Kids, let’s talk about sex

Sex­ol­o­gist’s sex ed­u­ca­tion camp for teenagers held in Shang­hai

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Huang Lan­lan

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

Photo: Xiang Jun/GT

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.

Pho­tos: Xiang Jun/GT and VCG

Chil­dren try to un­roll con­doms on ba­nanas dur­ing a sex ed­u­ca­tion camp for teens held in Shang­hai on Au­gust 5.

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