Sex Education Lecturers Share Their Experiences

December 10, 2018
Editor: Liu Yanmei

In June of this year, more than 70 people in China received the sex education lecturer certificate issued by authorities. Tao Jianli from Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, was one of them.

Recently, a news story made Tao realize that what she taught was necessary. A father in Hangzhou found an opened box of condoms in the dormitory of his high school senior son and felt as if he'd "suffered a heavy blow."

In Tao's view, this case revealed problems related to family sex education.

Tao's colleague, Li Shuangshuang, a lecturer who also comes from Hangzhou, has encountered many situations in which her class cannot even continue.

Sex education lecturers are classified as primary, intermediate and senior. 35-year-old Li's original job was as a nurse at Zhejiang Youth Hospital. There are only 13 people who have obtained the first batch of senior lecturer certificates. Li is one of them.

Li, who was brought up by her grandmother, used to believe that girls would get pregnant by touching boys before she went to a medical university. 

"I was born in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. Although it is not a closed and backward city, no one ever tells you the basic knowledge of sex, neither parents nor teachers. Even in my middle school, the physiological health lessons were self-taught," said Li.

Li is often exposed to AIDS patients. When chatting with those young girls, she often found that they are ignorant of sex.

Seven years ago, her daughter was born. At four or five years old, her daughter began to ask questions like the difference between father and mother or her origin.

"I wanted to find a way to teach my daughter, as well as kids like her, about sex," Li explained. This is also Li's original intention in becoming a sex education lecturer.

Since last year, Li's sex education class has been taught more than 30 times free of charge. Her main feeling is that it is very difficult to teach students about sex because they have to secure the blessings of parents and schools first.

"I really want to tell my thoughts directly to these children, but I don't have a chance because it's hard to recruit students," Li said.

Li keenly remembered how two of her classes were interrupted.

At one instance, Li was asked by a friend to give a lecture to her daughter's class in the first grade.

Li aimed to teach children about their bodies in the class. "These children were still at the point of knowing nothing about sex, so I wanted to tell them scientific names of the organs first."

However, during the communication with the school teachers about the content, they  thought it was too straightforward and inappropriate for students at such an age. Li tried to explain, but in vain.

"I didn't want to compromise either, because I thought it's a principle. If you can't even say the right name, it means that sexual shame hasn't been removed, and the lesson is pointless," Li said.

The class was not conducted in the end.

Another time, Li was invited to a middle school to teach junior high school students about puberty, which involves menstruation and wet dreams.

"This is very common physiological knowledge for junior high school students," Li thought.

However, contrary to Li's expectations, one parent demanded that boys and girls should attend classes separately. 

"I didn't agree on separating the class because only if they learn together will the opposite sex better understand each other," Li said.

But the parents still insisted on separating the class, so Li's plan failed again.

Li told another story about her participation in an adolescent education winter camp during the last winter vacation.

In her class, a boy said: "It turns out that women's mood changes over certain days. No wonder my mother is in a bad mood every month. It turns out that she is not deliberately mad at me, I can't blame her."

The boy's mother was present and was moved to tears.

That is what Li called gender understanding. 

"In fact, sex education is best done through school, but as long as there is a single parent objecting, it cannot go on," Li said.

Compared to Li, Zhao Hongmei, who also obtained a senior lecturer qualification certificate for sex education, was luckier. From April to July this year, she passed a three-month sex education class for a group of children in grades three through six through a nonprofit organization in a migrant children's primary school in Beijing.

"At the end of the course, I thought all my students were desensitized," Zhao said.

At the beginning, when they talked about the names of organs, including changes in the physical condition of boys and girls during the physical period, there would be laughter in the classroom, and children would be embarrassed. "Later on, they could talk about this naturally."

Last month, Zhao moved from Beijing to work in Haining, Zhejiang Province.

"In fact, sex education begins the sooner, the better. When a child is young, there is no shame about sex. If you tell him or her the correct ideas, he or she will naturally accept it," said Li.

Tao just received her intermediate sex education lecturer certificate and she has organized several sex education classes for children in the community in which she works.

In Li's class, the most common problem raised by parents was that their child was too young to understand what she was teaching. 

But what Li learned is that the fifth-grade children are already watching pornography.

Moreover, in the adolescent sex education summer camp, Zhao found that the parents were stunned to find out how much their children knew about sex already.

"It is very easy for the younger generation to get such information. If you don't tell them, they would search for it themselves. Instead of allowing it happens that way, why not take the initiative to give them the correct knowledge in the first place?" Zhao said.

The philosophy of Li and Zhao is to give children relevant knowledge.

This is also advocated by Fang Gang, the initiator of the "Sex Education Lecturer" training and the director of the Institute of Sex and Gender at Beijing Forestry University.

Although many parents would come to consult with them privately, it is still difficult to popularize sex education classes.

Zhao was rejected by many education and training institutions, even when she was selling her courses for free.

"I plan to focus on online training in the future," Zhao said.

Li's cooperation with local schools in Hangzhou also failed. In contrast, Tao has had more success. Her community is very supportive of her work and offers her a lecture venue. At the same time, by relying on the community, she can more easily recruit students.

But, in their view, this is still far from enough.

(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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