It’s not difficult to draw parallels between social stigma, the concept of shame, Asian values such as honour and issues that Singaporean Asian men face in modern dating when doing research for a couple of commentaries. I’m born and bred Singaporean male, and as someone brought up in the heartlands (read: Pasir Ris) of Singapore, went through the typical Singaporean education route, I’m pretty sure I have a good context on the issues some of us men face in our dating and relationship lives.
Sex, emotions and relationships are hardly discussed around the dinner table when you’re growing up. If you’re a traditional Singaporean son or even woman, these topics aren’t really openly discussed or addressed. The majority of us aren’t primed to openly discuss these issues in from young, and it’s no wonder that you feel awkward communicating intimately to a woman you’re interested in.
Look, I’m not here to discuss collectivistic or individualistic mindsets. Not openly communicating in your relationships isn’t healthy regardless of collectivistic or individualistic cultures. This brings me back to my next point on shame.
In many Asian cultures, including Singapore, you’re brought up to not show any signs of negative emotions from resentment, anger and sadness. In a culture that emphasizes honour, you’re taught to suppress emotions and personal inadequacies as a means to ‘save face’. This is why some men spend years not going after a woman they are interested in in the name of saving face or the fear of rejection.
There are a host of issues that go with this, from anger, disappointment and sadness that comes along with poor grades, relational difficulties, bankruptcy, addictions and sexual issues. They are all covered up in secrecy and shame.
If you’re constantly worried about what others think about you, you’re never going to make that first move on a woman you desire in fears of upsetting others or people in the group. If you’re constantly attempting to save face in front of your girlfriend or partner, you’ll never get the support from them on the problems that you may be facing, in fear of being shamed or shamed.
If you’re Singaporean, you’re probably brought up to follow the rules, get a safe degree and get that swanky 9-5 corporate job. Follow the rules, make no mistakes and the women will come. Unfortunately, attraction doesn’t work like that, and it’s no wonder that foreign expats find themselves having an easier time with certain demographics of Singaporean women.
Now, you throw in the heavy emphasis on academic results over social skills, you get years of training attempting to solve math equations as opposed to developing communication skills, something that’ll determine real world success in life, a lot more than your academic grades. You’re conditioned to base your relationship success on performance such as academic grades, your job status and other objectified metrics in your life. Unfortunately, functional and healthy relationships don’t work that way, but are borne out of boundaries and values such as mutual respect and empathy. Shit that school or your parents never talked to you about.
Singapore’s immense focus on economic drive resulted in a technologized and industrialized economy since gaining independence. So instead of having fathers playing around their sons, you only see them after school (long hours) and you go to bed and the routine repeats itself. I like to point out that this isn’t just an issue faced by Asian cultures, but Western cultures too alike.
So how do you step out of the norm and define yourself as a sexually attractive individual, in hopes of bettering your dating life?
It’s not surprising that I naturally get along better with entrepreneurs, doers and people that served off the beaten path as opposed to students, undergraduates in my academic pursuits. Leadership and independent choices are one of the traits of an attractive individual. You don’t have to be extremely unconventional, but making tiny choices like speaking up for yourself and others can make you a good leader.
Investing in yourself through self-education, upgrading your skillsets, buying yourself fitting clothes or even pursuing passion are all forms of self-leadership that sexually attractive Asian males behave in Singapore. They don’t really abide by the rules, are willing to break some of them to a certain extent, hence, are seen as natural leaders.
I was primed to be a macho, show no feeling sort of individual throughout my teens. I did martial arts, football and all that manly activities that a ‘man’ should do. However, no matter how manly you are, every individual has needs for intimacy, and to be sexually confident, you need to be comfortable with sexual topics and intimacy. I can’t tell you the number of friends I know who are great with women aren’t the ‘macho’ types but leaned towards the sensitive types.
If you find yourself suffering from high levels of anxiety or face certain issues, I then recommend consulting a psychologist. There’s no shame about it. Good therapy can do positive things for your emotional life.
I think us Singaporeans men didn’t really have a choice and were a product of our circumstances when growing up. However, the responsibility to take control of your emotional, dating and relationships life is in your hands. You may find yourself the off beaten path, as I have in this area of life, however, the fulfilment of being aware of these issues and making better choices in one’s relationships is a price not too steep to pay.