China is Coming of Age...Sexually



Since I started this blog three months ago China has appeared more frequently in my google sex alerts than another other nation. With the world's largest population of over 1 billion based on a July 2010 estimate, acts such as the one child policy are directly connected to China's contemporary notions of sex and reproductive control. While sex has occupied a central part of Chinese culture for almost the last 3,000 plus years, witnessed in both Daoist (importance of yin and yang balance) and Confucianist philosophies (there is a Sex Museum inTongli depicting this history), it became incredibly publicly marginalized over the last 50 years. However, as China ever grows as the global economic giant private attitudes towards sex have softened, but there is a tug of war between what people do in their private lives and how the government is evolving to address or strike back at that leniency. To watch China is to watch a country grapple with its public sexual maturation.

So what happens when you can't publicly talk about sex in a country with over a billion people? In a study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund and Peking University found the found the following results as reported by Big Think’s, Marina Adshade:

  • 22.4% of Chinese youth age 15 to 24 were participating in premarital sex
  • 51.2% of those sexually active youths did not use any form of birth control
  • More that 20% of the sexually active youths had experienced an unexpected pregnancy
  •  91% of those youths had opted to end that pregnancy in abortion.

These statistics are part of a realization that “abortion is big business in China. At an average cost of 600 Yuan per abortion (about $90 US) and about 13 million abortions undertaken medical clinics (with many more undertaken illegally) the procedure generates billions of Yuan in revenue every year.” China desperately needs sex education.

It seems China’s youth are desperate for sources to talk to about sex. In July, the Hotline for Teenagers’ Mental Health, a government supported project to address teenagers’ mental health problems was set up in the northeast Heilongjiang province. In the 900 calls they have received over 200 were about asking about sex. “Up to 87 percent of these questions about sex were raised by the teenagers themselves, which means they are desperate to learn about sex, and proper instructions are missing from the school and their parents,” Zhu Guanguy said, the head of the hotline and a counselor for over 20 years.

In late 2010, The National Population and Family Planning Commission of China will launch a sex education program in Beijing. Recently, in a Beijing elementary school, children age 6 to 11 are given tours of the opposite gender bathroom to begin a conversation about the differences between boys and girls.

However, there are still many cultural hurdles to overcome in this sex education campaign. Five years ago the Shanghai International Peace Maternal and Child Health Hospital, was set up to provide free sex advice and condoms to people aged 15-24.This past December it closed as it did not attract enough patrons due to the embarrassment caused by talking to a stranger about the topic of sex. In anti-defiance stance, the Chinese government shut down 60,000 porn sites in 2010, based on over 170,000 tip-offs, mostly about the online or cell phone-based spreading of porn. The government rewarded "534 people for tip-offs and distrubuted $81,964 as gifts to them. The porn sites were shut down, as it is believed they can lead to political definace, and even hacking activities. Also last year, Ma Yaohai, a professor of computer science at Nanjing University of Technology was convicted of "group licentiousness" for participating in group sex parties. Mr. Ma was arrested and charged with 21 other people, the first time that anyone has been charged under a 1997 law. He  was the only defendant to plead innocent, and also the only defendant to receive a prison sentence, while the other defendants received probation.

Learning Station:

To view a great slide show of some China's sex artifacts from the last 3,000 years:

To learn more about sex education in China:

To learn more about the sex clinic closure:

To learn more about the sex hotline:

To learn more about the porn crack down:

To learn more about the Chinese professor jailed for orgy:

Photo is of "Erotic China" by David Furman from the Mindy Solomon Gallery. The film clip is taken from Red Light Revolution by Australian director Sam Voutas. To read a Q&A with the Director: