Kids, let’s talk about sex
Sexologist’s sex education camp for teenagers held in Shanghai
In the center of the classroom, Fang Gang shows how to correctly apply a condom. Under the curious and excited eyes of dozens of teenagers sitting around, he slowly unrolls a condom on a banana.
“Now it’s your turn to have a try,” Fang says, asking his assistant to distribute each teen a condom and a banana.
The classroom is soon filled with the children’s screams, laughs and yells: “Oh my God, why is it oily?” “So disgusting!”
This was a sex education camp for teens held in Shanghai by Fang, a sexology professor at Beijing Forestry University.
From August 3 to 5, Fang’s three-day camp came to this city for the first time, attracting 36 children aged between 11 and 17 and their parents to participate. Before this presentation, Fang has organized 17 camps around China since 2013, having nearly 600 teenage participants in total.
“During the three days, we’ve talked about many topics such as the physiological changes in puberty, how to protect yourself against sexual harassment, and the correct attitudes toward love and sex,” Fang told the Global Times on August 5, the last day of the camp.
Good sex, bad sex
In the classroom, several pieces of paper were pasted on the wall on which there were words and terms that might embarrass even adults: sexual abuse, whoring, incest, roofie, premarital pregnancy, forced sex, masturbation, extramarital affair, LGBT, underage sex.
These teen participants were asked to tell if each one was a good sexual behavior or a bad one.
Their parents, giggled and whispered with red faces at the back of the classroom. They obviously had never mentioned these words in front of their kids, let alone in an open discussion.
Some of the parents did have concerns about the “proper methods” of sex education. At a parents’ meeting during the camp, a girl’s mother once advised Fang to use more implicit words instead of “overly explicit” ones in class.
“For example, you can replace ‘sexual intercourse’ or ‘make love’ with ‘gunchuangdan [roll on the bed],’ and replace ‘menstruation’ with ‘dayima [big auntie],’” she said. “These can be more acceptable to the teens, especially girls.” But father Huang Yao disagreed. “Comparing with trying to cover up these topics with ambiguous and confusing words, I would rather we talk about them with our children frankly and straightforward.”
This summer, Huang and his wife enrolled their son Huang Tongming for the camp and spent the three days together with him. The tuition fee was 3,900 yuan ($512.2). “We plan to send him to study overseas in the future,” he said. “Before he has to live abroad independently, we’d like to equip him with enough life knowledge and skills, including how to deal with love, sex and relationships.”
At the camp, Fang told the children that good sex contains three basic elements: consensus, health and responsibility.
When explaining the “consensual” element, he invited 16-yearold Huang Tongming to act as his “girlfriend.” “Suppose that we are high schoolers, and we are a couple with no sexual experience,” Fang told him. “Now I will persuade you to have sex with me, and what you should do is to try your best to reject me.”
A bit awkwardly, the boy gave Fang a series of poor excuses such as on period, too tired or busy with homework, many of which may not work at all in real life. When Fang said “let’s break up if you won’t have sex with me,” he seemed quite perplexed, having no idea what to say to him. “This experience taught me to put myself in the place of the opposite sex,” the boy told the Global Times. “I will never force my future girlfriend to have sex if she doesn’t want to.”
‘Evil puppy love’
On the third day of the camp, 36 teens were divided into two teams and had a debate over whether dating in high school is a big distraction from studying.
Dating before college is generally considered “evil puppy love” in China, being prohibited by the overwhelming majority of parents and teachers. However, at the camp and in front of their parents, kids ilples to prove that dating is not bad, although some were childish such as “if your boyfriend studies hard, dating him can inspire you to study hard as well.” A boy took himself for a good example. “Perhaps I have more dating experiences than most of you,” he said. “But I often get good grades at school – a provincial key high school in [North China’s] Shanxi Province.” the renowned physician Erwin Schro dinger. “It is said that o of Schrodinger’s girlfriends was so charm ing that she inspired him to publish six essays on quantum mechanics within a year,” he said. “Look how helpful a partner can be to your work and study!” All the children and parents burst into laughter. At the end of the debate, a girl stood up and concluded. “Having a crush on someone is a wonderful experience that all of us may have in our teenage years,” she said. “Instead of forcibly preventing it [the crush], I prefer learni\ng to make a balance between my study and love life
Unlike their speaking out at the camp, most Chinese kids seldom reveal their dates and relationships to their parents, even though the “evil puppy love” is actually rather common among today’s teenage students.
According to a survey released by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in July, 42.3 percent of the high schoolers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have had dating experiences. The data shocked many parents.
“I’d rather talk about boys and classroom gossips with my peers,” camp participant Yang Siyi, 15, told the Global Times.
It remains a taboo
In the eyes of Fang, there is still a sad lack of formal sex education in China.
“As far as I know, few domestic primary or secondary schools have sex education courses for their students,” he said. “A severe consequence from that is that many underage kids have no idea how to protect themselves from sexual attacks.”
According to statistics by the Supreme People’s Court of China, between 2013 and 2016, courts all over the country totally dealt with 10,782 child sexual abuse cases. In other words, each day seven kids were sexually abused on average, according to a Global Times report in 2017.
Worse still, behind every sexual attack case in the courts, there can be as many as seven unreported ones, said Wang Dawei, a professor at the People’s Public Security University of China.
Another problem caused by the lack of education is that Chinese children are extremely ignorant about sex, which has led to lots of tragedies including teenage pregnancies, abortions and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). “Many kids don’t know what a condom is, not to speak of correctly using it,” Fang sighed.
Nonetheless, sex and relationship topics remain taboos that parents and schools are reluctant to talk about.
Fang recalled that in previous years, when he tried to hold sex education camps in less-developed cities, local parents gave him the cold shoulder. Once in Tongliao, a city in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Fang’s team received so few applicants that it had to eventually cancel the camp there.
“Fortunately, things are gradually getting better now, as more and more parents begin to realize the importance of sex education,” he told the Global Times. This time in Shanghai, his 36-quota camp saw 36 participants from across the country, some from as far as Southwest China’s Yunnan Province.
“I hope that through the three days, they can have a more comprehensive view of their own bodies and therefore build correct attitudes toward sex and relationship,” Fang added.
“Having a crush on someone is a wonderful experience that all of us may have in our teenage years, instead of forcibly preventing it [the crush], I prefer learning to make a balance between my study and love life.”
A girl A sex-ed camp participant
Fang Gang, a sexology professor at Beijing Forestry University, demonstrates how to correctly apply a condom at a sex education camp for teens held in Shanghai on August 5.
Children try to unroll condoms on bananas during a sex education camp for teens held in Shanghai on August 5.