A post on Weibo this week by a mother complaining about the blunt language and graphic illustrations in an elementary school textbook on sex education given to her child has sparked a debate on Chinese social media.
"Is it reasonable for a textbook to be compiled like this? I myself would blush looking at it," the mother, from Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province and identified only by her username @Xinnianggenzhuagnyingzi, wrote on the Weibo social networking platform.
Pictures alongside her post showed the textbook featured not only illustrations of the reproductive organs and of two people having sex, but also portrayed discussions about sexual harassment.
The post has now stirred up a heated discussion online, with some expressing concern that the content may have a negative psychological impact on young children, while others welcomed what they said was a long overdue infusion of sex education in the country.
"The picture showing the mating process of men and women is absolutely unacceptable!" said one user @MaoerniuFnTamintr.
Another netizen, @yuansuiyuewukehuitou, backed the school and the publishers of the textbook in a post that was liked over 850 times. "There are so many sexually ignorant people across the country. Instead of avoiding telling children about it, what we should do is to help improve their understanding about sex so that they can better protect themselves."
User @Liulangxiaowu agreed, noting that "teenagers would otherwise resort to other improper methods, including watching pornography, to get the information if we hold back appropriate sex education all the time."
The Beijing Normal University Publishing Group, which published the book, told Chinanews that the materials involved underwent strict scrutiny.
Zhang Meimei, director of the Sex Education Research Center at Capital Normal University, noted however that schools should inform parents when using such textbooks so that they can also promote understanding about the issue at home.
Sex has traditionally been a taboo subject in China, and schools and parents often find it difficult to talk to youngsters about it, so that sex education has lagged behind even though young people are increasingly having sex before marriage, and a growing number of child sex abuse cases have hit the headlines.
According to the China Social Assistance Foundation, over 500 child sex abuse cases were reported by the media in 2014.
A survey conducted in 2010 by the Population Research Institute at Peking University also found that among unmarried young people aged 15 to 24, 22.4 percent had sex and half of them did not resort to contraception at their first time. "Sex education in the country is at a standstill," Jin Wei, an executive member of the Chinese Association of STD and AIDS Prevention and Control already told Chinanews in 2011.
A textbook on sex education, the first of its kind in Shenzhen in south China's Guangzhou Province, was even pulled out after being tried out for months in 2003, after many schools rejected it.