Sexual beliefs, perception and attitudes of girls in Malaysia



Assistant Professor

Project Summary

This study aims to investigate the beliefs, perception and attitudes of girls in Malaysia towards sex and how this is impacted by their means of sexual education. This study is conducted through in-depth qualitative research methods to supplement existing literature on sex and adolescents in Malaysia. Additionally, this study will explore how factors that influence sex-related perceptions and decisions interact within the Malaysian social context to produce the current sexual realities of youth, specifically girls, in Malaysia. Thus, offering a more diverse and nuanced understanding that can lead to the development of more holistic policies in the delivery of sexual education to result in improved sexual health outcomes.

The consequences of a lack of safe and healthy sexual practices, namely sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teen pregnancy, are currently rising public health threats in Malaysia. Additionally, data from several national surveys has shown that adolescent knowledge on sexual intercourse is low. Only 33.7% of respondents aged between 13-24 years old know that a girl can become pregnant from her first sexual intercourse and only 17.8% knew that a girl can still get pregnant if her male partner ejaculates outside of the vagina during sex. Data collected also presents a worrying mismatch between knowledge on STDs and healthy sexual practices. Although, 71.3% of respondents aged between 13 to 17 years old know that HIV/AIDS is a type of sexually transmitted disease, only 28.6% of respondents knew that condoms can prevent its infection. In line with national statistics, results pointed to a hard reality; all adolescents are vulnerable to risky sexual behavior. It was against this backdrop that this qualitative study is launched.

This study is guided by the premise that if we can figure out how adolescents, specifically girls for focus purposes, with different personal and social identities learn about sex and how this impacts their sexualities, we will be able to do a better job at reaching them in a way that they will listen and act on. This is an exploratory study that aims to understand how girls’ beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes towards sex is shaped and the kinds of resources that are used to inform these conceptions.

Thanks to the Mazzatenta Award, I have had the opportunity to conduct over 20 interviews as part of my data collection procedure over the course of the summer. This gave me the opportunity to apply the research skills that I have learned in lecture in a real world setting. Prior to this experience, I viewed research as a daunting, impossible task but this opportunity has given me the courage to venture into this field.