‘I’ Column - Sophea Khun
... on how sexual rights affect one personally, and how they are affirmed and/or violated in one’s local cultural setting.
I was invited to speak on Radio WMC (Women ’s Media Centre) on safer sex issues. I was very happy to talk on the radio, as I felt that I had a lot to share on this subject and it is a ‘hot’ topic. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could, and couldn’t say on the show. We had also just completed a sexuality training that dealt with issues of pleasure and safer sex, so I was excited to talk about these things, but at the same time, scared of how people might react.
At the beginning of the show, I was asked to give a brief explanation about the meaning of ‘safer sex’ and how people could practise it. I described many ways to practice safer sex – (besides penetrative sexual intercourse), how to reach an orgasm, and explained that there were many places on the body that could give us pleasure. Many listeners (especially men), were calling in and asking where and what could they do besides penetrative sex to experience sexual pleasure. Many of them said that they were worried about masturbation, that it would make them unhealthy or become crazy. At this point, I explained different places where a man and a woman could experience pleasure – like the nipples, breasts, and penis. I also said that the clitoris was the best place on the woman’s body to give pleasure – both for the men to do or for the women to do. The producer and the people in the room looked at me in a very strange way and I felt a bit nervous to continue – perhaps I had said too much and people would think I was a bad girl and had lots of experience in sex. But then I decided that I had to give the correct information to the listeners, because I strongly believed that if I did not speak out, that most Cambodian women would still not know the places of pleasure on their body. So, I didn’t care about the judgement of the people – whether I am a good or bad woman, because I know who I am. So, then I proceeded to explain everything about masturbation, how condoms can bring pleasure, and so on, in detail on the radio. Most of the callers were men, but I am sure that lots of women were listening, but not brave enough to phone in.
The next day, I thought a lot about what I said on the radio and I wondered what the listeners were thinking and how the producer was feeling. Even though I know who I am and how I want to change the world for the women of Cambodia, sometimes I still have to think in relation to our culture and tradition. I may be criticized by some conservatives. In Cambodia, people make a lot of jokes on the issue of sexuality, but in terms of education, it is not discussed openly yet, as people think that it should not be discussed in public, and only in private.
I was encouraged to talk more on sexuality by this experience as I learned that the more we talk, the more people understand.
Sophea Khun is the Advocacy Project Officer at CARE Cambodia, Reproductive Health Program.