sex-ed. They only perpetuate the existing culture of taboo surrounding sex.
We also often see listicles (tongue-in-cheek and otherwise) documenting interesting spots to get frisky. Because most of us don’t have our own place if we’re single, Singaporeans have to resort to creative means to get laid. Besides, almost every secondary school romance began in an HDB stairwell. For the experimental and adventurous nowadays, there are also carparks, cinemas, parks, beaches and public toilets.
These ideas are nothing new, but that they resurface during any conversation about sex only goes to show that, even when we want to talk about sex, we still do so indirectly.