China introduces progressive sex ed curriculum, includes pro LGBTQ+ comments and gender equality.
Shock and praise for groundbreaking sex-ed textbook in China
A big step forward for a country long criticized for depriving children of necessary sex education, or graphic bordering on pornographic?
The series, called Cherish Life, is published by Beijing Normal University and intended for classroom instruction for children aged from six to 12, with more sophisticated versions introducing sexual orientation to older pupils.
Despite being in some schools for almost a decade, the books attracted controversy this week after a parent posted pictures from them on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.
The user, who said she was from Hangzhou in China’s southern Zhejiang province, said even she was too shy to read the content and criticized it for being too graphic and said her child’s school had restricted access to the books since she complained to them.
“Hong, you’ve grown to become so beautiful. Uncle has bought you a singlet. Do you want to take off your t-shirt so I can help you put on your new singlet?” The girl responds, “Thanks Uncle. I can put on my own clothes and don’t need your help. Dad is in the kitchen making lunch and I need to go help him.” In the picture below, an aunt tells her nephew, “Jun, you’ve grown so tall now. Take down your pants so Auntie can see if your penis has also grown longer.” The boy responds, “No, I’m going home now,” and decides he will tell his parents when he sees them.
What’s the problem?
The textbooks cover a variety of sex and relationship issues, including reproduction, sexual abuse, gender issues, homosexuality and safer sex.
It goes further, however; to teach the children that some people are in same-sex relationships. It reads: “Love is a beautiful thing.”
“A minority of people experience attraction to members of the same sex,” reads one section.
A page of the textbook that deals with same-sex relationships and sexual fantasies.
LGBT people in China still face a great deal of stigma, and progress toward legalizing same-sex marriage has not been forthcoming.
But the textbook does not only define sexual orientations as gay or straight, it points out that people are bisexual too.
“Did you guys hear about the celebrity that came out as bisexual?” one girl says in the book.
They also feature cartoon illustrations of male and female genitalia, penis-in-vagina penetration and menstruation.
While all of this may seem very normal to some readers, it’s a big step forward for China, which has long been criticized for lagging behind when it comes to sex education.
China Sex Education Illustrated?
Click on pictures to enlarge.
Backlash and support
After photos of the textbooks went viral on Weibo this month, some people commented to say the content was inappropriate for young children, comparing it to “cartoon porn” and warning that kids may attempt to copy what they saw in the images.
The pictures include the captions “Daddy and mommy love each other”, “Daddy’s penis enters mommy’s vagina”, “Daddy’s sperm enters mommy’s uterus”, and so on.
Others, including the publisher, stepped in to defend the books.
“The textbooks are rigorously designed, tested, revised and checked. We have consulted with parents, students and teachers throughout the process,” Beijing Normal University said in a statement.
“The need for sex education as well as child sexual development is hugely neglected (in China), as there is a lack of sex education in both family and school.”
Li Yinhe, one of China’s best known sociologists and sex educators, said the books were “perfectly appropriate.”
She pointed to government guidelines calling for greater sex education, but said more needs to be done.
61% Support Plan to Relax Visas for Foreign Ladies to Solve China’s Sex Imbalance
The combination of China’s one-child policy and conservative social customs has resulted in a gender imbalance so great that for tens of millions of men, finding a marriage partner is soon to become next to impossible.
With the stakes so high, China’s experts and public are suggesting that a great way to fix this problem is to simply balance the shortfall by importing women from overseas.
A recent poll published by The Beijing News found that 61 percent of respondents favor policies that encourage overseas women to come to China as a way to address the “bachelor crisis,” as it is called in the Chinese media. Conducted by The Beijing News and a Tsinghua University think thank, the poll surveyed 1,017 people, half of whom are university educated.
The poll comes on the heels of reports last month in which experts called for immigration reforms to help facilitate cross-national marriages.