Facebook Twitter 新浪微博 google plus Instagram YouTube Monday 3 August 2015
English>>China Society

Children’s camp underscores benefits of sex education, but few parents keen to join

(Global Times)    21:13, August 03, 2015

Children who participated in the summer camp learn how to use a condom by putting one on a banana. Photo: Zhang Yiqian/GT

Sexologist Fang Gang gives a lesson. Photo: Zhang Yiqian/GT

"You are supposed to hold the tip here, and gently roll it down."

Cao Ling (pseudonym), 14, explained to a class of 22 children as she carefully unwrapped a condom and held it in her fingers up high to show the students. Then she grabbed a banana, placed the condom on the tip and rolled it all the way down.

There was no gasp from the students, no surprise reaction, not even from a crowd of parents sitting in the back and observing the session. The children watched intently, some even leaping off their chairs to get a better view.

The class was part of a three-day summer camp held at a kindergarten in Chongqing Municipality, which was attended by children aged 11 to 18 and their parents. The class was led by renowned Beijing Forestry University sexologist Fang Gang, who gives lectures to teachers, parents and young adults all over the country.

In China, most schools don't teach sex education, and most parents don't talk to children about sex. But gradually, some teachers and parents are starting to see the importance of sex education and are starting to act upon it.

Need for openness

The night before the class, Fang had a small discussion with the parents separately on whether he should incorporate tips on how to use condoms into his lessons.

Some parents expressed concerns whether teaching the children how to use a condom would encourage them to have sex prematurely, including a man who is the father of an 11-year-old, the youngest at the camp. But most parents quickly nodded in agreement.

"If the parents signed up for the camp, they must be open-minded to begin with," said Cao Yonghong, Cao Ling's mother and the organizer of the camp.

Cao Yonghong is a member of Zhuohong Happiness Home, a grass-roots organization made up of local parents. These parents are keen on child education and often invite experts and teachers to give lectures, including on sex education.

Cao Yonghong and her husband have been educating Cao Ling about sex since she was 4. She read her daughter a pamphlet made for children that described how babies are created as sperms and eggs meet.

She also showed her daughter how condoms work a couple of years ago, along with a relative's daughter who was going to college. Cao Yonghong has always felt it's necessary to keep children informed about these matters, because they will always have questions.

"I was freaked out at first when my mother took out the condom," said Cao Ling. "I thought she was too open. But I later came to appreciate her actions."

Cao Yonghong remembers that when she was young, her parents often told her not to have sex before marriage. They cautioned her that she would need to get an abortion if she gets pregnant and that will hurt.

"Till this day, this threat still affects my intimate relationships," she said. "There is always a part of me that is afraid of accidental pregnancy. I don't want my daughter to go through the same thing."

Cao Yonghong thinks her daughter should have a systematic education as she grows up. But not all parents could talk to their children about sex as candidly. Some signed up because they found out they couldn't solve their children's issues.

In a study conducted jointly by Beijing Normal University and the University of Nebraska in 2006, 85 percent of the 841 Chinese parents interviewed said they had never talked to their children about sex. Furthermore, only less than 2 percent of parents told their daughters how to deal with their periods.

Other studies have found that students' knowledge about sex comes first from movies, Internet and extracurricular books, while talking with parents or teachers ranks the last.

Zhang Keyu, a single parent of a 13-year-old girl, signed her daughter up for the camp because the girl is at a rebellious age and doesn't listen to her.

Starting in elementary school, her daughter began asking questions about body change and often felt ashamed because her chest wasn't as big as some of her classmates'. She also started showing disdain for some people, calling some boys who were not macho enough sissies.

"I want her to have the correct attitude," Zhang said. "I can't do that myself because she sneers at what I say. So I hope this camp can help."

Another mother, Fei Mingzhu, decided to bring her 13-year-old son to the camp because of what happened to her nephew.

Last year, her brother's 14-year-old son was caught by a teacher as he was watching porn with a few classmates in their dormitory. The teachers called their parents to the school for a meeting and the boy was punished afterwards.

In Fei's opinion, there was nothing wrong with watching porn at that age, and she told her nephew so. But the punishment he received from the teachers gave him a heavy blow, and he hasn't been quite himself since.

"I don't want my son to go through similar pains," she said.

Sharing knowledge

Over the three days, the camp covered a variety of topics, such as sexual harassment, masturbation, introduction to transgender people, puberty and dating. The students used debates, acting skits, PowerPoint presentations and games to learn.

On the first day, for example, students divided into two groups to demonstrate two scenarios of sexual harassment. The first group acted out a scene on the bus, where a man grabbed a woman's bottom and tried to deny it by saying the bus was crowded. The bus driver pulled over, and the passengers called the police to take the man away.

The second group had a more common scenario, where a male middle school teacher asked a girl to sit on his lap while he grades homework. The principal was informed of the matter and the teacher was taken into custody by the police.

The camp also helped the children to be more confident about sharing with the parents information they were hiding before. Some parents were even surprised with how much the children knew already.

During a session when Fang asked the students to anonymously write down on a piece of paper the correct ways to masturbate, one wrote, "Don't use tools unless you know how to. Generally, if you use your hands to rub gently, it will work."

Such candid description drew big laughter from other students. Then they responded and said, "Yes, that's right."

The students also showed familiarity with different sexual orientations and identities. They knew about transgender people, and supported gay marriages. One student said, "It's their freedom to do whatever they want."

Parents said they noticed immediate changes in the children after they spent time in the camp.

On the first night after the classes, Fei's son already started telling her what he was hiding before and they talked for more than two hours. He said there were a few classmates who were already dating, and a couple had even had sex.

Long way to go

Even though it seems many parents are welcoming this kind of education, they are still in the minority. At the beginning, it was difficult for Cao to even find the minimum 12 people required to organize this camp.

She circulated the introduction among her Zhuohong Happiness Home WeChat group, but nobody responded, as if nobody read the message.

"I don't understand them," she said. "Many complained in the group that they didn't know how to deal with the emerging issues among their children, such as dating, but they didn't even want to know if there was anything they could do."

Previously, Fang Gang had tried to host the summer camp in many cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, but failed to recruit enough people every time. So far, he has only successfully held camps three times in Huainan, Anhui Province, where a group of persuaded parents kept spreading the word.

On the other hand, it's also difficult to push for sex education. In several cities, some schools approved trial sex education textbooks, but almost every time, some parents would have issues.

In 2014, Wuhan, Hubei Province, approved a textbook for elementary school children, which included how to avoid sexual harassment, and how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

But parents opposed the use of the textbook. Some had a valid point to do so, too.

"Are there qualified teachers for this textbook?" one parent asked. "If teachers don't know how to teach, how can this be a good thing?"

Fang Gang himself said pushing for sex education is like "underground spy work." He has been singled out and accused of "degenerating society." Previously, after he gave sex education trainings to teachers in Shandong Province, protestors gathered in front of the local government and demanded that the teaching material be destroyed.

Fang said the most ideal situation would be to start sex education when children are in kindergarten, all the way through college. Parents also play a vital role in this, and should have the same openness to sex education as teachers.

But right now, he doesn't have much hope for introducing that kind of curriculum. He's content that he can at least influence some parents through summer camps.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

Add your comment

Related reading

We Recommend

Most Viewed


Key Words