The following article was published in Chinese by the “New Post”, one of the free-er newspapers in China.
My Chinese friends sometime ask me questions, questions that shock me. It’s not the topic that shocks me, but the fact my friends are adults, and have graduated from the top universities in China, and are asking me simple questions about sexual health. Basic questions about how the body works, about making babies, about feeding babies.
In high school most westerns get the privilege of having sexual education classes. Maybe only a few weeks of classes, maybe months or even years, but because of this, by age 15, western boys and girls know what to expect from their bodies, and know how to practice safe sex. They know how to keep themselves safe from sexually transmitted infections and how to not have a baby. Adding to this, parents usually give advice and realistic warnings. In China, things are quite different, and maybe completely opposite.
I have seen the statistics that show that the great majority of Chinese get their sexual education from the internet, and those who don’t get it from their friends, who likely learned it from the internet. On the metro I sometimes see young mean ‘learning’ from the internet, it’s not hard to see, they are the ones in the corners, with their cell phones almost stuck to their face, their eyes focusing on the screen, and making sure no one else it watching. Sure you can learn a lot from the internet, but at the same time, much of the internet is opinion, not fact. Because it’s hard to detect what is true and what is false, many people end up with the strangest ideas in their head.
Some friends told me that taking birth control pills were dangerous. They spoke to me about vague dangers and side effects, nothing specific, nothing exact, just a general paranoia. It didn’t matter to them that 98 percent of women in the west use birth sometime in their life, their fear made birth control off limits. In china, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 1.2% of women take birth control. If women are not taking birth control, there can a side effect, its called pregnancy and if the child is unwanted the only solution is abortion, which infinitely more dangerous than taking birth control. Sure condoms work well, but with a 13 million licensed abortions in China (this doesn’t count all of the unlicensed ones) per year, clearly lots of women are not using birth control and lots of men are not using condoms.
While some of these abortions are for medical reasons or child planning reasons, since almost half of the reported procedures were conducted on women below the age of 25, the majority of whom were university students, most abortions were likely do to the lack of sexual knowledge.
China has a long way to go when it comes to sexual education. Schools need to provide some curriculum, and parents need pass their wisdom down to their children. Mothers must talk to their daughters about sex, help them understand the risk and the benefits. Fathers must talk to sons, tell them the importance of condoms, and of encourage them to use them. I will be teaching my son, so that he doesn’t get a girl pregnant before they are ready, and If I have a daughter, I will do the same, and teach her how important sexual education is.