Valentine’s Day in Thailand is huge, but is it all romance or are Thai teens having sex?
Valentine’s Day in Thailand is one of the country’s biggest holidays for teenagers.
Even more than in the west, Thai teenagers and young adults soak up Valentine’s Day. Boys buy their girlfriends enormous bouquets of flowers, often with huge teddy bears attached, girls buy their boyfriends flowers, and everybody buys friends and family chocolate and candy.
In every shopping mall in Thailand, large and small, little stalls are set up selling nothing but flowers, Valentine’s Day balloons, stuffed animals and chocolate. They’re often surrounded by Thai girls, trying to decide what they’re going to buy for boyfriends, love interests and friends.
Even in this bad economic climate, teenagers and young adults are still spending a lot of money on Valentine’s Day in Thailand but is it all as innocent as it seems?
Are teens having sex on Valentine’s Day in Thailand?
Every year, Thai news is full of reports of Thai teenagers planning to have sex on Valentine’s Day – something that is completely unacceptable and incomprehensible to most older Thais, who grew up in an extremely conservative society.
But is it true?
A recent sex survey conducted by Rajabhat Suan Dusit Institute, (‘rajabhats’ in Thailand are public universities), surveyed 1,008 Thai young people, aged between 15 to 24 years old and asked them about Valentine’s Day in Thailand and sex. During a press conference, “White Valentine Design Your Love” (don’t worry, most Thai events, named in English rarely make sense!), the findings of the poll were released.
Twenty six percent of young adults surveyed said they planned to give a Valentine’s Day gift to their boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife. Thirteen percent said they would give flowers (usually roses), and 10 percent would go out for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner with their partner.
But, surprisingly, (or is it?) only 5 percent said they would have sex on Valentine’s Day.
As a Westerner living in Thailand, though, I tend to take these types of surveys with a grain of salt.
In Thai culture, many things are not spoken about. If you have a problem with someone, you don’t usually directly address that person, but instead tell their friends who will then tell them why you have a problem with them.
If this is true, you can understand why Thais don’t talk about sex and, if they’re having sex, they often don’t even talk about this with their closest friends. So, it’s not surprising they wouldn’t tell an interviewer from a public university that they were planning on having sex.
Thai teenagers, especially, are unlikely to tell an interviewer that they’re planning on having sex on Valentine’s Day.
Not only is that a ‘loss of face’, (embarrassing for a Thai person) but, even if the survey is supposedly ‘anonymous’, Thai teenagers would worry someone would find out and if their parents were to find out, life as they know it would pretty much end.
To show how conservative Thai culture can be, one of my Thai friends who is 24 years old, a graduate of a top Thai university, speaks fluent English and is western-thinking, was recently chastised by her father when he discovered her holding hands with her boyfriend in public.
She has been dating her boyfriend for 4 years, yet, holding his hand in public is just not done by many ‘good Thai girls’.
She was told in no uncertain terms by her father that, if it happened again, she would be spending the rest of her evenings at home with her family, as she would have to break up with her boyfriend.
She accepted this as ‘just Thai culture’.
The interesting thing though is, what she does in public isn’t likely to change, she’ll just be more careful that her parents don’t find out.
Looking at what I know about Thai culture therefore, I find it difficult to believe that only 5% of young Thais are planning on having sex on Valentine’s Day. It’s more likely that those 5% are the only ones who were willing to admit it, but that many more are planning on it.
Of course, the results of this poll are splashed all over the Thai news, as Thais are proud if they manage to stay ‘traditional’ in an increasingly modern society.
What’s bad about this however is that Thai teenagers and young adults don’t usually get the counseling and information about sex that most Western kids do.
Since AIDS was first reported in Thailand in 1984, there have been 345,196 cases of HIV/AIDS and 93,034 deaths. Government health agencies expect another 12,000 cases of HIV/AIDS to be reported this year but, the Thai culture of secrecy being what it is, it’s likely many more cases will go unreported.
That’s why, on this Valentine’s Day in Thailand, I take the news reports of Thai young adults remaining chaste on Valentine’s Day with a grain of salt. It would be nice if it was true but, unfortunately, it may very well not be.