Androgyny in Sexuality Education

I was one of the pioneer batches in Singapore trained for Sexuality Education, and I think it was quite amazing that I’ve steered clear of this subject thus far. I think it is important, though, for all children to learn and accept themselves as they are, and so I come up with this article to help parents and educators on this aspect of a person’s sexuality.

For those who are thinking of trashy stuff, sorry to disappoint you – Sexuality Education is not Sex Education. Sex Education teaches about the physical and perhaps emotional aspects of coitus, and touches on topics like contraception and so on. Sexuality Education includes Sex Education, but that’s not the focus – the focus is on the person’s values and his ability to relate to himself and others in the chosen sexual orientation.

Singapore, unlike western countries, treaded cautiously on this subject. Plenty of religious and community leaders were consulted before the Ministry of Education finally decided we will do Sexuality Education rather than Sex Education. With values being such an important part of Sexuality Education, ideas like abstinence and protecting our bodies took a stronger centre stage rather that telling the kids how to use condoms to make sure they don’t get pregnant, since (not if!) they want to have sex at that age.

The issue of androgyny is an interesting one nowadays. With the rise of the Sensitive New Age Man (SNAG) in the magazines, and the prevalence of manga and anime from Japan (where the lead characters tend towards androgyny as well), such a man or woman has become more and more accepted in society.

Androgyny is a state where a man displays certain traits (physical or emotional) that society attributes towards women, or where a woman displays certain traits (physical or emotional) that society atttributes towards men. It comes from a combination of the Greek andros (man) and gyne (woman).

I am an example of an androgynous man. I’m most definitely a man (and not only because of my sexual organs!) but I display openly many behaviours that society attributes towards women. I am quite emotional, tears quite easily and speaks gently in a measured tone (one of the contractors I used to work with when I was in the Navy said that I’ve a “sweet voice”…now that’s scary when you hear it from a man!).

Not only that, but in looks and appearance, I’m rather like Legolas (the elf in the Lord of the Rings, as portrayed by Orlando Bloom) – slim and fair, with little body hair. This is so unlike Aragorn (portrayed by Viggio Mortensen), a dark bushy man with rippling muscles. And since I’m very sure I’m full of testerone (I’m hyperactive…and my wife can also testify to another reason why I’m definitely full of testerone), I must possibly have a stronger dose of estrogen in me than most man. Hmm…that perhaps explains the mood swings as well…

My wife, on the other hand, is considered a “hairy” woman (for a woman – she’s obviously less hairy than any man!). For her case though, I can’t tell if it’s because she has weaker estrogen levels for a woman, or she has stronger testerone levels for a woman. But her sexuality is definitely oriented towards that of a woman, while mine is most definitely towards that of a man, no question about it.

By now, astute readers should be aware that our bodily features assigned to masculinity and femininity is due to the balance of male hormones testerone and female hormones estrogen. Most men have very weak estrogen levels, while most women have very weak testerone levels.

Men with very strong estrogen levels may develop what the Chinese termed 脂粉味 (literally “smelling of perfume”). They look very, very feminine and may even develop breasts, for some extreme cases. Historically, such men have been looked down upon and have even created disasters, like Dong Xian, the “concubine” of a certain Han emperor.

Women with very strong testerone levels tend to be of strong build and large sizes. I suspect the Mu Yecha from the Chinese classic Outlaws of the Marsh would be such a character. Again, society tends not to be very accepting of such persons, labelling them “butches” and so on (more so if they from the military).

With the progress of thinking, a more cosmospolitan-outlook and the building of tolerance levels in the world today, we are getting more and more accepting of the androgynous look. The media has built in today’s woman a liking for the Sensitive New Age Man – a man who is a prince charming but yet not outwardly macho. Women like Grace Jones, Ella (from Chinese pop sensation S.H.E) and the winners of SuperGirls (in China) Li Yuchun (2005) have become stars in their own right, with millions of fans.

It’s a good sign. While God has made us man and woman, different and yet complimentary to each other, we should be allowed to express ourselves fully the entire range of human emotions and feelings, and to experience fully the many interactions with our environment. As long as the students understand that it takes more than being macho to be a man, or that a woman can be an engineer as well, I believe I’d have done my part as an educator.