This is my personal experience of the situation, many others have different things to say!
This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. Among the billion other things that changed for me in China is the consideration of the human body. Whether it is medical or sexual, the human body is what it is: a body. A mass of flesh with problems and natural needs.
It started two days after we landed in Xi’An. I went to the clinic to do the medical health check and I found myself among hundreds of women with me, waiting for the same doctors. And when I say with me I mean it litterally. There was absolutely no privacy, there wasn’t even a proper room where the doctor was. I took my shirt off as many times as necessary through all steps of the health check with (female) strangers around my bed waiting for their turn. And there was no time to argue about privacy or complexes.
A few months later I was confronted to doorless public (squat) toilets, to people vomiting on the streets, to my boss giving me garlic when I had diarrhea and other lovely situations. With time I started to feel less ashamed of those situations and started to understand that around me, no one was ashamed of any aspect regarding the human body. We are what we are and we all have the same issues.
It was fairly easy to talk about menstruation and birth control with women, although more than once I was given a “are you crazy” kind of look when I explained what a tampon was or when I told them the benefits of the pill.
So naturally, I wasn’t alarmed when I came across a children’s book on reproduction in one of my kindergarten classes (they were 3 years old). I couldn’t read the Chinese but it was obvious that the little book explained (and showed) where babies come from.
The first drawing showed a couple (non Chinese ) in a bed, the man on top of the woman and I thought “Gee, that’s explicit!” (even though they had the blanket covering them).
The second drawing showed the pregnant woman, with a close up on her belly that showed the fetus and how it had formed. And I thought “oh that’s fine but I wouldnt talk about spermatozoids though”
Then was the woman having the baby, the man holding her and and the baby coming out from between her legs although the genitals were covered by the medical blue blanket. And I thought “that’s a little harsh!”
And the baby grew up happily with its parents and had a woderful life. The End.
Then I thought about what I had lived so far and I thought well, why should we be ashamed? There was no hint to pleasure in sexual relations. The book conveyed the idea that a couple has a baby out of love and that’s how you do it, full stop.
And although it is changing, when speaking to other women I found out that for many of them their vision of having sex was associated to reproduction and not to pleasure. But as I said, it’s changing now, as everything is in China.
I have plenty of anecdotes like those. They have made me realize that in Western countries we tend to feel overly ashamed of natural things that in the end, are trivial. For instance, I know that many will laugh when I post this on our Facebook page, and I know that my readers from China won’t. They will probably want to change some statements but I don’t picture them giggling when seeing the title of this post. I know that it felt good to hear “here, eat some fish because it’s good for women and also you are menstruating” in front of men and children without any embarassement intended. I know that in that way, I felt freer in China than in France. Although a question remains: why aren’t the characters associated to having sex Chinese?
This is a similar book to the one I saw in kindergarten, a bit more explicit and with far less attractive drawings but still intended to children: