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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Premarital intercourse rising, sex education, regulation questioned

(Xinhua)

16:57, April 11, 2012

SHANGHAI, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Recent research has revealed that the number of people having premarital sex in China has increased significantly in the past two decades, triggering a new round of debate on the country's marriage regulation and sex education.

Survey results published last week by Insight China, a publication affiliated with Qiushi, or "Seeking Truth," the flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China, showed that 71.4 percent of respondents had had sex before marriage, an increase of 30 percent compared with 1994.

Targeting participants from 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions across the country, the survey was conducted by Insight China in cooperation with Tsinghua University's Media Survey Lab.

Following the unveiling of the magazine's research, the results of a similar survey by Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like micro-blogging service, were also startling. Reinforcing changing Chinese approaches to sex, 86.5 percent of its respondents claimed to have tasted premarital intercourse.

A total of 19,578 netizens, 79.4 percent of whom identified themselves as male, filled in the Sina Weibo questionnaire.

In comparison to the new results, the ratio of people admitting to premarital sex two decades ago was low. When Li Yinhe, China's first female sexologist, researched the matter in 1988, only 15 percent of Chinese respondents replied they had had sex before they got married. However, the rate surpassed 40 percent when the poll was repeated in 1994.

Zhen Hongli, doctor of psychology at Peking University, said the present legal marriageable age in China (20 for females, 22 for males) seemed to be inadequate considering people's natural desire.

Huang Xihua, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), suggested at this year's NPC legislative session that the marriageable age should be lowered to 18.

All of this is consistent with Chinese society becoming more open. A sign of the times came when Tu Shiyou, a woman with a master's degree from Wuhan University started a website to propagate her belief in conserving virginity before marriage, and was labelled a freak by many.

And an increasing number of young people in China are displaying open-minded sexual attitudes.

More than 10 budget chain hotels have emerged around the college park of Shanghai Songjiang New Town. A senior student from one college told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity that many couples in his school check into these hotels for weekends.

Some girls consider tasting the "forbidden fruit" a way of following fashion. This was many people's interpretation of Feng Yangyan's behavior. Born in the 1990s, Feng posted a video of her first sexual experience online, a move seen as grandstanding by most netizens.

Sex education has become an issue of rising importance for China's authorities.

Although sex used to be taboo in traditional Chinese society, new sex education textbooks were introduced for pupils in Shanghai and Beijing last October after numerous debates on early-age sex education.

Sexual education should be encouraged for younger children in China since they otherwise often can't develop knowledge about sex through the conventional learning channels of families or schools, said Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist with Central China Normal University.

This is even more important given the increasing rate of premarital sex, Peng added.

The phenomenon of inadequate formal sexual education was highlighted by another result from Insight China's research -- 24.5 percent of respondents said they obtain sexual knowledge from the Internet, including pornography, which is strictly forbidden and suppressed by public security departments and the government.

Li Hui, a teacher with a Shanghai-based high school said almost every male college student knows how to download pornographic videos online.

It's helpful for them to get some sexual knowledge to some extent, but ever-stricter cyber supervision has made downloading such videos difficult, Li said.

Many netizens have commented that young people do not have enough access to sex education, and that this could help account for the large number of people having premarital intercourse.

Yu Dongyan, a medical worker at the "Accidental Pregnancy Hotline for Teenagers" with the 411 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Shanghai said March and April are peak periods for abortions. Many young girls pay the price for their lack of sexual knowledge, Yu said, during months which contain two popular romantic festivals -- Valentine's Day and White Day.

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