On Monday, local rights groups the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center and Korean Women’s Hotline jointly made a statement condemning the Education Ministry’s guidelines on sexual education, pointing out that the guidelines spread faulty information and reinforce discrimination against sexual minorities.
The groups particularly took issue with a statement that men have sudden spikes of sexual urge anywhere, anytime. The guidelines also completely ignored sexual minorities, saying sexual abuse can lead to “defects” like questioning one’s sexual orientation. It also described women not paying the bill on dates as being one of the reasons behind date rapes, and that women “have to be careful” and “firmly say no” to avoid date rape.
“Not only do the guidelines generalize the misperception about men’s sexual desire, thereby justifying sexual violence, it leads students to have strings of prejudice related to sex,” said an official from the KSVRC.
The ministry explained the following day that it ordered the officials to revise the part about date rape and is planning to consult with experts on the part about men’s sexual urges.
Despite the ministry’s prompt reaction, the guidelines -- distributed earlier this year -- raised questions about sexual education in schools, or lack thereof.
Bae Jeong-weon, a sex education counselor who heads the Center for Sexuality and Harmonious Life, said that lack of proper sexual education is damaging students’ perceptions of sex, making it harder for students to understand what is appropriate and what is not.
She pointed out that sex education in high school is being conducted as one of six categories under the public health classes, which is insufficient to provide adequate information. Law mandates that all elementary, middle and high schools conduct sex education. But important details, such as about safe sex and contraception, are also often glossed over, while the guidelines sternly warn students about the negative side effects of sex, such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Talking about teenage sex has been frowned upon in conservative Korean society.
According to a recent survey by seven sex education institutions in Seoul, over half of middle school boys in Seoul do not consult anyone about sex-related problems.
Teenagers say such taboo is driving them further away from understanding the basic concept of sex.
“Teachers just say sex is something that we simply should not do. It is a natural thing between people that love each other, but they don’t talk about that,” said a 16-year-old girl who left home last year and is currently living in a shared home with fellow runaways.