Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Premature sex education cause for concern

Updated: 2012-12-13 08:23

By Berlin Fang (China Daily)

The other day I heard an 8-year-old boy say that he had "a small crush" on a girl in his class. I asked for the difference between a big crush and a small crush. A big crush, he said, is when you go "mmmmmoooch", demonstrating a kiss. I sighed out of relief. "A small crush," he explained, "is when you stare at somebody and think peaceful thoughts." That is just so beautifully naive.

The innocence of children is precious, necessary, yet tragically vulnerable. It takes only a photo, a joke, a dialogue, or a short video clip to destroy it.

After singing the song of experience, you no longer have the songs of innocence in your repertoire. Once sexual knowledge has been acquired, there is no turning back.

Adults in China are in a hurry to bring sex education to minors. TV reporters are on the streets asking people to talk about sex in public. In cities, special exhibits are put up for children to learn about sex.

Newspapers carry reports on how lacking our sex education is.

If a crisis is brewing, it is a manufactured one. Sex education may be necessary at some point, but what's the rush? Most people of my age grew up not receiving sex education of any kind. Our teachers and parents were never paranoid about us plunging into matrimony in ignorance and stupidity. Yet we figured it out and turned out just fine.

Avid sex-education advocates often claim that China is not up to speed with developed countries in sex education. But I think we seem to be rather advanced in this area, as some corrupt officials are found to have dozens of mistresses. No politician in the United States has been capable of such amazing feat and even one is enough to knock them off whatever pedestal they occupy.

National benchmarking about sex education is unnecessary and misleading, especially if we look only at whether, and how much, sex education is available to students. One risks taking things out of context when talking about sex education of a particular country, as other factors, such as parent choices, can be left out of the picture. In the US, children are actually well protected from sexual content in public media. Movies follow a rating system that makes it illegal to show certain types of content to minors. Child protection laws forbid inappropriate adult content on TV and on the radio. 

Web sites for children are free from adult content, or their administrators face criminal charges. In China, a visit to a news portal is sufficient to destroy the innocence of children, as there is so much pornographic or semi-pornographic content. There are few children or family friendly sites that are free from inappropriate adult content. Movies and TV programs constantly broadcast to the general public content that make even adults blush. On social networking sites, adult content is everywhere, in text, audio or visuals. China in general seems to have become an oversexed society.

Even when sex education becomes necessary at a certain age, the curriculum should not be narrowly focused on how sex works, which is the easy part. It is an affected and disgusting exaggeration for "experts" to claim the widespread ignorance of sexual behavior. Any coming-of-age movie or book will show you that children discover such things eventually.

After all, it's not rocket science. 

Hardly anyone stands up to bring attention to the social and moral aspects of sex for younger people. Children may get educated to know how sex works, but they are not taught about the social, moral or spiritual aspects of sex. The high rate of abortions among college and even high school students these days is probably one consequence of such misguided education.

Sexologists are almost superstars in China. They use their public platforms to vehemently advocate sex education. It is as if people are losing sleep worrying that young people have a sex-education deficit compared to their peers in other countries. If young children do not know the facts of life, that's not the end of the world. They will figure it out sooner or later. What's the harm? And remember, some fake ignorance to fool others. 

Sex is a beautiful thing. It is a gift to humanity. However, premature education takes the beauty out of sex.

The author is a US-based instructional designer, literary translator and columnist writing on cross-cultural issues.

(China Daily 12/13/2012 page8)

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