How China’s Humdrum Sex Ed Can Be Fun

By Vincent Tan

China has banned “provocative eating” of bananas, ironically because they deem it “too erotic”. But in a culture that tends to largely avoid the touchy topic of sex – and sex ed – it might not be surprising.

For starters, Chinese parents rarely mention the delicate subject, with some children even growing up with the belief that they came from a rock – or worse – an armpit.

Apparently, the idea of a ‘rock’ beginning isn’t relegated to China:

Their next educator, the school, rise to the challenge of bringing them beyond anatomy and sperm-egg fertilisation, and takes the stiff approach of teaching fear of HIV, pregnancy and abortion to keep students from sex till marriage.

Most then turn online in an attempt to learn from porn, which does not prepare them for the ins and outs of protection – a rise in STDs and sky-high abortion rates have resulted.

(Even the use of birth control is fuzzy among the young – a quarter of girls under 17 who got pregnant did use some form of birth control.)

While sex ed in China may leave plenty of students at the short end of the stick, they aren’t alone when it comes to being naive about the birds and the bees.  These are actual questions from primary and secondary school students:

  • Would a plastic bag work as a condom?
  • Can you break [your] sexual organs masturbating?
  • Do you put a tampon in your butt or your regina [sic]?
  • Do you have to keep having sex to keep the baby alive?
  • When does my small penis drop off and big one grow on?
  • Is it normal for one testicle to be larger than the other three?
  • Why does a man have to have an erection in order to have sex? Couldn’t a woman just stuff it in?

Moving beyond mere one-liners, here’s some actual stories:

  • In my high school sex ed course, a classmate of mine asked how exactly the vagina fell off during menopause.
  • A kid in my 5th grade asked if we could take the woman’s egg from her period and fry it and eat it like chicken eggs… He isn’t bright.
  • My dad was explaining it to my brother and he kept going ‘WHAT?!!!! WHAT?!!!!’ and then he was like ‘DOES MOM KNOW THIS?!!!’
  • One guy in sex ed told the teacher he didn’t like using condoms because they hurt. The teacher put her hand and arm up to the elbow in a condom and said, ‘No one is that big. So how are you using them and what makes it hurt?’ The kid described how he would put on a condom, including the second and most forgotten step – tucking your balls into the condom. He thought that’s what you’re supposed to do.

As funny as such mistakes may be, imagine the potential for trouble, if they remain, erm… mistaken.

Here’s a good example, if there ever was one, where true candor can make for a win-win in sex ed:

  • During my sex ed class in grade seven, the teacher was discussing ‘pulling out’ and why it wasn’t a reliable method of contraception. I don’t remember her exact words, but she likened it to evacuating. Right when she said the word ‘evacuate’, the fire alarm went off and the entire class started screaming ‘evacuate’ and pretending to be penises escaping the building.

Singapore’s sex ed may not be terribly interesting (depending on which school you studied at), which could be the reason Singaporeans have the least sex in the region according to the Menarini sex survey.

But, next time you feel bored in a sex ed lecture, you can thank your educators that you won’t be doing what some schools in China are doing these days to remove the stigma of talking about sex: students are made to shout “SEX, sex, sexual intercourse, penis, penis, vagina” during their sex ed class.