Home Institution

Barnard College

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities


This research explored China’s sex education and the values it imparts to China’s young women. Findings indicate that although young women wish to learn about safe sex and sexuality from both schools and parents, communication is restricted by both parties embarrassment, lack of preparation, and fear that open dialogue on such topics will promote sexual activity.

The study found that while sex education classes were informative on physiological topics, in participants' perceptions, they lacked information on safe sex (i.e. use of contraceptives) by sticking to the abstinence narrative, and assuming—or pretending—that China’s young people are not engaging in sex. Although many educators and parents think that they are protecting their children by withholding information about sex and sexuality, past research indicates that more and more Chinese adolescents are becoming sexually active at a younger age; therefore, as a result, sex education—both in schools and in homes—have not kept up with China’s increasingly sexually open youth.

In addition, the values being shared with young people are also outdated. Youth are told sex is an ethical matter, a shameful act, and a measure of their ability to control themselves; however, the reported rapid changes in values and behavior in relation to sex call for safe sex education programs and their associated sexual and reproductive health services. The schools and families ought to develop future programs and services that are more suited to China’s increasingly sexualized society.


Asian Studies | Education | Gender and Sexuality | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Health Communication | Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling | Mental and Social Health | Women's Health


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