Con­tro­ver­sial ex­pos help dif­fuse sex ed­u­ca­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Some Chi­nese Dama have been protest­ing against the Re­pro­duc­tive Health In­dus­trial Expo in Xi’an of Shaanxi province and Dalian of Liaon­ing province. The Dama, or mid­dle-aged women deeply in­flu­enced by Chi­nese tra­di­tion, have de­liv­ered fiery speeches out­side the expo hall in Xi’an dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony and even threw eggs at mod­els and per­form­ers at the Dalian expo.

The protests by Dama, which be­came a spe­cific term to de­scribe mid­dle-aged women when many of them rushed to buy gold as an in­vest­ment when prices fell last year, against so-called eroti­cism cen­ters on three core is­sues: Western con­spir­acy the­o­ries, tra­di­tional Chi­nese the­ory of chastity and the be­lief that eroti­cism is a so­cial evil.

The Western con­spir­acy the­ory is an old ar­gu­ment based on ide­ol­ogy and op­posed to the cor­ro­sive in­flu­ence of Western cul­ture (that is, cap­i­tal­is­tic life­style). Such the­o­ries were pop­u­lar from the 1950s to the 1970s in China, but do not cut much ice with peo­ple born af­ter the launch­ing of re­form and openingup.

Quite a few peo­ple, how­ever, agree with the tra­di­tional Chi­nese the­ory of chastity be­cause they be­lieve such ex­po­si­tions don’t con­form to the so­cial mi­lieu of China where peo­ple have tra­di­tion­ally had a prud­ish at­ti­tude to­ward sex. But the­o­ries and nov­els writ­ten in an­cient China show that the coun­try used to have a rich “sex cul­ture”. And someWestern schol­ars have even crit­i­cized the sex­ual re­pres­sion in mod­ern times by cit­ing the open­ness en­joyed in an­cient China.

The con­tention that sex ed­u­ca­tion (which the Dama mis­take for eroti­cism) is a so­cial evil is re­lated more to de­monology and less to sex­ol­ogy, which has found its way in many ar­ti­cles and web­sites. Ex­am­ples of such a con­cept: mas­tur­ba­tion is harm­ful to health and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity will hin­der hu­man devel­op­ment.

Us­ing the three is­sues, how­ever, the Dama have ar­gued that “eroti­cism” (that is, sex ed­u­ca­tion) can lead to moral de­cline and even so­cial in­sta­bil­ity in China. This con­tention can­not be backed by ev­i­dence. In fact, the Dama are ig­nor­ing the real rea­sons for moral de­cline and so­cial in­sta­bil­ity by blam­ing on sex­ual is­sues for the devel­op­ment.

Since the Dama’s ac­tions are well co­or­di­nated with si­mul­ta­ne­ous cam­paigns be­ing or­ga­nized in dif­fer­ent cities, com­plete with care­fully pre­pared speeches, one could eas­ily ask: Are third par­i­ties back­ing their cam­paign? How else could the Dama col­lect enough money to run the cam­paign and es­tab­lish their own web­sites to op­pose ex­pos on sex ed­u­ca­tion?

Although such ex­pos have their own prob­lems — for ex­am­ple, they be­come ex­pos for sex rather than sex ed­u­ca­tion thanks to con­sumerism — most of them are also ev­i­dent in other ex­pos. So what we should fo­cus on are the pos­i­tive as­pects of ex­po­si­tions on re­pro­duc­tive health and sex ed­u­ca­tion such as lec­tures on how to re­move sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion.

There is also need to be clear about a key is­sue: Is there a need to hold ex­po­son sex ed­u­ca­tion in­China? We need such ex­pos to tear off the veil of shy­ness shroud­ing the sub­ject of sex, which is re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual re­pres­sio­n­and­sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion in our so­ci­ety. Only by hold­ing dis­cus­sion­son­sex ed­u­ca­tion in­stead of sup­press­ingth­em­can­we­pro­mote­gen­der equal­ity, pro­tect sex­ual right­san­drespect peo­ple’s sex­u­al­ity.

Although we seem to be peeved about con­sumerism, busi­ness forces have ac­tu­ally helped break many ob­sti­nate sex­ual prac­tices. Of course, there is need to guide the busi­ness forces to help es­tab­lish a pos­i­tive cul­ture which is not prud­ish and does not pro­mote sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion. And ex­pos on sex ed­u­ca­tion are con­ducive to pro­mot­ing such a cul­ture. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor in the In­sti­tute of Sex­u­al­ity and Gen­der with Remin Univer­sity of China.


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