We hear from both current and past NUS students about the tradition of sexualised orientation games.
Sexually inappropriate games, forfeits and cheers have been the mainstay of university orientation camps for over a decade, but have only recently become the subject of public scrutiny and criticism.
It started with The New Paper’s article about how the games at the National University of Singapore (NUS) camps have become increasingly sexualised. More pictures and videos began to surface, including the anonymous submission of a video with four guys dunking a girl in a small pond, which was the last straw which led to NUS cancelling orientation week.
As baffled parents voiced their astonishment over what was actually taking place at these camps, we turn the spotlight on seven individuals who have either attended or organised such camps in NUS to find out the main reasons why such risqué orientation activities have stood the test of time.
1. It helps to break the ice (duh).
Orientation camps signify the beginning of a brand new journey for undergraduates. Everything is foreign and every social interaction is awkward at first.
So to get individuals to feel a little less reserved, ice breakers are used. They sometimes contain sexual innuendos because facilitators want to push the freshies out of their comfort zone and they attempt to accomplish this by using extremes.
“Sexualised games just happen to be the ultimate taboo and therefore the ultimate tool for disarming an individual,” Andrew Marko, 24, freelance actor, musician and writer, said.
Fresh graduate Jake Yang, 25, agreed. He said: “Nothing breaks the ice better than small talk or finding yourself in a ridiculous activity. I guess after, they are united because they share the same feeling about the activities, whether they enjoyed or hated them.”
2. Youths feel like they are taking control of their own lives.
As young adults living away from their parents for the first time in their lives, university students are finally left to their own devices. In some ways, the swing toward a lack of sexual inhibition is their way of asserting independence and rebelling against control.
As fresh graduate Matt Ta, 26, succinctly said: “It’s a middle finger in the face of adults who are saying ‘don’t have sex’.”
Andrew elaborated, “I reckon it’s just the way Singaporean youths cope with their sexual awakening. Because we are such a conservative society, sex is a relatively taboo thing. It’s very likely that university students would choose to embrace it as a way to push the boundary of their social barriers.”
The irony then is how adults succeeded in cancelling O Week and putting a halt to students celebrating their freedom from their parents.
3. The twin perils of peer pressure and tradition.
Camps are usually student-led. This means that ideas are often borrowed or simply reused from one camp to the next. Because of how many years these games have been included in camps, it has become an almost salient aspect of the overall orientation process. This becomes a form of social pressure even on camp facilitators who are expected to live up to traditions.
Psychology major Pei Xin Tay, 22, explained: “You pay a high price via such unpleasant activities to be accepted by the group. As a full member, you’d execute such unpleasantries on new members so that you can preserve the group’s status and ensure that they all go through what you did in order to be deserving of membership.”
Despite there always being a choice to not participate in such activities, the consequences of doing so tend to deter individuals from voicing out.
Lee Rui Kang, 26, fresh graduate, said: “There will be people from every batch that finds the cheers and activities inappropriate. But I feel due to fear of judgement by their peers, they normally just keep quiet.”
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