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Women who have premarital sex are 'degenerates': China textbook
New York Times - June 29, 2016
These are some of the assertions in a sex education textbook approved by a provincial education department in China that has led to an outcry on social media.
Outraged by the text, "Senior Middle School Student Scientific Sex Education", a teacher posted photos from the book on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, unleashing a firestorm of comments.
"I was so angry when I read the textbook," Zhong Guangquan, the teacher from Guangdong province in southern China whose post started the online debate, told a Chinese website, Sixth Tone. "The concepts are backward, and all the negative comments are directed toward girls."
"This makes me sick... as a man I can't stand this," said one Weibo user. "Since you want women not to have premarital sex, then please tell all boys to do the same."
The publishing house should "name itself the 18th Century Publishing Group", another online contributor said.
In addition to fears about the harm such attitudes inflict on girls, the online reaction reflected concern about the lack of sex education in China. In some Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan, sex education is compulsory.
In China, teenagers often talk about how their parents explained to them as children that they emerged from armpits, or even from garbage bins.
Anatomy is commonly taught as a substitute for sex education. In schools where there is rudimentary sex education, the message for girls is often abstinence, women's rights campaigners say.
The textbook, first issued to high school seniors in Jiangxi province in 2004, is old and seems to have had a limited circulation. Apparently embarrassed by the outcry, the publisher, 21st Century Publishing Group, told Sixth Tone the book would be revised.
In a broader sense, the antiquated attitude of the school system is not keeping up with the sexual revolution in China. A 2012 survey published by a magazine of the central government showed 70 per cent of Chinese had engaged in premarital sex, up from just 15 per cent of those surveyed in 1989.
A women's rights advocate, Xiao Meili, 27, said the textbook was not out of line with some prevalent attitudes.
"This is still a common idea among the Chinese public," she said. "Actually it is not just about China, it is the same in Western countries in ancient times. To solve sexual problems? Try abstinence."
For contemporary Chinese girls, the story line was dangerous, she said. "These words will hurt the young girls; they objectify women. They treat a woman as a thing, an asset."
Xiao, who walked 2600 kilometres from Beijing to Guangzhou in 2014 to raise awareness of sexual abuse, said her generation had received "basically zero" sex education.
Xiong Jing, 28, the editor of the website Gender Watch, said there was an upside to the debate because it showed that values were changing. "Many Chinese now won't accept these biases anymore because they receive more education and more information from the internet," she said.