It was a historic moment. (Or should it be “her-storic”?)
We had a history-making moment of our own in Singapore.
Last week, Mr Ong Ye Kung became the first minister to use the word “ejaculate” in public.
You may quibble that his official designation is Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, so he’s not a full minister (yet), but let’s not deny the man his place in history.
Mr Ong was reacting to a New Paper report about games at freshman orientation camps in the University of Singapore (NUS) becoming increasingly sexualised.
He wrote on Facebook:
“Orientation marks the start of University life...He was referring to the part in the TNP report about the NUSWhispers Facebook page, which had posts about a cheer that “simulated a group of guys ejaculating on a girl's face”.
“Activities can be rigorous, creative, even wild; students may push boundaries.
“But at all times, we must respect human dignity and remember the point and purpose of a University education.
“Pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student plays no part in this purpose – it is a reprehensible act that cannot be tolerated; goading others to act out a rape scene not only degrades the real suffering of rape victims, it inflicts fresh humiliation on female students.”
Such collective misogyny is reminiscent of the Purple Light episode in 2013.
Remember that song sung by national servicemen? It included the lines:
Booking out, see my girlfriendThe Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) was understandably “troubled” when it learnt about this army ditty which was even more rapey than Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines since Purple Light actually had the word “rape” in it.
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me
Aware raised its concerns to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), who said they would “immediately halt” the singing of the offending lyrics.
But was the damage already done? Is it possible that such misogynistic attitude has been carried over by our young men from national service to university?
Or is it because they watch too much Animal House? (Which is unlikely since the movie is nearly twice the age of a typical NUS undergrad.)
Of course, Aware has also raised concerns about the oversexed orientation games in NUS — in 2014.
That was the year when Campus Eye, an online newspaper by NUS students, reported:
“A student who attended a camp organised by Kent Ridge Hall witnessed forfeits such as Seven Wonders, in which two students touch each other as instructed by their peers, and male students doing push-ups over females...Yes, this is on NUS’s own website — since 2014.
“Psychology Camp organiser Lau Boon Yen described a similarly sexual-themed activity called Secret Pals. ‘They wake the participants up at 3am and blindfold them, and make the girl sit on the guy’s lap,’ Lau said.”
So the 12th-ranked university in the world has been aware (Aware!) of what has been going on for years but still let it continue.
You know how the Immigrations And Checkpoints Authority can “facilitate” the clearance for a minister like Mr Tan Chuan-Jin on a durian trip to JB?
Similarly, Mr Ong may not be a full minister (yet), but since his Facebook post, NUS has suspended all student-organised freshman activities after a video showing someone getting dunked during an orientation camp surfaced.
It looks like a form of water torture akin to waterboarding, which has been euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation”.
Perhaps dunking is just “enhanced orientation”.
But is suspending the entire orientation camp necessary, disappointing many who have worked hard to prepare for the camp?
Is NUS just overcompensating for its own tardiness in taking the problem seriously?
As Mr Ong wrote in his Facebook post:
“I thank the staff and student volunteers for their hard work and the many hours of planning that have gone into the orientation programme. I know that much of it was useful and edifying.In other words, NUS, just take out the rapey parts.
“Let us forswear the parts that were not.”
Meanwhile, take another bow, Mr Ong.
You may be the first Singapore (acting) minister to use the word “forswear” ever.
- Published in The New Paper, 31 July 2016