A progressive new textbook aimed at educating children about sex has stirred up controversy in China.
The textbook is presently being taught in a number of Chinese elementary schools and has been the subject of multiple chat conversations for its frank depiction of sex and homosexuality — taboo topics in China.
Those who favorably view the textbook praise it for educating children on how to recognize sexual abuse situations.
However, the educational book’s positive portrayal of same-sex relationships, as well as gay rights, has surprised many Chinese.
Critics of the textbook say elementary school children are too young to fully understand the concepts, or to properly handle the graphic illustrations of genitalia and sexual intercourse.
A Weibo user, a mother from Hangzhou, expressed shock at the book’s contents when she found her child reading the textbook.
“Do you learn this in second grade now? Has this book really been put together properly? I can’t even read the last bit. Is this a fake book from the school?” she stated in the Weibo post, that has since been deleted.
The mother said the school ought to have informed parents that the textbooks would be introduced to classrooms.
“We only found out about this book when our child was reading ‘Daddy’s penis is inserted into Mummy’s vagina’,” she said.
“If you were a parent and heard this without any warning, wouldn’t you be shocked?”
Other online commenters agreed the subject should be handled with more delicacy.
“I feel that it will only prompt children to explore what they don’t understand at a young age, like pornographic websites,” said SouthXiaoMing.
“You can teach children how to protect themselves, but you shouldn’t use nudity and graphic images to stimulate their curiosity, especially when they are still undergoing puberty.”
But progressive observers say the book should be welcomed for skirting traditional and conservative explanations of sex and gender.
The state-owned Global Times supported the distribution of the textbook in an op-ed which saw it criticize opponents for sensationalizing and overreacting to its contents.
“A book that was meant to let young children learn more about gender and sex, and protect themselves from sex predators has been distorted and turned into pornographic depictions by the media and corporate Weibo accounts,” reads the op-ed.
“The syllabus is incredibly progressive, and is better than similar texts from other developed countries.”
Weibo user 369RibsLaLaLaAhChai added: “I saw that line which said that ‘gay people and heterosexual people have the same rights; don’t discriminate’ and I nearly cried.”
Beijing Normal University authored the textbook and pointed out in a statement that the book is the result of nine years of testing in elementary school environments.
The textbook has been introduced to 18 elementary schools in Beijing.
“The book was rigorously designed, tested, and revised. In China, sex has been a taboo issue; parents still do not want to discuss these things with their children, while children are increasingly exposed to inaccurate sexual portrayals in the media; we hope children can form their own values based on accurate, scientific information,” the University stated.
A 2016 survey found that 44 percent of Chinese university students hadn’t been taught the basics of sex in school.
Chinese millennials are more open about talking about civil rights and sex than older generations.
Last year, a gay couple filed suit against the civil affairs bureau for being denied the right to marry in the Asian country.