Sociocultural Prohibitions against Sexual Activity among Teenagers in a Chinese City

Vanessa Fong, Harvard University

This paper examines several case studies that exemplify how sociocultural prohibitions were effective in preventing sexual activity among teenagers in a Chinese city, even in the absence of sex education in schools and homes. Romantic relationships between teenagers were prohibited at Chinese high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools. Even the student romances that did develop usually did not lead to sex. Most teenagers had little unsupervised time or space in which to be sexually active. Parents carefully guarded their children's chastity because those known to have had premarital sex were seen as less desirable on the marriage market than those presumed to be virgins. This was especially true for women, but also true for men. For all these reasons, teen pregnancies were rare in China, even though China's fertility limitation policies, family planning education, and distribution of contraceptives focused almost entirely on married adults.

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Presented in Session 123: Gender, Sexuality, and Health