From webcam sex to incest, from orgies to SM: no theme is shunned at the information camp of sexologist Fang Gang. “If there is a safe, and someone is stopped when someone is really in too much pain, there is nothing against it”, one of the children who adds: “Even though I shouldn’t have any myself”.
It is illustrative of the open atmosphere in which children discuss with Fang, but especially with each other. While the parents watch the group assignments in the event room of a hotel in Beijing from a distance, the children seem to have thrown off their hesitation.
“Sometimes they know more than you would expect,” says Li Shan, who registered her daughter for the summer camp. “But they don’t know what to do with that information, what’s correct and what’s not.”
These are words that Fang, who has been traveling around the country providing sex education to children, young adults and parents for years, can only endorse. “In China we are not always very open about this subject,” says the sexologist. “On the internet and on their mobile phones, however, children already receive a lot of information,” says Fang.
We find this a tricky subject,’ children tell correspondent Sjoerd den Daas:
42 children have moved in, from all directions. From the coastal town of Xiamen to Xi’an – in the Chinese interior – a handful of children come from Beijing. “Most of them receive very little sex education at school, sometimes even no sex education at all,” says the sexologist.
“Something has been said about it, but we never really had lessons,” 14-year-old Liu Jiayin says at the beginning. “I hope I can have fun here, but also learn something that will help me later.”
In 2011, the Chinese government made sex education compulsory, but the practice turns out to be unruly. For example, pictures of genitals were removed from a textbook after a parent in the city of Hangzhou complained that the pictures were ‘too obscene’.
A big problem, Fang says. “In recent years, more attention has been paid to issues such as assault and harassment. Without proper sex education, it remains difficult to say ‘no’ or perhaps ‘yes’ to anything.”
“No tops or skirts
There is no shortage of scandals in the People’s Republic either. Last year, a teacher at a secondary school in Sichuan province was indicted after he allegedly abused twenty pupils in a period of ten years. Earlier this summer, a former real estate baron, Wang Zhenhua, was sentenced to five years in prison after sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl. A university in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi had a dress code calling on female students to “not wear tops or skirts,” as this could encourage sexually offensive behavior.
Themes that the children also talk about a lot during this summer camp. One of them is the South Korean film ‘Hope’, based on a true story. An 8-year-old girl was raped by a drunken 57-year-old man.
Awesome, according to the children. “I think girls should definitely be careful outside in the dark,” reacts 13-year-old Zhe Xia, “and especially not just walk through deserted streets.”
Making your own choices
Victims of sexual harassment in China can hope for more justice. In May, during the annual People’s Congress, a long-awaited law was passed that criminalizes sexual harassment for the first time, although it remains unclear how the law will be enforced.
Sexologist Fang continues to insist on the importance of sex education. “It is important that children are not only told what is right or wrong,” he says. “Above all, they need to learn what independent choices they can make themselves.”