Last week, a survey was released detailing the sex lives of 54,580 students from 1,764 universities across China — with some interesting results.
The China Family Planning Association, the China Youth Network, and the Public Health Research Center of Tsinghua University gathered responses from last November to this February.
The survey doesn’t account for gender identity, noting only that two-thirds of those surveyed were females and one-third male. Over 15% of students identified as LGBTQ+, while 6% were unsure of their sexual orientation.
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Two-thirds of those surveyed are single. For potential partners, students viewed personality as a more important feature than superficial ones. Only one-third said that they’ve ever been in love. The average age for first love was around 16.
Female respondents were less satisfied in their relationships. More males felt that they had experienced pain associated with love, but they were also more willing to fall in love according to the survey.
In China, pornography is illegal, but netizens are constantly finding workarounds — from a porn app disguised as a fruit vendor to Ao3 fan-fiction to secret rural porn enclaves. It’s therefore no surprise that 65% of those surveyed say they actively search for porn online.
In general, sex remains a taboo topic in many areas of the country, with sex education often seen as being insufficient by more forward-thinking commentators. The survey bore this line of thinking out: around 80% of students have never asked their parents questions about sex, only 52% have received sex education in school, and two-thirds feel dissatisfied with what they have learned.
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The survey also included a quiz on sexual health, with students scoring a less-than-stellar average of four out of nine in this regard. It’s clear that sex education in China needs to improve, and some are taking matters into their own hands — last year, Chinese high school students even designed an interactive sex education game as a step forward.
A majority of the respondents are okay with premarital sex, but significantly lower numbers support casual hookups. Another revealing stat: more than half of the females surveyed have never masturbated before.
31% of students have had penetrative sex according to the survey, while over 60% have engaged in “intimate behaviors” such as hugging and kissing. However, both figures steadily increase as the respondents’ ages rise.
The survey suggests that the average age that students first had sex was around 18 or 19. By graduation, 53% have had penetrative sex and 13% have had anal sex. Females reported an average of two sexual partners, while males reported closer to four by this age. Almost 17% haven’t had sex in over a year.
Just over half reported that they use contraceptives every time they have sex. For those who never use it, around a quarter said they don’t feel it’s necessary. 16% of females said their partners decided whether to use contraception or not.
5% reported unwanted pregnancy, with 13% saying they’d experienced this after their first time having sex. Over one-third of students didn’t tell anyone about their unwanted pregnancy, and 94% chose abortion.
The survey also looked at issues around sexual assault and harassment. Professors across China were among some of the more prominent figures hit with reports of sexual harassment amid China’s #MeToo movement and around 2% of females and males in the survey reported that they had been raped, with almost 15% of females having been groped. A majority of students didn’t tell anyone about experiencing sexual assault. When they did, they were much more likely to seek help from friends than file an official report.
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The survey results have generated a number of discussions on Chinese social media. Whether they’ll lead to actual policy change remains to be seen.
Cover photo by Alan Lin on Unsplash
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