Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Global Edition

Martha Kempner

A sex ed textbook (with pictures!) raised some eyebrows in China, many Japanese couples are busy at the job (but not in the bedroom), and Swedes might one day get more than lunch on their breaks.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

This week, we take a look at what’s happening around the world.

Chinese Sex Ed Textbook Goes Viral

Excerpts from a Chinese sex education textbook were posted on the microblogging site Weibo and went viral after a mother from Hangzhou in southern China complained that it was too explicit. Though her child’s school decided to restrict access after the complaint, many who saw the book on the internet supported its candid discussion of sex.

The book is aimed at those ages 6 to 13 and uses cartoon drawings and text to discuss many aspects of sexuality. It is published by Beijing Normal University and said to be the product of almost ten years of development and testing. The book is not new (it’s already being used in some Beijing schools), but it still made waves on the internet due to its nonjudgmental information about homosexuality and illustrations depicting male and female genitals, menstruation, and penile-vaginal penetration. The mother who initiated the complaint said she was “too shy” to look at the pictures.

While some internet users agreed with her and called the book “cartoon porn,” many defended it, saying that sex education was sorely needed in China. A Beijing elementary school teacher said she was initially surprised that the book included support for same-sex relationships (the book says that homosexuality is not a choice and that it is not immoral), but that she thought the book was important: “I think the textbooks play a positive role in guiding children towards having a healthy attitude to sex.”

The book’s publishers also released a statement saying: “The textbooks are rigorously designed, tested, revised and checked. We have consulted with parents, students and teachers throughout the process. The need for sex education as well as child sexual development is hugely neglected (in China), as there is a lack of sex education in both family and school.” Most Chinese schools teach only basic anatomy; there’s no national standard for sexuality education.

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Not a Whole Lot of Sex for Japan’s Married Couples

A survey by the Japanese Family Planning Association found that 47 percent of married couples had not had sex in a month and did not expect to have it in the near future. When asked why, 35 percent of men said work left them too tired and 22 percent of women said they found sex “troublesome.”

This study of married couples ages 16 to 49 comes on the heels of a study last year that found 42 percent of single men and 44 percent of single women ages 18 to 34 in the country had never had sex (part of the reason for that is that many of them weren’t in relationships—not that you have to be in one to have sex).

But experts suggest it’s not that Japanese people are just uninterested in sex. Instead, they believe that the pressure to work long hours leave younger people with little time for a social life and no energy for a sex life. And there might be something to this: Almost a quarter of Japanese workers report working 50 hours or more a week, compared to only 11 percent of U.S. laborers.

Whatever the reason, these near-sexless marriages worry Japanese population experts. Japan’s fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman. And if married people aren’t having sex, that means an aging population and likely a shrinking one: At current rates, by 2060, the population of the country could drop from 128 million to less than 90 million.

Government-Sponsored Sex Breaks in Sweden?

While work may be getting in the way of sex in Japan, a lawmaker in Sweden would like to make sure the same isn’t true in his home country. A local council member in a northern Swedish town suggested that Swedes should be allowed a one-hour paid break from work to go home and have sex with their partners (no word on whether this is in addition to lunch, and how often it would be allowed). He emphasized that sex had health and wellness benefits for both single people and those in relationships.

Swedes already have a pretty good work-life balance. On average, they work fewer hours per year than people in most countries—1,612 hours compared to 1,674 hours in the United Kingdom and 1,790 hours in the United States; only the French work less at 1,482. They also get 480 hours of paid parental leave, which can be shared between the parents. And during the workday they take a few leisurely fika breaks for coffee and fellowship.

It’s unclear whether the idea of sex breaks is going to take off, but it does show that at least one Swedish lawmaker is committed to improving quality of life. Though life in Sweden isn’t all that bad already; in August, National Geographic named Sweden the tenth-happiest country in the world.

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