Where is Sex in Hong Kong?
Let’s Have “The Talk”
Social Change in Asia
Introduction and Purpose:
The purpose of this research project is to investigate various sex education
systems, both formal and informal, in Hong Kong. I plan to analyze the extent,
availability, and success of sex education programs that are and have been offered to
college students in Hong Kong. I will ask:
-Where do Hong Kong students learn about sex?
-Where would Hong Kong students prefer to learn about sex?
-Are these sex education sources valid and reliable?
-Are these sources getting across to the public?
-What is the extent of Honk Kong students‟ knowledge of sex?
-How open is this current college generation to the encouragement of sex
-What are active organizations doing to promote sex education?
Sexuality possesses biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual, and cultural
components, and it can affect or be affected by any of these factors. Sex permeates both
personal and societal levels. It is something that most people experience and something
that affects everyone. Sex can be something extremely emotional and passionate or it can
be a cause of overpopulation, STDs, and teenage pregnancies. Sexuality of citizens can
dictate the size of a nation and the frequency of certain diseases. Civil societies demand
both moral and intellectual dedication of citizens to organize and educate themselves
independent of the ruling government. The personal and national implications of
sexuality should be enough to motivate civil society‟s interest in sex education of the
nation‟s citizens. As Hong Kong is a traditionally conservative nation on the topic of
sex, I plan to understand the progress, goals, and processes in place by non-governmental
organizations to further the growth of sex education.
Review of Literature:
Daria and Campbell stress the importance of sex education in their 2004 article.
Their argument for these educational programs in school is such that these programs will
offer students accurate information about sex in a non-threatening environment that will
allow them to decide their own values on sexuality. They also state that adolescents will
be able to practice declining sexual advances if they are not ready for sexual intercourse.
Sex education programs will also relay proper information about STDs and AIDS and
how to prevent contraction of these diseases. And, finally, Daria and Campbell believe
that these programs will support young people in becoming wise, sexually healthy adults.
According to the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, women have
wanted fewer and fewer children over the past years, and births per woman have dropped
from 2.4 in 1982 to 2.1 in 1987 to 1.6 in 2002. In 1987, 11% of women with children
under the age of 4 had unwanted births, while in 1997, 27% of women with children
under the age of 4 had unwanted births (FPAHK 2002). The demand for contraception is
rising and in turn increasing the need for proper sex education. One would assume that a
lower number of birth rates would mean that citizens are more informed about effective
contraception, however lower birth rates may be a product of the increasing frequency of
abortions in Hong Kong.
Although attitudes towards sex education has become more positive from 1987 to
1997 (FPAHK 1997), sex education activities and serious discussion are still hard find in
Hong Kong (International Encyclopedia of Sexuality), and there is a great need to
strengthen sex education programs in all aspects of Hong Kong society (Ng et al. 1993).
Sexual knowledge of the youth in Hong Kong is limited, and the incidences of unsafe sex
have increased (Ip et al. 2001). In a research experiment conducted by Ip et al., 92.7% of
surveyed students reported having had no formal education on sexual health at all. These
students proved to have overall low knowledge regarding sexual activity, birth control,
sexually transmitted disease, and the probability of pregnancy which could result in
unsafe sex practices. According to a youth sexuality survey distributed by the Hong
Kong Family Planning Association, Honk Kong youth engage increasingly in sexual
activity but sex knowledge has decreased (South China Morning Post 2002).
Many existing sex education sources have turned to media to relate their messages
of safe sex and contraception to the public. The HKSEA has contributed to many Q & A
sex columns in newspapers and websites and produced TV series on sex education.
Point of View:
Having grown up in a small village in the State of Virginia, I experienced
minimal and conservative sex education in elementary and middle school, and I was
lucky enough to attend a city High School, where there was more emphasis on sex
education. I knew sexually active girls in my middle school, and a even a girl who had a
baby during 8th grade. I won‟t forget the baby shower invitations being passed around in
Global Studies. I had never been taught what exactly sex was, and I had minimal
knowledge of a woman‟s cycle and the times at which she is most fertile. My school, my
home, and my church all pushed abstinence-only education, with out continuing on to
describe the importance of contraception and protection. They told us not to “do it,” and
they expected that that was enough to keep us chaste. The sexually active students in my
middle school and the one 12-year-old mother proved that abstinence-only education was
I agree that abstinence should be a part of sex education, as it is the only way to
ensure safety from STDs and the avoidance of pregnancy, but it is not extensive.
Abstinence cannot be the only education the youth today receives, and to believe that this
approach is complete enough is promoting sexual health awareness is naïve. I believe
that President Bush‟s 33% increase of fiscal support and advocating of the abstinence-
only sex education is a huge mistake and disservice to the American Nation (Planned
Parenthood Federation of America website). There is no evidence that abstinence only
programs that do not teach about contraception are effective (Advocated for Youth
website). All humans are sexual beings. We have sex to procreate and to continue as a
species; we have sex to express our love and devotion to another individual; we have sex
because it feels good. To expect all humans to deny themselves something so basic and
to argue that improving holistic sex education will increase promiscuity among youth
today is unreasonable. In fact, increasing the knowledge and availability of contraception
and protection could help limit the number of abortions per year One half of all
pregnancies are unplanned; one half of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion; one half
of those aborted pregnancies resulted in lack of availability of contraception to the
woman (VOX website). People will have sex, and it is the government‟s duty to provide
the people with the knowledge to make their own informed decisions regarding their own
sexual health. To reach this goal, activism must begin on a civil society level. As
organizations speak louder, the public will hear them.
Politically, I take a relatively liberal stance on the issue and support of sex
education, whereas Hong Kong culturally is far more conservative regarding the topic of
sex in general. Sex is taboo. It is not discussed in common conversation or in traditional
schools there. I must be sensitive to this when I travel to Hong Kong to conduct my
ethnographic fieldwork. My democratic view includes my approach of sexual acts as
private and personal and sexual issues as salient. Most people will have sex during their
lifetime, and they need to know how to protect themselves. In learning how to do this,
sex can remain a more private, personal act.
In contribution to my research data, I have conducted four interviews with Hong
Kong students attending college at William and Mary. I have formally interviewed all
four of them on their previous experience with, opinions, and knowledge of sex education.
I‟ve gained a general idea of the private nature of such topics in Hong Kong society.
Two of these students, Lucy Fung and Andy Lau, gave me the perspectives of private
school students‟ experience of sex education. Paul Lee described sex education in an
International school, and Steph Li gave me the perspective of a local (public) school
student. I am currently setting up a time to meet with Janice Chan, another local school
student. I have also emailed Ms. Susan Flury who has previously worked with the
Family Planning Association of Hong Kong. In addition to these interviews, I have sent
survey questions to Anita and Carol, my partners in Hong Kong, to distribute to their
When I am in Hong Kong, I will survey college students at Hong Kong
University to gain a better idea of their knowledge of and attitudes towards sexual health.
I have sent my survey questions to my Hong Kong teammates and they will distribute
them for me, so I will have data when I arrive.
I also plan to visit sites and conduct a number of interviews. Through my
research, I have found sex education sources available to Hong Kong citizens which
include: Hong Kong Sex Education Association, Family Planning Association of Hong
Kong, and Mother‟s Choice. All three of these organizations offer medical and
psychological support regarding sexuality of Hong Kong citizens. They also promote the
spread of proper knowledge of the biological and psychological issues involved in having
sex. They accept questions from the public and offer counseling. Carol has helped me
contact Dr. So, a member of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association, and she has
agreed to meet with me for an interview. I have contacted Mother‟s Choice, and Mabel,
a volunteer there is circulating my interview questions at this time to find someone for
me to interview. She and I will be in touch via email. I will use these organizations‟
literature, pamphlets, advertisements, websites, etc. as contributions to my data, and I will
visit their sites upon my arrival in Hong Kong.
Dr. Sik Ying Ko, a member of the Department of Social Work at Hong Kong
University has agreed to meet with me. She has given me her number and asked me to
call once I get to Hong Kong. I have followed up with an email requesting a specific date
and time, but I have no reply yet. I will call her this week.
Connie Choy is studying social work at HKU, and she has agreed to meet with me
for an interview. Again, she is unable to give a specific date and time, but I will have one
for our interview before I arrive in Hong Kong. Also, I will interview a man named
Jonathan. He is a friend of my teammate, Carol, and he has been awarded a medal for
volunteer work, so I will interview him about his experience with sex education and his
knowledge of volunteer organizations that focus on sexual issues.
In addition to surveying, interviewing, and literature acquisition, I plan on
visiting drug stores to observe the availability of contraception and protection (condoms,
diaphragms, birth-control pills, etc.). I will gather information about the media‟s
contribution to the sex education of college students, but I will also keep my eyes open
for various advertisements, question and answer columns, and publications of safe,
I have contacted, but have not yet heard back from, Ms. Elizabeth Yee Mei Cheng,
a Senior Counselor in the Student Development Services at Hong Kong Baptist
University. One of her research interests is sex education, so I hope to make contact with
her. I have written the AIDS Unit of the Department of Health and the Hong Kong AIDS
Foundation. I have not heard back from either organization yet. I have emailed
Professor Ng at HKU, the vice-president of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association
requesting an interview. I will send a follow up emails and phone calls to Ms. Cheng and
Dr. Ng if I do not hear back from them by Wednesday, November 25.
I have spoken with or I am in contact with each of these individuals or organizations. I
have yet to confirm dates, as many of them say they cannot schedule this far in advance.
If I have written „confirmation‟ beside the prospective interviewer, they have agreed to
meet with me. Otherwise, I have spoken with the organizations, but I am awaiting a
1/6 - Collection of distributed sex education surveys to HKU students
---- - Interview with Ms. So, HKSEA and visit to HKSEA site (confirmation, no date)
P. O. Box 50419,
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
---- - Interview with _________, Social Work, HKU (confirmation, no date)
In contact via Carol
---- - Interview with Dr. Sik Ying Ho, Department of Social Work, HKU (confirmation,
K.K. Leung Building
---- - Interview at Mother‟s Choice and site visit (questions circulating—in contact via
(852) 2868 2022
---- - Interview with teammate‟s friend, Jonathan, volunteer worker. (confirmation, no
In contact via Carol
---- - Interview at Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, FPAHK, and site visit
(phone conversation with FPA Reference Library, waiting for email response in early
8/F., Southorn Centre
130 Hennessy Road
1/13 - Visit to at least five drugstores to observe the availability of contraception and
A lack of proper sex education could lead to negative effects medically, socially,
morally, and culturally in Hong Kong (HKSEA website). Youth who gain their
information from pornography and pop-culture magazines, may be misled by what they
see and read. Youth exposed to faulty information on sexual health or no information at
all are at a higher risk of contracting an STD or becoming pregnant. In a society in which
common discussion of sex is unacceptable, these consequences are surely taboo. The
dichotomy of sex education discussion as culturally prohibited and the acceptance and
prevalence of a pornography industry and prostitution market is concerning. Hong Kong
youth are interested in sex, and they need to understand how to express themselves in a
safe way. To improve the quality of sex education in Hong Kong could benefit not only
individuals but the country itself. I have not learned of any government actions to
improve this area of education, whether through the school systems or more publicly.
The President of the HKSEA said, “We still have to advocate the government as well the
public to pay more concern to the importance of sex in life, manage it in a healthy and
open-minded way to dispel taboos and avoid labeling effects to the sexual minorities in
our society” (HKSEA, President‟s Report) This is a clear example of civil society at work.
Organizations are taking a stance to make a change in society—to improve society and
the wellbeing of the people. I will investigate further these organizations‟ roles and their
success in their missions.
Abdullah, ASM; Ming, CY; Seng, CK; Ping, CY; Fai, CK; Wing, FY; Man, HW; Kei,
HB; Mun, WY; Yee, WM. “Effects of a Brief Sexual Education Intervention of
the Knowledge and Attitudes of Chinese Public School Students.” [Peer
Reviewed Journal] Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents
& Children. Vol 5(3-4) 2003, 129-149. Haworth Press, US
Advocates for Youth. http://www.advocatesforyouth.org
Agence France Presse. 8 August 2004. “Hong Kong Has Highest Abortion Rate in
Developed World: Report.” International News
Archive for Sexology. http://www.sexology.cjb.net
Daria, Marsha Prophet and Kathryn J. Campbell. 2004. “Schools Need Sexuality
Education Programs.” Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality Vol. 7. October 10,
Family Planning Association of Hong Kong. (2002) Report on knowledge, attitude and
practice survey, 2002. Hong Kong: Author. www.famplan.org
Family Planning Association of Hong Kong. (1997) Report on knowledge, attitude and
practice survey, 1997. Hong Kong: Author. www.famplan.org
Hong Kong Sex Education Association. www.hksea.org
HKSEA, “President‟s Report.” 2003 Forum Vol. 1, Issue 1.
The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality
Volume I - IV 1997-2001 Edited by Robert T. Francoeur. The Continuum
Publishing Company, New York, NY http://www2.hu-
Ng, ML. “Public Responses to the Sex Education Series of Radio-Television Hong
Kong.” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy. Vol. 19, No. 1, 1993, 64-72.
Planned Parenthood Federation. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
School of Professional and Continuing Education, HKU; Department of Psychiatry, HKU;
Hong Kong Sex Education Association. “Certificate in Sex Education.” 2003
Forum Vol.1, Issue 4. Accessed at
South China Morning Post. 1 November 2004. “Is There Sufficient Sex Education in
Schools?” Pulcheria Chung and Oliver Kwan. Face Off; pg. 3.
South China Morning Post. 8 August 2004. “Alarm at Runaway Abortion Rate.” By Peter
Kammerer. NEWS; pg. 1.
South China Morning Post. 24 April 2002 “More Young People in Hong Kong Having
Sex” on Action for Aids website. www.afa.org.sg/issue/issue27/12.html.
Accessed 18 November 2004.
Wan-Yim Ip, Janita P. C. Chau, Anne M. Chang, and May H. L. Lui
“Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Sex Among Chinese Adolescents”
Western Journal Nursing Research, Mar 2001; 23: 211 - 223.
Wong, Chi-yan; Tang, Catherine So-kum. “Understanding heterosexual Chinese college
students' intention to adopt safer sexual behaviors.” [References]. [Peer Reviewed
Journal] Journal of Sex Research. Vol 38(2) May 2001, 118-126. Society for the
Scientific Study of Sexuality, US
VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood. William and Mary Organization
Fung, Lucy. 16 November 2004. email@example.com
Lau, Andy. 18 November 2004. Hxlaux@wm.edu
Lee, Paul. 20 November 2004. firstname.lastname@example.org
Li, Steph. 21 November 2004. email@example.com