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Chinese students' sexual evolution
(Beijing Today)
Updated: 2004-02-25 16:07

Chinese students are experiencing a revolution in their ideas and knowledge of sex, according to a large-scale survey conducted at the end of last year.

Young lovers on campus [newsphoto/file]

Though students are far more sexually aware than they were 10 years ago, few students have had formal sex educations at schools. They admitted that most of their sex knowledge came from the Internet and sleazy publications.

The survey, conducted by the Chinese Youth and Children Research Center, involved a total number of 5,000 college students across the country.

The result prompted fresh calls by experts to open sex education classes for Chinese schools and colleges, so that students are not forced to look elsewhere for sex information.

The survey also shows that students now have more access to pornographic products, such as books, magazines, VCDs and the Internet. According to the survey, more than 80 percent of participants had come across pornographic products either on TV, pornographic movies or the Internet.

Another survey done by Pan Suiming, a sociologist at Renmin University in 1997 found that 93 percent of male college students and 70 percent of female students had read or watched pornography.

On the issue of pre-marriage sex, only 2.7 percent of the students express strong opposition, saying that people should be punished by laws or regulations for having sex before marriage.  One-third of the respondents thought it was okay, while one-fifth said it could happen "as long as the couple love each other." About one-fifth said they understand it, but would not do it.

A 22-year-old student said: "The first time I made love with my girlfriend was in a hotel when we went travelling together." 

"I don't think it's that big a deal. I think making love before marriage is fine," he added, refused to reveal his name.

However, students' opinion divided on this growing sexual openness. About 8 percent of the students said they were strongly in favor of it, while 17 percent of the participants said they strongly opposed of the new sexual awakening. About 11 percent said they thought it was good thing and 13 percent were cautiously in favor, so long as people were careful. The rest couldn't make up their minds. 

Education lags behind

Another alarming facts about Chinese students sex awakening is the main source of their knowledge. About 17.9 percent of the participants said their main resources were pornography. Ohter main resourses chose by students were newspapers and magazines, movies and TV programs and books.  

According to the survey, there is little sex education in Chinese colleges. Only 6.6 percent of the participants said they had received scientific and thorough sex education at college, with 36 percent of the students said they did not receive any sex education at college.

Some 35 percent said their tutors had talked with them about love and marriage, while 13 percent said their tutors had instructed them on sex in areas related to other courses.

"Our college does not have a specific course for sex education," said Wang Ting, a female student.

"A tutor teaching an ethics course touched on the subject when we were freshmen. I think our college teachers might suppose that we had these classes when we were in high school. We do, but only about the biology, such as what happens after the sperm meets the ovum. It has nothing to do with sexual intercourse. I think it is rather ridiculous," Wang said.

The resourses obviously affected what the students actually know. When filling out a test paper on 23 basic sexual knowledge such as sexual intercourse, AIDS, rape and contraception, only 37 percent of the students got all the correct answers. The number of male students who knew the answers was about 2.5 times that of the female students.  Less than one half of the participants knew all the correct positions of male and female sexual organs. While 87 percent of the participants claimed to know about fetal growth, many gave wrong answers to the questions in the survey.

About 42 percent of the participants who said they had had sexual intercourse without using any contraception. According to another survey at Beijing University involving 2,000 students, more than half did not know that much about contraception.

"The knowledge students get from pornography, movies and literature is not the same as scientific sexual knowledge," said Hu Zhen, sexologist and educionalist and the leader of the research group that conducted the survey. "This kind of self-instruction cannot replace systematic sex education," she said.

Some universities began to try

From 2002, a dozen colleges and universities began to open sex health courses. According to survey in four Sichuan colleges in 2003, the course has had a positive effect among students.

After taking the course, more than 70 percent of the students thought the course should be taught to all college students as a compulsory course, 20 percent said it should at least be an optional course, while only 1.6 percent of the participants said there was no need for such a course.

Nearly one third of the students said they felt lucky to have the chance to take such a course; 27 percent said they felt they knew something about sex before, but not as much as they thought.

"Sex is the most complicated, mysterious and subtle problem for human beings," said Hu Zhen. "We cannot expect short-term education to have significant results immediately. But at least we can give them systematic and scientific sexual knowledge, which can help them to choose and make decisions."

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