Many previously taboo subjects are now being brazenly embraced in Burma, although some changes are only emerging step-by-step in the traditionally conservative society.
Beautiful models clad in revealing dresses can be found in today’s domestic journals and magazines according to so-called “international standards,” and readers can even study erotic issues under the guise of “sex education” thanks to a ground-breaking magazine.
Nhyot, roughly translated as “Allure” in Burmese, is a new publication which boasts erotic images from cover to back. Advertisements for the publication have caused a storm in Burma as well as on social media such as Facebook.
Oo Swe, the editor-in-chief of Nhyot, told The Irrawaddy that topics in his magazine are presented from a health point of view, aiming to prevent unwanted diseases from sexual encounters.
“People in this country don’t know about sex education even after they have grown up,” he said. “In other countries in the world, it has been included in school curricula and people have known about it since they were in primary school.
“Lack of knowledge can unwittingly bring sexually transmitted diseases, which can then be infected in partners. Such problems will have an impact from the family to the national level. This is the idea behind the publication of Nhyot. Articles in the magazine are written from a clinical point of view and carefully supervised.”
Nhyot first hit shelves on Nov. 27 with new issues available in the last week of each month. The owner of a bookshop on Rangoon’s 32nd Street told The Irrawaddy that the attractive magazine has been a hit from day one.
“A lot of buyers, mostly boys, came to my shop to look for Nhyot,” he said. “The price is 3,000 kyat [US $3.50].”
Articles with titles such as “Secrets of the bedroom,” “Will you be in the arms of everyone” and “What men hate about women” seem to deliberately cater for men. And there is also a Q&A section that includes in-depth discussion of sexual topics.
Indeed, the disclaimer “Minors are prohibited” on the cover appears to be enticing a larger readership.
“There has been no such warning in Burma before,” said Oo Swe. “But there are actually many issues, including those related to love, in current magazines and other publications, which minors should not read. I put the warning because my magazine only features issues for adults.”
The pioneering editor explained that literature regarding sex education has existed in the country for a long time with writers such as Dr. Maung Maung Nyo and Dr. Nan Ohnmar covering the subject in their books, although Nhyot is the first magazine of its kind.
A young female reader told The Irrawaddy that Nhyot is interesting although the article titles are very lewd and price high for a newly-published magazine.
“As our country has opened up and enjoys more freedom, such magazines will be published eventually. We can’t stop them,” she said. “We will be able to gain knowledge through this kind of magazine.”
Nhyot, however, has not had a smooth arrival as many conservative people in Burma even complain about advertisements for women’s menstrual hygiene products and men’s potency drugs. The magazine has encountered some quandaries using photos to match with its written content.
“No censor has been applied to us but I won’t publish a magazine like Playboy because we have to pay attention to our culture,” said Oo Swe. “We have carefully taken all the photos ourselves.”
He added that publications on sex education should be readily available in the country to encourage people to be more open about reproductive health.
The end of Nhyot’s first edition editorial reads, “Love and sex are like Kyut-Kyut-Ate [non-recyclable plastic bags]. They are essential but can also bring negative impacts if we don’t use them with discipline. In order to apply them properly, this magazine presents sex education in combination with entertainment.”