When it comes to sex, Hong Kong is just a wee bit conservative: marriage is still considered a must, people frown upon high schoolers dating, and there’s yet to be wide acceptance of the LGBT community. One of the problems comes down to a lack of quality sex education. Julia Sun, director of Sticky Rice Love Hong Kong, explains why we need to talk more about sex.
Julia Sun has always been interested in sex education, but the plan for Sticky Rice Love came to fruition after she met two friends who were planning to start an online sexual health platform. The site aims to empower young people to make choices for themselves — the forum provides a safe place to ask questions and have healthy discussions about sex. The team is also collaborating with AidsConcern and the Queer Straight Alliance to develop its own sex education textbook.
1. Hong Kong’s sex education is essentially a lot of slut shaming
Some schools only teach about menstruation and how to practice safe sex, usually as an add-on special lesson. The premise is to teach young people to say no, because sex is wrong. I’m upset about the situation because even for those schools who provide sex-ed, it’s often based on fear-mongering. To women, I think the message translates to, “If you want to have sex, you’re a slut. Saying yes is wrong.” It completely fails to empower women in making an educated decision.
2. It’s about squashing problems, not promoting healthy lifestyles
The main reason is that teachers and schools initiate sex education only when they feel like there’s a problem. That too many young people are dating. That young people are getting pregnant outside of marriage. That there’s a high risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And so they introduce a program to control these problems. But sex education should not be problem-focused. Sexual desire and sexuality are natural in everyone, and the premise of sex education should be to teach students how to cope and develop a healthy lifestyle as a sexual being.
3. Real sex education is about more than safe sex
People always assume that when we say sex education, we mean a lesson on how to practice safe sex, how to put on a condom, and so on. But it’s so much more than that. What young people really need is to understand their own bodies and develop confidence. If young people do not have a positive image of their sexual self, they may be practicing safe sex, but may still be unhappy and unable to develop a healthy intimate relationship.
4. Schools stifle important conversations
Only about 50 out of 400 local schools have a teacher specifically in charge of sex education, and only one school was interested in testing out the materials we developed. There are existing good sex education resources out there, but the problem is that schools put up all these restrictions so that sex education workers cannot deliver the kind of program they envision. Sex education workers have told us that schools only want them to show abortion videos and photos.
5. We need to talk A LOT more about sex
The many problems with the city’s sex education come down to people treating sex as a taboo subject. In Hong Kong, sex is not something we discuss even with our close friends. Sex and sexuality are such a big part of our lives — people start dating in secondary school but no one discusses it. I told a friend who researches LGBT issues recently about Sticky Rice Love, and she said she noticed the Facebook page, but did not dare like the page, because she was worried what her friends will think.
And looking toward the future?
Sticky Rice Love refers to a Chinese sweet dumplings dessert, 糖不甩, and it speaks to our belief that sex should be as fun and normal as a dessert. We will focus our efforts on expanding our online forum and nurturing a non-judgmental atmosphere. Sexuality consists of a wide spectrum and multiple dimensions, so what we do is to understand, not to judge (except when there’s no consent). We’re also trying to build a strong team of volunteers!
While people are generally very supportive, we find it difficult to seek funding. People and organizations see a lot more issues more urgent than sex education. It’s harder to measure our benefits because what we do is long term.