The birds and bees and how Chinese society views same-sex relationships may be getting a reinvention in China. Predictably, parents and Internet commenters are up in arms about a radical (by Chinese standards) series of sex education books entitled Cherish Life.
The books are meant for primary school students between grades 1-5 and show and describe sex in a candid, frank manner that is a departure from China’s traditionally staid sex education system. The Cherish Life series of books are being piloted at 10 primary schools in the Beijing area so far, according to a Peng Pai news outlet bulletin.
The report also names the publisher of these controversial books as a research group at Beijing Normal University. It appears the chief editor of the Cherish Life series, Dr. Liu Wenli is a ranking member in the field of children’s sex-ed and a graduate of a university in the United States, where attitudes towards sex education are often less formal than in China.
"Don't let adults touch your private parts."
The textbooks were originally published in 2010, and it is not clear why it has taken so long for the content of these books to go viral. An older post on Zhihu (China’s answer to Quora) that has earned renewed interest shows teachers have even received training on how to adapt these volumes in the classroom from the Beijing Normal University team who masterminded the books.
The researchers at Beijing Normal University defended the Cherish Life series in an article published on their official WeChat account, detailing how their primary goal is to educate “…accurately…” on sexual education in an effort to reduce sexual harassment, among other things.
“They [students] should know that these reproductive organs are important, and why they should be protected,” read the official post.
Commenters are divided on the content of the books, with many remarking that the truthful and frank manner of the Cherish Life series are a beneficial fresh breath of air to sex-ed curriculums, while others deride the books as being too pornographic and leading to premature feelings of libido.
Also notable in the Cherish Life series is a panel that depicts two young students asking their teacher about a same-sex couple. The teacher tells them that such relationships are a ”…completely normal phenomenon…”and that “We cannot discriminate against them.”
Whether or not this series is a harbinger of changing thoughts and feelings in mainstream Chinese society has yet to be seen. Regardless, the Cherish Life series has already made an impression on the pupils who use the books.
As the aforementioned Zhihu post reports, some students don’t dare to touch the books. Others open them and immediately shut their eyes. Others wedge a finger in their ears when the teacher starts talking about the books. Other students trade books in the series back and forth in the same manner youths in other counties pass magazines of a more carnal and tawdry nature to each other.
[Images via The Paper, Sixth Tone]