Digital literacy: the Internet has broken the barriers to young Chinese women's sexual education
China is a complicate social-structure country with a huge gap between the rich and the poor. We have super large developed cities similar to Toyko and Newyork, also we have poor rural with annual income per capita less than USD500. Some girls have access to a high quality of education, some girls have to work and get married to have children after graduation of high school. But still, you can find the levels of youth sex education both these two groups receive are surprisingly the same: poor all the same, "near zero".
I grew up in a big city in the northern China, intellectuals and senior technical personnel’s family. More than a decade ago when I was a teenager, I never had one lesson of sex education in school. When it came to talk about human reproductive organs Biology lesson, the teacher usually said ‘now we will do self-study on this topic’. Topics of sex would never be talked about in girls’ daily social circle, whether among students or family. With moral and chastity education prevailed, parents would always think that the only way to be a good girl, to focus on study and to have good score in school, a girl should be with no sexual development. My mother once talked with me one day when I was still a second year student in university, with a tough tune and strangely looking, saying ‘I guess you already are not a virgin.’ This is the only one conversation about sex between my mother and me.
After more than one decade, China’s economic have been developed by leaps and bounds; social environment is becoming much opener. But it is a pity that sex education for youth among schools and families still remains at the same level of decades ago. Last year we held several sex-education lectures in universities, and after one lecture, a girl student consulted us in private that she recently had lost her virginity to her boy friend without condom, because her boyfriend told her she wouldn’t get pregnant when it was her first sex, and she ridiculously bought it. It was in 2013, in the third biggest cities in China, in a pedagogical academy; these students were supposed to be teachers after graduation. So it is understandable that even for the teachers who are most responsible for health education, they perhaps know less about sex than children, not to mention effective sex education in campus.
Thanks to Internet. Since 1998 internet has been in public use, in China, Internet has covered every villages and towns. Generation after generation of Chinese young women's early sex education is basically self-taught via the Internet.
Through the Internet to engage in effective sex education, hardware is not the key. No laptop, a desktop can do. No broadband, dial-up Internet access can do. No own computers, Internet cafes can do. The backward of the hardware could not lower the youth’s enthusiasm in exploring the new world.
The key is how to identify useful information. If internet is an ocean of information, then before the youth jumping in and flopping in it, we always need to hand them swim rings. Such as:
By building up an online community, dominated by young women and also with barriers for entry, we can form a sense of security for youth to take about sex out loud. The United States has its youth sex education website named sex.ect dominated by teenagers. Unfortunately, there is none in China. But we do have "Lucifer club ", it is a huge TANBI literary kingdom, established and maintained by young girls, with up to millions of people visiting every year. There are strict admittance threshold, to obtain the membership you need to answer a series of questions related to TANBI. In this closed and active online community, young girls have do a lot of translation, rewriting and original "love story" between men, by the name of slashers, they create a public and safe place to discuss about sex.
By the mainstream social Medias like Weibo, to make information filtering and self correction happened. In China, most girls would not discuss about sex with the people around. But online, with the aid of social media like weibo, not only we can discuss about sex, but also it will take only one second to recommend to your friends anything you are interested in. More importantly, social media has never been a one-way interaction. Through the comments of the online friends, it is easy to understand whether your recommendation is true and accurate. Personal knowledge and the ability to identify information will be gradually established.
By the means of oral histories and case stories, idea of equality and diversity will be delivered. Parents and teachers give girls a lot of requirements and rules, but the Internet. What Internet gives you are only stories, showing you what others’ lives are like. So you can truly see how many kinds of possibilities of sex there are, how many possibilities of real relationship there are, and so you know that the world is diverse, and you know that everyone is different, and ‘differently born’ is OK and also interesting. You ‘absorb’ and ‘digest’, not ‘fed’, so this is the first step of equality consciousness awakening.
With the aid of a subtle influence from community rules, we can make right consciousness deeply rooted in the hearts of people. Consciousness of human right is never delivered by mouth. When most people are used in distributing articles in the community, with the permission from the author, you know what copyright is. When someone online gossip about the others and get criticized, you know what privacy is. When opinion leaders united and posted to support jailed sex workers, you know what "SEX WORK IS WORK" is. When during the debate about the hymen you finally stop being an onlooker and bravely pop up your voice, you know what "sex is a kind of human right" is. On the Internet there will be no authorities, no one gives classes to speak about human rights. But the internet spirit of pursuit of freedom, respect and share, has rooted human right consciousness into every girls’ hearts.
As an ordinary young woman in China, as a practitioners and promoter in teenage sex and gender education, I am very delighted that Internet successfully breaks the barriers to young Chinese women's sexual education.
I personally benefit from it, millions of Chinese young people benefit from it.