NUS peeping case: When good boys turn bad, should they be given a chance?

First, I have to state the obvious – this article is in no way implying whether this boy should, or should not be given a chance.

What I’m trying to do, is step away from the “justice must be done” crowd and consider the societal context and hopefully, understand something that can help steer our boys away from deviant behaviour in the future.

Sexual voyeurism is not new. 

The low-tech (and fairly common) method was to tie a mirror on his shoes to look up someone’s skirt. Today, in an age of iPhones, it won’t take long for a hormonally charged teenage boy to figure out what he can do with a camera readily at his disposal.

But this boy isn’t ill. He isn’t sick. He isn’t bad. But he does need to chose between two things: the unearthly curiosity about the female anatomy and the choice to obey and respect the women around him.

Boys are particularly prone to deviant behaviour. This fact is well documented in the study of criminology (Here’s an interesting report if you’re interested: Gender Differences in Deviant Behavior | Elda Cordone –

“Testosterone affects many domains: males tend to be more aggressive than females and tend to engage in risky behavior, they tend to have lowered sensitivity to pain, their right-hemisphere is more active resulting in the higher spatial aptitude compared to females, lower levels of empathy and verbal skill”, quotes Cordone in the report linked above.

However, these qualities that turn a person into a criminal are also these same qualities that make fearless leaders and fighters. Men have the ability to shutoff the world around them and focus their energies on their objective. How a person turns out depends a lot on how their parents and society manage and correct deviant behaviour.

Simply put, boys are naughty and need a lot of guidance, discipline and training. If parents skimp on discipline, or worse, are afraid to upset their little emperors, you end up with a camera in the toilet.

Universities are places where adolescents, at peak hormone, gather. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that things can go wrong. But why does it appear that schools are not taking steps to prevent misconduct from happening?

My take is that we believe our own fiction too much. 

Fiction number one: We think that when someone reaches age 18 or 21, this person suddenly becomes an adult fully capable of responsible choice. When the clock strikes 12 on this person’s birthday, he’s suddenly capable of holding weapons, viewing breasts in movies and smoking.

However, people mature at different ages. Men are known to mature very, very slowly. At the age of 18, some boys shouldn’t even be allowed near breakable utensils, let alone handle a smartphone independently. Military camps know this, why not schools?

Fiction number two: My boy is studious/ book loving/ has a girlfriend and won’t get into sexual deviancy. 

Rubbish. Ever heard of the Japanese term “Otaku”? This is a young person who is obsessed with computers or popular culture (such as anime) to the detriment of their social skills. In fact the more nerdy and intelligent a person is, the more he is willing to put that intelligence to the test. The market is full of spy cams readily available to anyone with some money and the guts to try it out. Furthermore, there is a community of pervs on the internet encouraging little ah boy to capture those images as a mark of manhood.

And the chief fiction is this: It’s just a phase and my boy will grow out of it.

No he won’t. When these spots don’t get removed, well, you know what they say about a leopard and his spots. Deviance happens when we don’t talk about them. If junior doesn’t know to what degree a particular act is detested in society, chances are he’s going to keep at it because in his point of view, its ok. “If the video is not leaked, it’s not hurting anyone right”? No, these things need to be talked about, warned about and acted on to prevent it from ever happening at all.

For the present case, I think it is as much about discipline, as it is about respect. Where respect fails, a would be perpetrator must at least know that there is a gun aimed squarely at his future and his career, ready to fire off if he doesn’t comply. 

And this is precisely what is happening to Nicholas Lim, and all the other juvenile offenders before him. Whether you have stolen panties, molested, harassed or threatened someone with revenge porn, you face the next 50 or 60 years living with the consequences of an action that provided thrill and satisfaction for all of 5 minutes. 

It is not easy to decide how to punish the offender. 

A young person being devoid of a future, is more than likely to continue getting deeper and deeper into criminal behaviour. There is nothing to lose anymore. He is more than likely to re-offend, creating more and more victims.

It is impossible to compensate the victim. Her modesty cannot be returned. Even the harshest punishment is cold comfort to her; she will constantly live under threat and shame, not knowing whether or not her video will be released. For some victims, each time a new case goes public, her name will be re-circulated again and again. Her horrors refreshed each time a similar crime catches the attention of the media.

But what society can do, is to met sufficient punishment to deliver justice and to ensure the offender does not re-offend. Society should not believe these fictions we lie to ourselves with and to protect our schools from deviants from the ground-up. Remember this is a place surging with hormones and the compounds need to have as much security as a military camp.

It is easy to say “let’s hang the victim”, but in this hanging will you spawn a vindictive ghost that will seek out new victims in increasingly serious crimes?

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