Double Standard Against Girls Uncovered in Chinese Sex-Ed Textbook: Public Outrage Ensues

When it comes to sex education, ways of thinking about sex, and sexual stigmas, the double standard on women and girls is alive and well – and another example just unveiled itself in China.

A Chinese high school teacher recently discovered that a sex education textbook used in her school contained demeaning and highly offensive wording against girls. If you thought that this textbook was decades old (which still does not excuse the insulting language), you thought wrong. The High School Sex Education book, from the 21st Century Publishing Group, is just that – from the 21st century.

The textbook, first published in 2004, states belittling sentences such as: “[Premarital sex has a] tremendous negative psychological and physical impact on girls.”

“Girls do not increase the love they receive from boys by sacrificing their bodies, but rather are seen as ‘degraded’ by their ‘conquerors’,” reads another.

“As a result, sexual relations can cause women to lose love,” the book adds.

Though certainly not the first to happen upon the book’s awful contents, teacher Zhong Guanquan from Shenzhen, is the one who publicly called out the archaically chauvinistic book.

Like many who wish to rave or rant about something, Ms. Zhong took to the Internet, this time to express her utter outrage.  

After publishing the book’s passages on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, the comments came flooding in.

Apparently, calling girls who have premarital sex “cheap” does not go over well (and thankfully so).

The public reaction was overwhelmingly angry, accusing the publishing company of double standards and singling out girls.

One female blogger, responding to this bias against girls, wrote: “It takes two hands to clap.”

“This makes me sick. As a man I can’t stand this,” another netizen said. “Since you want women not to have premarital sex, then please tell all boys to do the same.”

In an effort to defend themselves from this public backlash and outcry, the 21st Century Publishing Group spoke to Chinese state-run news agency the Global Times. The wording is not disrespectful nor shaming, the group claimed, adding that words like “degraded” were printed with quotation marks.

In addition to people’s reactions of straight-out contempt, some Weibo users opted for sarcastic remarks – but just as biting and full of rage.

A solution to the problem would be to “lock your women up, then they wouldn’t be called cheap,” one person wrote.

“[The publishing house] should name itself the 18th Century Publishing Group,” said another.

Ms. Zhong spoke to media outlet the Sixth Tone, telling them that she was “so angry” when she read the textbook.

“The concepts are backward and all the negative comments are directed toward girls,” she said.

Two thousand copies of the book have been issued to high school seniors in Jiangxi since 2004, Global Times reported.

Jiangxi Higher Education Press, the co-publisher of the textbook, said they stopped distribution of the book in 2006, and the province’s Education Department told the Sixth Tone that the textbooks would be revised.

Yes, it is horrific and revolting that a textbook – which is only a little more than a decade old is so full of bigotry and sexism. Yes, it is a disgrace that it has gotten into the hands of two thousand students.

But if there is any silver-lining to this, it is that when one teacher saw that this is unacceptable, she did something about it. She took a stand. And the public followed. They did not simply let her post go unnoticed and disappear into the abyss of the Internet – and this, though small, is still a step toward change.