In recent years universities and schools across China finally started providing sex-education classes to their students, after it became clear that Chinese parents are much too squeamish to talk about pee-pees and va-jay-jays with their offspring. Now Chongqing University has gone a step further, installing free condom dispensary machines all over campus.
“Sex education became mandatory in Chinese high schools in the 1980s but has in general been a disaster,” says Richard Burger, author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China. “Most teachers, even today, teach about sexual anatomy and biology but don’t discuss contraception or sexual morality such as a woman’s right to refuse a sexual advance. Often, squeamish teachers skip the subject altogether.”
Though Burger emphasises that the outlook isn’t entirely bleak, and some cities have introduced innovative sex-ed schemes, including online classes, “these are a small minority and any improvement nationwide is going to be a long hard slog.”
Though not influenced by religion like many other Asian countries, Chinese attitudes towards sex have traditionally been quite conservative. Pan Suiming of Renmin University, quoted in the Guardian, points to China’s one-child policy as a turning point in sexual liberation.
After the Cultural Revolution, the government’s control [of people’s lives] started loosening, and at the same time the one-child policy meant people could have sex lives that weren’t for the purpose of giving birth. They could have sex for pleasure.
However, old attitudes die hard, and though over 70% of Chinese have sex before marriage, young people still rely to a great extent on the internet (read: pornography) for sex education. More than 80% of newly reported HIV carriers in Shanghai in 2011 were infected via unprotected sex; there an an estimated 740,000 people living with HIV in China.
While Chongqing University may want its students to be having safe sex, it doesn’t want them doing it too often: condoms are only available every two weeks.