Education on sex and reproduction in China remains a taboo subject in schools. So netizens were rightfully amused by a July television news clip about pregnancy which Chinese outlet Ningde News entitled, “Couple who believes sperm will fly around; too stupid or too innocent?” (The clip is viewable here, with the relevant part beginning around the 2:30 mark.)
During a hospital health campaign to provide fertility checkups for hundreds of couples in Shanghai, one couple receiving such a checkup finally realized why they had trouble conceiving a child. Evidently, they believed that the wife could get pregnant simply if they lay in the same bed. According to the examining gynecologist, the woman was still a virgin, and the couple had never had sex before. They believed that the sperm would simply “fly around” at night.
Obviously, over one billion Chinese people have discovered the secret to pregnancy; and yet this story has brought renewed attention to sex education (or the lack thereof) in China. As one writer put it: “Before marriage, a person goes to elementary school, then middle school, then college; the person gets a job, gets a marriage license, and the mandatory pre-marriage physical exam; through so many steps, you’d think they would learn some basic physiology. But this couple was honestly clueless, which should really shock people. Shocked at the failure in every level, which compels us to reflect on exactly at which stage we should accept responsibility to provide such basic reproductive information…. Schools don’t want to discuss it, parents are uncomfortable, the Family Planning department won’t bother to do it, and the workplace and marriage office do not have any duty to explain.”
One commentator doubted the authenticity of the story, saying it sounded more like something from China’s Cultural Revolution: “In the 21st century, there is sexual advertising everywhere, and even Chinese kids in elementary school and middles school sleep together and even get abortions. How many people will believe this sort of fabricated story about ‘letting the sperm fly’ [a pun on the popular Chinese film entitled 'Let the Bullets Fly']?”
In the absence of sex education, Ningde News explained that many youth learn about it through pornographic films and books. Quite obviously, these do not provide an accurate or realistic guide to sex. At the same time, the lack of education coupled with the human impulse to engage in sexual activity has meant that more Chinese women have had to get multiple abortions in their lifetime, although the article did not provide specific figures.
While the clip is amusing, it also stands out as a rare and extreme example of the consequences of poor sex education. Hopefully the discussion surrounding this story draws attention to the dangers of omitting sexual education in schools. At the very least, some sites like Sina and Netease have taken the story as a great opportunity to segue into their own sex-ed tutorials. Sina’s article claims that “children conceived during female orgasm are smarter.” Netease offers the “best sex positions for getting pregnant” and a helpfully detailed table discussing the different types of female orgasms. While neither tutorial really covers reproductive health in a medical sense, providing netizens with this information is better than waiting around and “letting the sperm fly.”