Monday, February 13, 2012

Sex Scandals in Singapore: What's Going On?

Sex scandals have recently been hogging the news headlines in Singapore. High profile individuals in positions of senior responsibility in the public service, as well as an opposition MP, have been alleged to have committed adultery. All three of the accused senior public servants (the chiefs of SCDF and CNB and a primary school principal) have been forced to resign from their positions, while opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong has resigned from his leadership position in the Workers Party. The serial expose of infidelity has left me wondering: what is going on with Singapore's leaders? Why are so many sex scandals happening in this island nation?

Wikipedia reports that "researchers say there's a 50-50 chance today that one partner will have an affair during a marriage including non-physical relationships", and that "it is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage."

The statistics quoted above are based on data from the United States, and here in Singapore we might be tempted to think that Singaporeans are more conservative than Americans when it comes to extramarital affairs and that we hold "Confucian values". However, according to the New York Times, "almost 90 percent of the men surveyed and 94 percent of the women believed that extramarital sex was "always wrong" or "almost always wrong." In other words, the overwhelming majority of Americans either practiced monogamy or aspired to it." Despite the high incidence of infidelity in American life, that vast majority of individuals agree that extramarital sex is wrong.

I suspect that the situation isn't all too different in Singapore. Despite so-called "conservative" and "Confucian", "Asian values", it is likely that a significant number of married individuals fall prey to the temptation of adultery regardless of whether they think infidelity is wrong. So why do they still engage in it and why do they risk their careers and their marriages for momentary pleasure?

Some experts cite biological reasons for infidelity. Dr Lee Cheng, 43, a senior consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health, was quoted as having said: "A link between fidelity and a hormone called vasopressin was recently reported. The stronger this hormone is in males, the more likely they are to be faithful to their partners."

Meanwhile, oestrogen, the so-called female hormone, affects fertility and has been shown to make women dress more provocatively and show more thrill-seeking behaviour. Dr Kristina Durante of The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues found that young women felt more attractive when they had high levels of an oestrogen known as estradiol, and they acted on those feelings. 'Women with higher estradiol reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair with someone other than their primary partner and were marginally more likely to date another man,' according to Dr Durante's team in a research paper published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.

Other experts attribute infidelity to non-biological reasons. Opportunistic infidelity occurs when a partner is in love and attached to a partner, but surrenders to their sexual desire for someone else. The opportunistic infidelity is driven by irrepressible lust, situational circumstances and/or opportunity, and sometimes, pure risk-taking behavior. Men or women may have affairs when they feel that their emotional needs are not met and feel disconnected with their spouses. Other reasons, such as peer pressure, loneliness, boredom and even revenge have been cited as motivations to commit infidelity.

So, the preceding paragraphs help to explain what's going on in the minds (and bodies) of these high-flying public leaders that they would engage in adulterous activities — uncontrolled lust, boredom, and emotional fulfillment. Unfortunately, these are the things that cannot be satisfied by power and money, which their positions of high responsibility bestow upon them.

Scoring high on intelligence and academic tests does nothing to tell us about the ability of a person to control himself or herself when faced with lustful temptation — and if we want our leaders to be 'morally upright', something needs to be done to test a person's self-control before appointing him or her into such positions of high authority.

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