RNW Love Matters producer Jieyu Chen
RNW/Michiel Bles

Love and sex for one fifth of the planet

Honest and open information about love, sex, relationships and everything in between for young people in China.
How do you engage one fifth of the planet in an open discussion about love and sex? How do you change attitudes in a country where repression and taboos are the rule and sex education virtually non-existent? RNW has taken up the challenge with a Chinese offshoot of its successful Love Matters platform.

“Dating with the whole world” is the tagline for the new Chinese Love Matters website. It’s a pun, with the characters for the word “dating” referring to the site’s name: “Talk about love”. The words sex and China are conspicuously absent. Web producer Jieyu Chen explains why.

“You’re not supposed to even think about sex or relationships in China before entering university.”

No sex education
It all starts at school. There’s no curriculum for reproductive health in primary or secondary school in China. “You’re not supposed to even think about sex or relationships in China before entering university,” says Chen. “But of course you do.”

The demand for objective, no-nonsense information about sex and relationships is growing. As is the interest in “friendship with benefits”. Dating apps have mushroomed and so have other modern methods of finding sex partners.

Of course, caution is needed in a country where swinging or a threesome are considered sexual aberrations punishable by law. Finding the right words and tone for love and sex issues is the biggest challenge, says Chen. “It’s tricky, because there are no clear-cut rules for the internet in China. Guesswork basically.”

On social media, a dot or asterisk needed to be inserted between the characters for basic terminology like vagina and penis.

“We can tackle taboos, trigger discussions and contribute to healthier relationships between Chinese partners.”

International perspective
The Talk about Love team has something special to offer. “With our international perspective, we are perfectly equipped to educate young people in China about sex. To tackle taboos, compare cultural differences, trigger discussions. And to contribute to healthier relationships between Chinese partners.”

The Love Matters China website is rapidly building up a sizeable audience. Chen works closely together with Chinese sexologists and medical NGOs. Their advice: focus on relationships and dating etiquettes and don’t use the West as a model.


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