Three-city survey sheds light on youngsters' sexuality

Yang Meiping
Youngsters in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have been found to become sexually mature at a younger age, with a more open and positive attitude toward sex, a survey suggests.
Yang Meiping

Youngsters in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have been found to become sexually mature at a younger age, with a more open and positive attitude toward sex, according to a report released at a forum on family education during puberty at Shanghai Open University.

The conclusion was made by researchers at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, based on a survey of more than 5,000 students, aged between 15 and 24, from the three cities, which was conducted from October 2017 to March 2018, as well as material obtained from three other nationwide surveys in 1989, 1999 and 2004, respectively.

The researchers found that the sexually mature age has been brought forward to 13.03 years old from 14.43 in boys, while in girls, it has been reduced to 12.21 years old from 13.38, according to Yang Xiong, director of the academy’s youth study center and leader of the survey.

They also found that in middle schools, 12.6 percent of the boys and 8.7 percent of girls confessed to having had love affairs. The numbers were 48.9 percent for males and 38.1 percent for females among high school students, while at university, they rose to 58.7 percent and 52.8 percent, respectively.

But their first sexual act happened at an older age. About 13.3 percent of the male students and 4.6 percent of females in high school, and 19.5 percent of males and 8.7 percent of females at university said they have had sex.

“The real percentage points could be higher than the numbers in the survey as the topic is too sensitive and some respondents were probably not telling us the whole truth,” said Yang.

About 58 percent of those surveyed said sex was happy and nice though 51 percent still felt shy about the topic.

But when they felt confused about sex, 47.8 percent of the youngsters said they had nowhere to go for answers. About 23.6 percent found the answers — by themselves — on the Internet. Only 10.7 percent said they got help from teachers and 10.4 percent from parents.

Only 9.8 percent of the fathers and 11 percent of mothers answered their questions well while about half of the parents chose to answer some of the questions while dodging others. One-quarter of the fathers and 19.6 percent of mothers parried all the questions. Another 9-10 percent of the parents not only refused to answer but also scolded their children for asking such questions.

“(The level of ) sex education has been increasing in China, but we still lack scientific and systematic sex education for children during the puberty period,” said Yang. “It’s an urgent task for schools, families and society, as a whole, to work together to solve the problem so as to help the young generation grow up healthily.”

Yang participated in the drafting of the amendment to the national guidance on family education in May. The new document added guidance for parents to better understand the psychological and physical knowledge about puberty so they can enlighten their children properly.

Tao Wenjie, director of the lifelong education division of the Shanghai Education Commission, revealed at the forum that the city has launched the compilation of family education guidance for different age groups.

Special Reports