This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Summer camps conjure thoughts of soccer games, arts and crafts, and music around a campfire. A new trend in China, however, trades these activities for something more serious: sex education.
Following the Chinese government’s decision to issue certifications to sex-ed lecturers in 2018, camps teaching the topic started to pop up across the country. Now, there are 330 licensed practitioners and this year, more parents are signing their kids up to counter the lack of holistic sex-ed in schools.
Sexologist and educator Fang Gang, for example, has camps planned for 20 provinces and districts across China this year, according to Sixth Tone.
Fang’s camp started in 2013 and was the first of its kind. His main philosophy is that sex-ed should be carried out before the final years of high school--the earlier kids learn about sex, the better. He first turned his attention to China’s bigger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai but now, six years later, he has camps and classes even in smaller areas.
Fang believes that schools should teach children about sex so they can be equipped with the knowledge to protect themselves and understand their sexuality. He also advocates for sex-ed as a means to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
“As China is still a heavily gendered society dictated by patriarchy, the effort and cultural climate for men to end domestic violence abuse is lacking,” Fang told the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute in May 2019.
Sex has always been a taboo subject in China.
In June 2019, the New York Times reported that public discussion of sex is “mostly nonexistent” in China. The report detailed that young Chinese students sometimes learn about sex solely through talking to their friends or watching pornography.
And this has proven to be dangerous.
A 2015 study by the United Nations Population Fund found that half of the Chinese teenagers who were sexually active did not use contraception the first time they had sex. Reports say that half of the 13 million abortion cases in China every year involve women under the age of 25.
China’s State Council made sexual health classes compulsory in all schools in 2011 but they’re still not the best. Most teachers focus on encouraging abstinence, as opposed to teaching the implications of sex.
This is why sex-ed camps have become popular.
A class in Qingdao earlier this month was attended by eleven children between the ages of 7 and 11 and their parents, Sixth Tone reported. Its curriculum was based on Fang’s teachings where children learned about breaking gender stereotypes, physical differences between men and women, and the use of sanitary pads, tampons, and menstrual cups.
These classes are even more necessary now since some experts say that Chinese citizens have become more sexually active in recent years. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that 71 percent of respondents to a sex survey said they have engaged in pre-marital sex. In 1989, this statistic was at 15 percent.
Li Yinhe, a sexologist and advocate for sexual freedom who conducted the survey, told CGTN in May last year that China is going through a sexual awakening. “The good thing is that the country is now promoting sex education and new textbooks on sex education are also being issued to kids,” Li told CGTN. “China really needs them.”