Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chinese Sexuality / American Sexuality

Hi, it's me, long time no blog (that's something of a joke since we might have gotten the phrase "long time no see" from the Chinese since they have one that directly translates to that). But I'm not going to worry about the gaps between blogs anymore. I'm just going to do my best to post whenever I can. I hope everyone will understand that I'm really busy with classes and trying to explore China as fully as I can. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance like this again. But, from September 28th to October 4th I was on vacation for the National Day Holiday (pretty much the whole country is on vacation from October 1st to October 7th). I went to Xi'an and Beijing and I was so busy that I had no time for blogging. And in Xi'an I didn't even have Internet! And when I got back to Nanjing I literally did nothing for 3 days because I was so exhausted. Hopefully I'll be able to talk about the stuff I saw later.

Right now, I would like to discuss sex in China. Sex isn't really something most people are comfortable talking about. But I have just become insanely curious since talking with my Chinese friend. She's 6 years older than me and extremely intelligent but she is very naïve when it comes to sex and sexual relations.

I became aware of this fact when we were on our vacation in Xi'an. We were visiting the Big Goose Pagoda and when we were wandering through the Buddhist temple's gardens we came upon an unusual sight: chickens mating.

Me and my American counterparts immediately said something along the lines of "chicken sex..." and starting laughing nervously. Our Chinese friend was confused and said something like "What?! They're fighting!" We calmly explained that they were definitely mating. She was still very confused. She wondered why they would behave the way they were behaving. We said that it was the way chickens make chicks. If they don't do that the eggs aren't fertilized and that's what we eat. If the male doesn't "mount" the female the eggs are just the chicken's "period." She said "Oh... I thought if you just put the egg in heat (incubate it) it would make a chick... hm." So this event sparked my curiosity.

Later, I learned from the same girl that in China, boys do not think about sex. They think about finding a girl to marry. They want to court her and they will think about which fluffy stuffed animal might be the cutest to her. They do not think about ways to get into her pants. They will also pay for everything and are even expected to have a car and a house ready for both of them to live in before they can get married. And a girl is considered "damaged goods" or a "dirty tramp" if she has sex out of wedlock. Which seems very old-fashioned to a modern American girl like me. So, it seems that Chinese teenagers don't think about sex very often or at all. The plot thickens.

So, then I learned that in middle schools - and even in high schools - Chinese girls are expected to have boyish haircuts and where baggy clothes: anything to downplay their burgeoning womanhood. The schools have a policy against something that translates to "early dating" and they do everything to prevent relations between boys and girls. Also, the term "early dating" invokes feelings of deep shame in Chinese people. So much so that they are trying to downplay the harsh term by creating another one that means the same thing. My Chinese friend told me that if a girl received a love note from a boy she would immediately turn it in to her teacher to prove that she did not try to start an "early dating" relationship. And that her teacher told them that there was no point starting a relationship at their age because it would lead to nothing. They would just end up going through relationships like they "go through DVDs in a DVD player." And the students listened to the teacher.

I just find this to be a striking contrast to American students. If any authority figure (teachers, parents, etc.) tells them to do something the chances are high that they will rebel and do just the opposite. Apparently it is not the same for Chinese students. Perhaps it is just a result of their upbringing and Chinese cultural history. The Chinese have always been ruled by one powerful force: first Emperors and Dynasties and now the Communist Party and it's leaders. And that history of obedience has lasted for 5,000 years. However, I have also heard it said that Americans are motivated by ideas of sin and morality while the Chinese are motivated by ideas of shame and family honor. Perhaps the difference lies there.

But, the Chinese media is censored by the government and it does not portray sex or any form of sexuality while the American media is saturated with sex.

I still have no idea exactly how Chinese people learn about sex (and what exactly they learn) but it seems to me that by not talking about sex and not advertising it anywhere, the Chinese are at least being consistent. In the US, how can we expect abstinence only programs (which the Chinese seem to be applying in some way) to work when all kids see on TV and in magazines is sexual imagery?

So, while the Chinese system seems to be successful in keeping teenagers from having sex (as far as I can tell) the American system is in horrible shape. Teenage pregnancy rates are the highest they've been in a long time. Certainly the highest out of all the first world countries. I think it's a clear sign that abstinence only does not work in the United States.

When I was a kid I was given all the details I wanted. From my school and from literature my parents provided. I was never told I had to wait until I was married for sex, just that I should wait until I found someone I was in love with. And I have only had one sexual partner in my entire life and I'm engaged and ready to marry him.

Basically, my point is, education about sex does not cause kids to have sex. People need to realize that. Maybe in China they can get away with telling their children nothing because of their culture and the fact that there is no sexual material readily available. But, in the US, kids are confronted with sex all the time. They need to be prepared for it. Abstinence only does not cut it. People never think that educating kids about drugs will cause them to go out and get high. They think it will help them make smarter decisions about drugs. Why would educating them about sex be any different?

This post went in a direction I didn't expect it to go in. Oh well, I hope the whole thing is coherent and full of wisdom. I don't want to go back and read over everything I wrote.

I hope you all enjoyed my impromptu essay!


1 comment:

  1. I think your friend might be even more naive than you realize. I also live in China. I imagine it depends on where a person is from, but I find it doubtful that with the internet these days, teenage boys in China "never think about sex". Sure, some don't, but I would bet money some do.
    I would also question some of your thoughts on the prevalence of abstinence here, as I have frequently heard stories about various girls who are young, unmarried, pregnant, and have it "taken care of".
    Don't mean to come across like I'm attacking you or saying you're wrong - certainly there are a lot of naive young Chinese - but I wouldn't make the blanket statement about all of them.
    Kelly :)