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Sex education winter workshop asks sensitive questions
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-02-03 11:40
A winter sex education workshop for primary school pupils and their parents opened in Chaoyang district of Beijing on Thursday.

When the teacher wrote the question "Where did I come from?" on the blackboard, the children had lots of answers.

"My mom found me on a hillside!"

"I was taken out of my mama's tummy!"

Only thirty-nine youngsters attended the workshop accompanied by one or both of their parents.

Sex education has traditionally been a topic that Chinese educators and parents are uncomfortable with. Sex education is not compulsory in schools and many colleges do their best to ignore it.

However, as the economy develops and the country opens up, some young people are becoming impatient with their elders' conservatism.

Earlier this month, Wang Ji, a 20-something journalism major at Guizhou University of Nationalities in southwest China's Guizhou Province, signed a deal with a publisher to bring out a book on sex. Writing in a lively manner unlike dry school text books, WangJi deals with a whole range of "taboos" like internet sex partners, one night stands, venereal disease and romance between students and teachers.

Like many of her peers, Wang was fed up with sex educators' inability to speak plainly in their text books or in the classroom. Parents also feel awkward and inhibited with the subject.

The Beijing workshop named Cherish your Life-Adolescence Education for Parents and Children aims to improve communication between generations. Teachers discuss relationships between boys and girls, what physical touches people respond to with pleasure and what may make them feel uncomfortable, how to protect yourself from sexual aggression and how to approach the topic of sex education in the home.

"Which parts are the private parts of a man's and woman's bodies?" asked teacher Lu Weihong.

"The waist!"




"The parts covered by clothes!"

The answers come bubbling out but when Lu asks for a volunteer to come forward and point out the private parts of a swimsuit-cladman and woman on a cartoon picture, most children fall silent. Only a few boys bravely go to the front of the room, scribble quickly on the pictures and hurry back to their seats.

"What is sex? Sex is simply boys and girls," explains grade five Xiaotong innocently.

"I am so afraid of facing this kind of question," said a mother of a grade four student who did not want to give her name.

She said she had never spoken about sex to her child and had no idea how to answer her child's questions. "Your dad sowed a seed in mom's tummy and when you had grown bigger you were taken out of my tummy," she said when her child asked.

A mother surnamed Yang said she thought it necessary to teach children about sex but found it hard to communicate with her child because traditional Chinese education blocked communication between parents and children on "sensitive topics".

"Many children are sexually premature now. They are quite curious about sex and the parents' hesitant answers stimulate their curiosity. Remaining ignorant can be harmful to children's psychological and physical health," said Zhong Botian, secretary general of the Beijing's Institute for Sexual Health Education (ISHE).

A survey by the institute earlier this month reported that Chinese senior high school students had a relaxed attitude toward sex.

More than half of the students did not oppose one-night stands, with 10 percent in favor and more than 40 percent saying they "understand, but would not do" it, the survey showed.

"The openness to sex is due to more access to sex education at school and on the internet," said Zhong Botian, secretary general of the ISHE.

According to Zhang Meimei, director of the college sex education research center of Capital Normal University in Beijing, "There is a lot of controversy about whether children need to know about sex at such an early age".

Zhang's suggestion of making sex education part of the primary school curriculum is rejected by most schools.

Zhang said the sex education workshop aims to provide basic sex knowledge and also talks about the emotional side of sex. "The kids should know that they are the creatures of love," Zhang said.

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