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    National Survey Lays Bare the Sex Lives of Chinese Students

    Masturbation, orgasm, contraception, and consent: Thousands of respondents from universities across the country reflect on their most intimate experiences.

    Female students are less satisfied in relationships. Men are more comfortable with live-in partners. A majority of women at Chinese universities have never masturbated, and one-third have never experienced an orgasm or don’t know what one is.

    These are some of the findings from a national survey on the sex lives of university students — including undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students — released this week. Conducted by the China Family Planning Association, Tsinghua University’s Research Center for Public Health, and China Youth Network, the survey involved 54,580 students from 1,764 universities nationwide.

    Love and Relationships

    A majority of the students in the survey identified as heterosexual, while 4.5% and 9% said they were gay and bisexual, respectively. More than 6% said they were unsure of their sexual orientation.

    More female students said they were unsatisfied in their relationships compared with their male counterparts. However, the report suggested that male students were more likely to suffer emotionally after breakups.

    Some 73% of the student respondents said they would only marry “the right one,” suggesting a reluctance to wed compared with previous generations, and shedding light on the country’s declining marriage rate.

    Sex Education

    Only half of the surveyed students said they received sex education in school, and less than 15% said they felt “very satisfied” with what they were taught.

    Inadequate sex education in Chinese schools has led to a limited understanding of reproduction and sexual health, often prompting parents to send children to special classes to learn about the birds and the bees. The report suggested students didn’t have a healthy understanding of sex-related issues, including contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and abortion: On these topics, students answered just four out of the nine questions correctly, on average.

    “Sexality education in China is unsatisfactory,” Guo Yueping, a researcher from China Youth Network who specializes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, told Sixth Tone. “We need to pay more attention to sex education and broaden the learning channels through online mediums, as well as social media.”

    More than half of the respondents also said they had searched for pornography online, despite such content being illegal in China.

    Sexual Experience

    The survey reveals that attitudes toward sex are gendered: 83.8% of male students said they would “have sex in a hotel room or live with their partner,” compared with 60.9% of women. In addition, only 55% of female students said they were willing to have sex before marriage, while 75% of men were okay with it.

    Over 31% of university students said they experienced penetrative sex, with their first such experience occurring at age 18 or 19. On average, female students said they had had 2.3 sexual partners, while men reported 3.7.

    Among those who had had sex in the past year, less than 20% said they were sexually active every week.

    Over 56% of female students said they had never masturbated, compared with 13% of men. More than 30% of women said they had never experienced an orgasm, or didn’t know what one was.

    A majority of women opposed one-night stands and casual hookups.

    According to the survey, 3.6% of respondents said they had had sex with a teacher.


    More than half of the surveyed students said they used contraception during sex every time, while 3% never used protection.

    Nearly one-quarter of respondents did not believe contraception was necessary, and 16% of female respondents said their partner typically decided whether they used contraception.

    According to the survey, 5% of university students had experienced unintended pregnancy — a decline from the 11% reported in the last survey, published in 2016. Of these people, 94% sought an abortion, 17% more than once.

    A majority of those who sought abortions opted for surgical procedures, while less than 20% went with medical abortions.


    The survey also highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment at Chinese universities. Nearly 15% of women said their private parts had been touched without consent, while 2% said they had been raped.

    Nearly 4% of female students said their teachers had harassed or assaulted them, the survey revealed.

    More than half of the sexual violence survivors said they were reluctant to seek help or report the incident. Over 80% said they would tell or seek help from their classmates, friends, or partners, while fewer than 4% said they would report the case to police.

    “We found that a lot of young people have experienced sexual harassment and assault at different levels,” Cao Wenzhen, a research assistant at Tsinghua University’s Research Center for Public Health, told Sixth Tone. “However, many of them never told anyone (about their experience) or sought help from professional institutions. We need to provide more services for young people in terms of sexual and reproductive health, including consultantations, legal help, medical services, and online support groups.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Icons: Iconscout Icon/People Visual)

    (Header image: People Visual)