Teenagers turn to hotline to solve sex-related puzzles

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Although Zhu Guangyu has been a psychological counselor for more than 20 years, he is still shocked at so many tender voices asking questions about sex.

Zhu is in charge of the Hotline for Teenagers' Mental Health in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, a government support project to address teenagers' mental health problems, both for the under-aged and for their parents.

The hotline, starting in July, has received 900 phone calls over the past four months, and to Zhu's surprise, over 200 are related to sex.

A 12-year-old boy was addicted to porn websites; a 17-year-old boy couldn't help falling into extreme sexual fantasies; an 18-year-old girl doubted about her potential ability to become pregnant due to her having two previous abortions, according to the telephone records.

"Up to 87.4 percent of these questions about sex were raised by the teenagers themselves, which means they are desperate to learn about sex, and proper instructions are missing from the school and their parents," Zhu said.

Although China has set up courses in the elementary and high schools in big cities since the beginning of this century or even earlier, the education the students received is far from satisfactory.

"Some schools consider knowledge about sex as being unhelpful for the students to pass their college entrance exams, and some teachers are too shy to discuss sexual matters during class," Zhu said.

In Harbin, provincial capital of Heilongjiang, it is hard to find any curriculums that include sex education, and the section about sex in course books are often purposely skipped.

"Our teacher just left those 'sensitive' pages, asking us to read them ourselves after class," a high school student in Harbin said over the phone.

Not only school teachers, but Chinese parents also find it hard to talk about sex in front of their children.

Li Dejun, a father of a 17-year-old girl, is reluctant to provide education about sex to his daughter.

"I can't see why talking about it is helping her," said Li, whose words represent the thought of most parents in traditionally-preserved China.

However, with the rapid development of China's reform and opening pace, Chinese society now has become much more tolerant about sex issues. Premarital sex and induced abortions have gradually been accepted, and words like "one night stand" are no longer taboo.

According to a survey carried out in May by the National Working Committee on Children and Women under State Council, 60 percent of teenagers have an open attitude about premarital sex and 22.4 percent already have had sexual relations. Among those who have had premarital sex, more than half did not use birth control methods, risking the contracting of diseases, pregnancies and abortions.

"The disturbing survey results have challenged our education towards sex, which was why we thought it necessary for teenagers to have a hotline to turn to," Zhu said.

Chen Li, an official with the Chinese Association of Higher Medical Education, said a telephone conversation offered privacy to the under-aged, and also made it possible for teenagers and their parents in rural areas to have access to psychological experts.

"Boys and girls are more willing to talk over the phone," Chen said.

Zhu is confident that the sex puzzle might one day be solved, hoping that the hotline might make up, in a small way, for missing education about sex.

"I hope more juveniles can walk out of their 'sex puzzles' and live a better life, loving others and loving themselves," he said. Enditem


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