Chinese Sex Ed: A Plea for Sanity

sex-ed-bookBrowsing ChinaHush today, I came across this post about Beijing’s new sex ed textbooks for students from primary school through high school called “The Steps of Growing Up”. Apparently, it’s being condemned as pornography. This article (Chinese) quotes several parents complaining about the book, two pages of which are pictured at right.

The article also contains some concerning statistics that aren’t in ChinaHush’s post. For example:

“The [Beijing Youth Sex Education International] Forum published a report that revealed many [Chinese] elementary school students don’t know how to properly protect themselves [against potential sexual abuse], and could not correctly answer which parts of the body should be private. Of the 435 fourth and fifth grade students surveyed, only 24 of them (5.39%) correctly identified all the private body parts (breasts, sex organs, buttocks). Among those surveyed, 73 (16.37%) were unable to identify any of the private areas.

The researchers believe that since 4th and 5th graders are around the age of ten and about to enter puberty but still can’t even correctly identify the private parts of their body, if they encounter sexual abuse they may not be able to correctly recognize it as abuse and protect themselves.

The survey showed ((The methodology for this is not immediately clear in the news article I’m translating, but I thought it was worth including anyway)) that if they encountered sexual abuse, 81.23% of students had a measurable ability to protect themselves; they could resist or stop the abuser and their knowledge of how to protect themselves was strong. 14.13% of students didn’t know what to do, and treated the sexual abuse as a secret, and when they met with their abuser they would obey out of fear or because they didn’t understand the danger. Additionally 3.89% of students said they felt sexual abuse was “whatever” [无所谓].

Clearly, there’s a need for better sex education. Or so you’d think. But Peking University professor Kong Qingdong doesn’t think so, and he’s on TV talking about it. ChinaHush translated part of his interview, but here’s the whole thing:

Host: So we can see from this that [some] parents have a concern about the textbooks.

Kong Qingdong: We haven’t seen the pictures or the textbooks ourselves, but I believe this father is being responsible, because when something affects their own children, people don’t just talk nonsense. In our educational circles, in the departments where we create teaching materials, there is a slowly spreading wave of foreigner-worship, thinking that whatever foreign countries do, China must also immediately do. They don’t consider [the difference between] China and foreign national situations [国情], nor do they consider whether foreign countries doing that is good or bad, whether it’s effective or not. For example, many experts say that with sex ed, the earlier the better, and that we should not conceal the truth from children, this is what our democracy must do, instill them with this knowledge early on. But they haven’t thought that now our sex ed starts way earlier than before; if everyone really understands sex well, does that reduce sex crimes? I think it doesn’t.

In ancient times, as we understand it now, they didn’t have any sex ed, and adults did not talk about sex with their kids. But this didn’t delay anything, when people grew up they learned about sex by themselves. Look, who gets married but doesn’t know how to have kids? Who gets married but doesn’t have a sex life, I’ve never heard of that happening [Guess he never read this story! -Ed.]. We don’t need education, some things you can learn on your own. For example, eating or going to the bathroom; these aren’t things that anyone taught us to do. They’re a basic life skill. And there are lots of channels of informal education […] Nowadays, we need to target all of our education, and put into practice proper sex education, I can agree with that. But sex education can’t be so avant-garde, we need to think about [what people can do] at different ages. As far as sex goes, it’s better to keep it mysterious. If we take all the mystery out of everything, life becomes boring. As I understand it, the most open sex ed in the world is in Japan, Japanese kids begin to grasp the particulars of sex at a very young age, and what’s the result?

Host: One of their “industries” is very developed.

Kong Qingdong: I’ll tell you, it’s not that their [porn] industry is very developed, the result is that 10-20% of Japanese youths are impotent, without any sexual desires, they’re not even curious about this thing [sex]. Most Japanese men, when they see a woman, they don’t have a sexual feeling, so they have to do something perverted [to get that feeling]. We often call Japan perverted, but Japan isn’t naturally perverted, everyone is the same. How could they be naturally perverted, that’s not what it is, [the problem] is that their sex ed starts too early. So when they see regular sexual activity they’re just not interested, it’s like looking at carrots or cabbage for them. So instead they have to find a handicapped old woman and have sex with her, and only then is it exciting. This disgraces the Japanese people, is it not related to Japan? So I think this father’s concerns are logical, and we don’t need to be so foreigner-worshipping.

Now, leaving aside for a moment the pile of completely unsupported assertions Kong makes here, which start out fairly illogical and end up straight-up racist, lets take a look at this ‘revolutionary’ textbook he’s suggesting is going to turn the Chinese people into a bunch of perverts.

According to this article, the text is split into three levels, one for each level of schooling (i.e., one for elementary school students, one for middle school students, and one for high school students). Here’s a breakdown of the contents by level via chapter titles quoted in the article.

Level 1 – Elementary School

  • “My Body”
  • “Where Did I Come From?” (Link goes to a photo of the pages in this chapter)
  • “Cute Boys and Girls”
  • “Can You Protect Yourself?”

Level 2 – Middle School

  • “Body Changes During Puberty”
  • “Beautiful Young Women”
  • “Strong Young Men”
  • “Learning Skills for Communicating with Dad and Mom”

Level 3 – High School

  • “Accepting Myself”
  • “Interacting With Classmates”
  • “Preventing AIDS”
  • “Being a Healthy Internet User”

Of course, those are just the chapter titles, but from the pages that have leaked online, this textbook looks about as harmless as you would expect. It’s pretty typical; there are illustrations of various body parts, short explanations of how conception works, etc. Not really anything exciting to write home about it. And from the study I translated earlier in the post, it’s clear that Chinese kids desperately need at least a little sex education to ensure that they’re capable of protecting themselves. If you ask kids about sexual abuse and any of them respond “whatever,” you know you have a serious problem.

And yet people like Kong are allowed, nay, invited on television to condemn sex education (and of course, blame foreigners, especially Japanese people, for all manner of “perversions” ((Because everyone knows that old and/or handicapped people who have sex are gross….)) ). It’s truly stupefying. And yet Kong isn’t alone; clearly there are many parents who agree with Kong, more or less.

I don’t have the energy (or, I think, the need) to point out every way in which Kong’s argument is misinformed, flawed, misleading, and racist. Twenty percent of Japanese teens are impotent? Is there even a shred of evidence that’s true? But I do want to address one point here because, in a sort of indirect way, it ties into the rumors we’ve seen flying on Weibo recently.

Increasingly, I feel that people’s behavior with regards to information can be understood at a basic level in the simplest economic terms ((Note that I am not an economist, and economists probably wouldn’t endorse this metaphor.)): supply and demand. Specifically, when there is demand for information, people will always find someone willing to supply it. In the case of the 7.23 train crash, for example, there was a huge demand for information but the government and the media initially supplied precious little. This left a sort of vacuum which was ultimately filled by rumors and hearsay; in the absence of official information many people chose to satisfy their demand with the only information that was being supplied to the public at the time: rumors.

Similarly, children are naturally curious about sex. Yes, even in Japan, I’m quite sure. And without access to any official supply of information, well, they’re going to turn to “unofficial suppliers.” As Kong points out, it is quite rare that people don’t figure out sex on their own sooner or later. The problem is that if you leave children to work it out for themselves, aside from the basic safety and health issues that raises, you can’t be sure what information they’re using and whether or not the perception of sex they ultimately form is healthy.

Note that when I say “healthy” I don’t necessarily mean heterosexual, monogamous, or kink-free. As far as I’m concerned, as long as everyone involved is an informed, consenting adult, there is no such thing as “perverted” (as opposed to regular) sex.

Now, in the absence of sex ed, most children will probably do fine. You have only to look at China today to see that. Sure, they may have had some embarrassing moments of ignorance along the way, but they may make it to the “finish line” with no damage done, as people have indeed done for thousands of years before the advent of laminated pamphlets and the banana-condom demonstration.

So why bother with sex ed at all? Becuase it allows a society some degree of control over where and how children get their information about sex, and whether or not that information is accurate. Left to their own devices, many teens turn to pornography to learn about sex. There’s nothing wrong with pornography as a concept when it’s being viewed by properly-informed adults, but I think most people would agree that plenty of porn provides a rather unrealistic depiction of sex, and that watching porn is not a good way for children to learn about sex.

Similarly, not being open about sex and safety can have devastating consequences in some cases, even if the majority of children can “learn on their own” and emerge unscathed. As evidenced in the study cited above, if children aren’t properly taught about sex, they may not be able to recognize forms of sexual abuse. In fact, in the absence of other, accurate information about sex, they may learn from their own experience that “abuse is normal,” which prevents them from getting the help they need and may lead to even graver problems down the line.

“Learning from experience” is great. But no one wants to learn about STDs from experience. No one wants to learn about the efficacy of condoms in preventing unplanned pregnancy from experience. And certainly, no one wants to learn about how not to prevent sexual abuse from experience.

So please, let’s all calm down a bit. Give kids the information they need to be safe. And while we’re making changes, let’s also try not to let crazy people like Kong Qingdong spout a bunch of racist nonsense on the TV, K?

0 thoughts on “Chinese Sex Ed: A Plea for Sanity”

  1. “Your suggestion that this is some kind of setup is pure speculation.”
    —huh? Since when did Custer implicate a “setup”? You are once again employing the CCP apologist stand-by of arguing against something that wasn’t said.

    “They were talking about Japanese porn.”
    —hey, weren’t you trying to argue not too long ago that Kong wasn’t singling out Japan? I think you’re starting to contradict yourself. Never a good sign.

    “Why did Kong need to comment on porn from other countries?”
    —if he was singling out Japan, then no, he doesn’t need to mention any other countries. So you need to decide here: do you accept that he was singling out Japan, or don’t you? Sophie’s Choice for the logically-challenged like you, I know.

    “Please don’t make me tell you again that the Japanese study is the reason why Kong brought up Japan.”
    —seriously, were you born stupid? The Japanese study might explain WHY he singled out Japan. But the fact is he DID single out Japan. Time to accept it.

    “Again, there is no reason for him to mention other countries.”
    —…since Kong was singling out Japan. So why were you trying to argue earlier that he wasn’t singling out Japan? It is a losing proposition.

    “raising concern about early sex education based on a “flawed” theory doesn’t make him a racist.”
    —but making unfounded generalizations about an entire race brings him much closer to the prize.

    “you were expecting people to believe that Kong is more stupid than a retard.”
    —actually, based on the strength of his “argument” against sex education, I wouldn’t entirely discard that possibility.

    “You can’t draw conclusions based on speculation.”
    —you might want to share that insight with Kong…cuz it sounds like he needs it.

    “First of all, your example is hypothetical.”
    —well, at least you’re doing some reading, since Custer already stipulated that “(this is just a hypothetical, I have no idea if that’s true or not)”. Well done.

    “And ex education has direct impact on someone’s sex life when he/she grow up”
    —huh? Sex education may have a direct impact on someone’s understanding of anatomy and the physical maturation process, for example. Impact on their sex life is rather speculative on your part. Got any proof? Or are you just like Kong? Besides, saying that sex ed impacts someone’s sex life as an adult is no better than the idiots who suggest that learning about homosexuality will induce children to engage in homosexual behaviour when they grow up.

    “All the Japanese porn I’ve encountered are not censored in anyway.”
    —good for you. But that proves nothing. You really are lacking in any meaningful understanding of the concept of proof.

    “There is child, rape and incest in American and Russian porn, but not to the extent of the Japanese, not even close.”
    —jeez louise you sure are an expert on that sort of thing. I thought you morally objected to that sort of thing as a parent. Well, I guess you have to consume a bit of it to know exactly what it is you are objecting to. You sure are taking one for the team. Well done!


  2. And of course, through all of the usual CCP apologist obfuscation and changing of subjects, one almost loses sight of the fact that Kong has offered absolutely no legitimate basis for objecting to sex education in Chinese schools. Almost.


  3. He was disagreeing with the host, for God’s sake! And judging by the video, obviously he didn’t expect the host’s interruption. Your suggestion that this is some kind of setup is pure speculation. That makes me think you drew your conclusion based on speculation and presumption.

    He was disagreeing with her conclusion about Japanese porn, but in doing so he confirmed her (implied) premise that Japanese people are perverted. I never said it was a setup, what I’m saying is was that the host’s interruption is irrelevant.

    This question is absurd. They were talking about Japanese porn. Why did Kong need to comment on porn from other countries? Is there any reason why he has to mention other porn here? Hello???

    Please don’t make me tell you again that the Japanese study is the reason why Kong brought up Japan.

    Right, but since there is no connection between the study and porn OR sex ed, what does the study have to do with anything? I’m sure the study IS the reason he brought it up, but since the study is not a legitimate reason to discuss Japanese porn or sex ed since it shows no connection whatsoever to either of those things, we can only assume that there’s a prejudice in Kong’s mind that helped him make a connection that isn’t there in the evidence, just as you are.

    Did he mention only one country?

    This is question is so absurd that it’s mind-numbing. The Japanese study is the basis of his argument. Why would he mention other countries? Again, there is no reason for him to mention other countries.

    The Japanese study was about the issue of herbivores, not pornography, or sex ed. Since they were talking about the effect sex ed has on Japan, the study seems entirely irrelevant, but if he was going to draw a connection between Japanese sex ed and Japanese porn, mentioning other countries is the logical thing to do, since those countries have the same sorts of porn as Japan, ignoring them comes off as racist. Now, if the study had said something about Japanese porn or sex ed, then it might sense for him to discuss Japan alone. But it didn’t. And instead of being honest, Kong implies there is a connection, and uses that to connect progressive sex ed with disabled-fetishism and incest, which he implies are unique to the “perverted” Japanese.

    You can attack his theory all you want, I don’t care. But raising concern about early sex education based on a “flawed” theory doesn’t make him a racist. We should make this very clear.

    No, it doesn’t make him a racist by default. However, the way he raised those concerns were indeed racist.

    Did he make judgements about the people of that country?

    No. This is where you try to take his words of context. The host brought up Japanese porn, so it’s obvious that Kong was referring to the consumers of Japanese porn. That’s only logical way to explain it. Because the idea that ALL Japanese men have to have sex with old handicapped woman to get excited is so stupid that even a retard wouldn’t make such statement. And this is exactly what makes your racist claim unconvincing, because you were expecting people to believe that Kong is more stupid than a retard. Even some of your allies on this blog were not convinced! That shows how shoddy your argument is.

    To begin with, I see very little evidence in this interview to indicate that Kong isn’t very, very stupid. Second of all, saying that “all Japanese porn consumers” have sex with old handicapped women is still racist. If I said “All Chinese fat people are idiots,” wouldn’t you consider that a racist statement?

    First of all, your example is hypothetical. And second, there is absolutely no direct relation whatsoever between 改革开放 and someone being a 小气鬼.

    Yeah, kind of like there’s no direct relation whatsoever between herbivorism and pornography or sex ed!

    On the other hand, Kong’s example is REAL. And ex education has direct impact on someone’s sex life when he/she grow up, which at least makes Kong’s theory plausible.

    So it’s ridiculous to compare the two.

    And massive economic and social reforms don’t have a direct impact on the way people view money and each other when they grow up? What’s your point? Saying that this doesn’t count because it’s hypothetical is just a dodge. If they’re really different, than point out a difference. If they’re not, then who cares whether it’s hypothetical or not, it’s clearly the same thing happening.

    All the Japanese porn I’ve encountered are not censored in anyway.

    Uh, ok….I can’t really start linking you to porn sites or anything, but you must be searching in some fairly specific places.

    Japanese porn has a reputation of being perverted. It’s an open secret and well-known fact. Even the Japanese guy I linked thinks so. There is child, rape and incest in American and Russian porn, but not to the extent of the Japanese, not even close. Read the Onion link I posted. Are they being racist by mocking Japanese porn? The answer is no. Why? Because it’s a well-know fact.

    Ah, so because Japanese porn has a reputation for being perverted, it’s OK to generalize about Japanese people. I see!

    I wonder, how do you know there is so much more child, rape, or incest content in Japanese porn? Do you have personal experience? Are there any actual studies on this, or are you just basing this on Japan’s “reputation”?

    As for the Onion article, why is that not racist? Because it’s a fucking Onion article. It’s a humor magazine. The article is funny precisely because it plays on the very stereotypes you’re talking about here and because nothing in the Onion is meant to be taken seriously. Moreover, I don’t see anything in that article that’s commenting on Japanese people as a whole, or even just men or porn consumers. It’s just making fun of the porn industry.


  4. To Custer,
    I wouldn’t categorically say that an Onion article can’t be racist simply because it’s in the Onion, it’s meant to be funny, and it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. However, the article in question is not racist for the reasons you listed in the second half of your last paragraph.


  5. I’m sure the study IS the reason he brought it up, but since the study is not a legitimate reason to discuss Japanese porn or sex ed since it shows no connection whatsoever to either of those things,

    Because the host brought it up? Are you slow or something?

    For the Nth time, making a “flawed” argument does not make him a racist.

    we can only assume that there’s a prejudice in Kong’s mind that helped him make a connection that isn’t there in the evidence,

    Oh, you ASSUMED there’s a prejudice in Kong’s mind.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case.


  6. “making a “flawed” argument does not make him a racist.”
    —jeez you’re slow. And can’t read. And have no capacity for logic. Typical traits of a CCP apologist. And considering that these have already been pointed out to you repeatedly, you’re also a rather slow learner. His argument is flawed – that’s beyond debate. He is not racist because of his flawed argument; he is being accused of racism because he’s taking a study of some Japanese people, and making generalizations to all Japanese people. Seriously, it’s not complicated…yet still clearly enough to elude someone like you.

    And how about Kong taking some responsibility for what he says. To say that Kong is blameless because the host brought it up is lame. Sure, the host brought it up. But Kong ran with it. Time to man up and bear some accountability.

    Of course we’re ASSUMING Kong has prejudice. He may be stupid, but he’s not stupid enough to say “I’m prejudiced against Japanese people” on an interview. The assumption of his prejudice is based on the content of that very interview. It is entirely possible that he may not be prejudiced, and may have simply sounded like a bumbling idiot on that one particular interview. But in that one interview, he says some things and makes some unsubstantiated generalizations that at the very least border on being racist. Just a bad day for him? Perhaps. Maybe he hadn’t been shagged for a while and had some pent up frustration or something.


  7. BTW, you should have rested your “case” a long time ago, since you never had one. But like any good CCP apologist, you guys don’t know when to say when, and would rather go down in flames than to concede a point and move on. It is a pervasive character flaw I’ve noticed among you folks.


  8. >Kong is a crazy old dinosaur trying to fortify his arguments with “Them vs Us” bullshit instead of actual evidence, it’s not even the first time
    >Write essays debating the nature of his ramblings

    o u guis

    Everyone here is probably smarter than him.

    Here’s what’s gonna happen: China will open up sexually like any developing nation, the process should be embraced instead of feared. Restricting porn simply means guys spend more time trying to get their hands on some. I don’t know a single Chinese guy that can candidly admit they never tried to torrent some jAV or something. In fact, judging by the drawings on the textbook I’d wager the artist has read his share of hentai comics.


  9. One Question: Where are the parents? All this talk of what the government should do, and how this is “society” taking sex ed into their own hands is really untrue. If the government is taking it, it out of the parents’ hands. You might possibly make the case that in America it’s in the peoples’ hands because they choose their government reps, but that’s obviously not the case in China. The most responsible sex ed is taught by parents. That doesn’t mean parents always take up the responsibility, but it’s their child and they have that responsibility by default.


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