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Pantie stealing

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The Straits Times published a picture of the lingeried flagpole.

Commentary: why would anyone steal underwear – and flout circuit breaker restrictions to do that?

There was a flurry of follow-up news reports and commentaries, investigations were done, and action was taken against some students. I was then a student at the university and a resident at Eusoff College, the all-female dormitory a 5-minute walk away from Raffles Hall. The underwear strung up on that flagpole belonged to Eusoff women. Panty raids were a thing then, one of several Eusoff-Raffles annual traditions.

We did not then see those raids as an intrusion into our personal space, as a demonstration of toxic masculinity. This was the early s.

While the one or two panty raids that took place when I was at Eusoff College may indeed have been just good fun, the sexual underpinnings of the practice showed themselves in a raid in when some 70 male students stormed the Eusoff corridors. It got me thinking about those panty raids of 50 years ago, so I did a little checking.

In Januarya Raffles Hall resident wrote to The Straits Times to protest against their coverage of the panty raid. Similar explanations, or excuses, were, I believe, initially offered in some of the recent cases of voyeurism on our campuses.

There is no excuse for acts, whether they are driven by pent-up emotions or depression or a fetish that impinge on the privacy and safety of anyone. We have every right to possess and practise harmless fetishes, but not fetishes that inflict physical or psychological violence upon others - whether that involves stealing underwear or filming people without their permission in the shower, bedroom or MRT.

We may laugh at the idea of someone climbing over the back gates of homes and sneaking into the laundry area to get to the bras and panties, but the needs that drive this person to such acts can, if unchecked, lead to much more serious sexual crimes. This is why the last year was so important pantie stealing it forced our universities to take clear and firm action against voyeurism and other behaviour they had tended to treat too lightly.

How do we get these people to change their behaviour? Counselling, behavioural therapy and other treatments are needed.

Photo illustration of a man taking upskirt photos. Photo: Jeremy Long. Psychiatrists say the disorder often begins in early puberty.

I feel that sex is such a taboo subject that we sometimes underestimate the fact that we need to learn proper sexual practices. Because of that, children and youth may start learning the wrong things maybe from TV, Internet and somehow associate sexual gratification with objects. Having open dialogues about healthy sexual practices may be useful.

Sexuality education in Singapore schools has had a rather chequered history. This syllabus is centred on abstinence and notably light on discussion of actual sexual activity whether intercourse or fetishes.

Underwear thief was caught with stolen knickers in his pockets

But a responsible and comprehensive sexuality education programme should not be silent on these matters. Parents could be more proactive too in the realm of sexuality education. They feel ill-equipped both in terms of knowledge as well as the necessary communication skills required to talk to their kids about sensitive issues such as sex and consent.

Everybody in Singapore deserves non-judgmental and helpful discussions about sexual practices, including fetishes. We are now well into the 21st century. We need to talk openly about sex, sexuality and sexual practices.

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