Sex and the University: Part 1

(Source)

Well, sex and Yonsei University to be precise, with 4 articles on that theme being published in the latest Yonsei Chunchu (연세춘추) campus newspaper, providing valuable insights into modern Korean students’ sexual experience and attitudes.

Unfortunately for the authors though, Yonsei happens to be a notoriously Christian university. And so according to my anonymous informer, they were actually punished for them in some way.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but the main problem appears to have been a sex survey sent to all students, with the first article below discussing the results. Perhaps the board of trustees was shocked and embarrassed that 1 in 3 Yonsei students are quite happy having one-night stands or something?

연세인, 당신의성의식은어떤가요? 대학생성의식은개방으로황새걸음, 사회적인식은아직도뱁새걸음

Yonsei students, how is your awareness of sexual issues? While university students’ awareness is progressing by leaps and bounds, Korean society is still only making baby steps

가장 기본적이고 보편적인 욕구인 동시에 가장 은밀하기도 한 것, 바로 ‘성(性)’이다. 아직 성적인 이야기를 스스럼 없이 털어 놓을 수 없는 한국 사회에서 연세인들은 성에 대해 어떠한 생각을 갖고 있는지 「연세춘추」에서 알아봤다. 설문조사는 이메일을 통해 지난 9월 13일에서 10월 4일까지 약 3주간 진행됐으며 1천287명의 학생들이 이에 답했다.

Sex is the most basic, universal desire, but at the same time it’s also the most private one. And in a society in which people still feel unable to speak frankly and openly about sexual matters, how to find out Yonsei students’ thoughts on them? So, the Yonsei Chunchu conducted an email survey for 3 weeks between the 13th of September and the 4th of October, and received 1,287 replies from students.

(Source)

연세인 2 1, “나는성경험이있다

1 in 2 Yonsei students have sexual experience

성경험의 유무를 묻는 질문에 거의 절반에 해당하는 49.5%의 학생들이 “있다”고 답했다. 또한 “있다”고 답한 응답자 중 72.5%가 08학번 이상이라고 답해 고학번이 높은 비중을 차지한 것을 볼 수 있었다. 이에 대해 ‘행복한 성문화센터’ 배정원 소장은 “사회적 분위기 자체가 달라져 성관계를 맺는다는 것이 쉽게 받아들여지고 있다”며 “예전에는 공개적으로 등장하지 않았던 혼전 성관계가 대중매체에서 자연스럽게 나오면서 사람들이 이에 대해 대수롭지 않게 생각하게 됐다”고 말했다.

또한 우리대학교 성희롱·성폭력 상담실 이정화 교수는 “실제로 성경험이 있는 학생들의 숫자도 늘어났지만 그 사실을 드러내놓고 이야기 할 수 있게 여건이 변한 탓도 있다”고 말했다. 이러한 사실은 “성경험이 있음에도 주변사람들에게 거짓말을 한 적이 있다면 그 이유는 무엇인가”라는 문항에서도 찾을 수 있다. “주변의 인식 때문에”라는 답변을 33.0%의 학생들이 선택한 반면 “사생활에 대해 말하기 싫어서”를 택한 학생은 40.8%로 가장 많았다. 이 교수는 이 결과에 대해 “성관계를 가졌다고 해서 안 좋은 낙인이 찍히거나 이상하게 보는 분위기가 아니기 때문에 주변의 인식의 문제보다 ‘이건 내 사생활’이라는 의식이 더 크게 작용한 것”이라고 분석했다.

On the question of it they had sexual experience, almost half of students (49.5%) replied that they had, of whom 72.5% entered Yonsei University in 2008 or earlier. About this, Bae Jeong-won, head of the Happy Sex Culture Center said “the social atmosphere is changing, and nowadays people are becoming much more accepting of [premarital] sexual relationships”, and that “in the past, you never saw premarital sexual relationships depicted in the mass media. But as they’ve naturally started appearing, people have come to think that they’re nothing to really get concerned about.”

(Source: Extreme Movie)

Also, Professor Lee Jeong-hwa of the university sexual harassment and sexual violence consultation center said “because society is changing, the number of people who openly admit to having sexual experience is increasing”. And about that, one of the questions in the survey was “have you ever lied about your sexual experience, and if so, what was the reason?” [James - I think "have you ever pretended you didn't have sexual experience when you did?" is more accurate], and 33% of those that replied that they had did so because of what others would think of them, whereas 40.8% replied that they did because they didn’t want to talk about their private life. About those results, Professor Lee said “respondents were more concerned about keeping their private life private than being stigmatized and/or branded by those around them”.

사회는보수지만나는개방

Society is conservative, but I am liberal

이런 분위기에도 불구하고 학생들은 한국 사회를 보수적이라고 평가했다. 전체 응답자의 67.0%가 한국 사회의 성개방 정도에 대해 보수적이라고 답해 아직 사회 전체적으로는 개방적이지 않다고 생각하고 있었다. 이에 비해 자신의 성개방 정도에 대한 평가는 개방적이라는 답변이 41.1%로 보통이라고 답한 26.8%와 보수적이라고 답한 32.0%보다 많은 비중을 차지했다.

Despite this [changing] atmosphere, students think Korean society is still conservative, and on the question of sex in particular, 67% of the total replies that is was conservative and not yet liberal. Of themselves in contrast, 41.1% considered themselves to have liberal attitudes towards sex, 26.8% were middle of the road, and 32.0% considered themselves conservative.

(Source)

스킨십은성관계까지, 원나잇은애인이없을?

As for skinship [James - Basically, physical affection towards a boyfriend or girlfriend], does that go all the way to sex? Are one-night stands only for when you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend?

자신은 개방적이라는 연세인의 생각은 다른 문항에서도 나타났다. 스킨십의 허용 범위를 묻는 질문에서 “성관계”라고 답한 응답자가 55.9%로 가장 많았고 “키스까지 가능하다”는 응답이 20.6%로 그 뒤를 이었다. 지난 2004년 7월 「연세춘추」 연애에 관한 설문조사에서 스킨십의 허용범위를 묻는 질문에 “키스까지 가능하다”는 응답이 54.3%로 가장 많았던 것과도 달라진 결과다. 또한 연애를 함에 있어서 성관계의 중요도를 묻는 질문에는 “꼭 필요한 것”이라는 응답이 37.0%를 차지한 데 비해 “절대 안된다”고 답한 연세인은 13.2%에 불과했다.

연세인들은 이성친구가 과거 성경험이 있는 것에 대해서도 높은 관용도를 보였다. 이성친구의 성경험에 대한 관용도를 묻는 설문 문항에서 “괜찮다”는 응답이 49.4%로 “안된다”고 답한 26.8%보다 월등히 많았다.

모텔에 가는 것에 대한 수용 수준은 “괜찮다”는 응답이 45.9%를 차지해 “안된다”고 답한 32.1%보다 많았다. 또한 원나잇스탠드에 대해서도 애인이 있는 경우에는 “절대 안된다”는 응답이 65.1%, “괜찮다”는 응답이 5.8%에 불과했지만, 애인이 없는 경우에는 “절대 안된다”가 32.9%, “괜찮다”가 33.1%로 큰 차이를 보였다.

The fact that Yonsei students are now quite liberal about sex also emerged from a different question. To the question of how much physical affection they permitted, most (55.9%) said “all the way to sex”, while 20.6% only limited it to kissing. In a similar survey given by the Yonsei Chunchu in July 2004 though, as many 54.3% said they would limit it to kissing, and on the additional question of how important sex is for a relationship, 37.0% replied that it was essential, whereas 13.2% said they would absolutely not have sex [James - presumably before marriage that is]. (source, right)

On the question of how they would react if they discovered their boyfriend or girlfriend had sexual experience prior to meeting them, Yonsei students also showed a high level of acceptance: 49.4% saying it was okay, with 26.8% saying it wasn’t.

As for if they were happy to go to a love motel to have sex, 45.9% said that was fine, with 32.1% disagreeing. And if they had a partner already, 65.1% would never have a one-night stand with someone else, whereas 5.8% replied that it was okay. If they were single though, 32.9% would still never have a one night stand, but 33.1% were fine with it.

학생들 따라가지 못하는 성교육

Sex education is not keeping pace with students’ needs

이렇듯 젊은 대학생들은 점점 개방적으로 변화하고 있지만 성교육은 이를 쫓아가지 못하고 있다. “지금까지 받아온 공식적인 성교육이 충분했다고 생각한다”는 문항에 과반수를 훌쩍 넘는 85.6%의 연세인이 “아니다”라고 답했다. 또한 가장 실용적이고 도움이 되는 성지식의 출처를 묻는 질문에 “공식적인 성교육”이라고 답한 응답자는 13.4%로 대중매체와 관련 책 항목에 밀려 세 번째를 차지했다. 이에 도지연(생명공학·09)씨는 “문화가 개방적으로 빠르게 변하는데 비해 성교육은 제자리걸음인 것 같다”며 “성교육 자체가 보수적이라 실생활에서 활용이 불가능하다는 것이 문제”라고 결과에 동의했다.

이 같은 결과에 배 소장은 “상담을 받아 보면 학생들의 성지식이 턱없이 부족하다는 것을 느낀다”며 “학생들은 성에 관한 정보를 점점 더 많이 접하고 있는데 그에 비해 성교육은 충분하지 않아 잘못된 지식을 갖게 될 위험성이 매우 큰 것이 문제”라고 비판했다. 나아가 이 교수는 “사실 성관계를 맺는 과정에 대해서는 인터넷 같은 데에 충분히 개방돼 있고 접하기가 쉽지만 중요한 것은 의사소통인데 이것이 공식적인 성교육에서 매우 부족하다”고 말했다.

(Source)

In light of all this, as university students become more liberal about sex, then sex education is not really following suit. In response to the question of “has the sex education you have received up until now been satisfactory”, 85.6% replied that it hadn’t, and only 13.4% replied that it was the most practical and helpful source of information for them, well behind the mass media and sex-related books. Second-year biotechnology student Do Ji-hyeon agreed, and said that “even though culture is changing and rapidly liberalizing, sex education remains the same,” and that “as it is taught conservatively, it doesn’t really meet students’ practical needs”.

Similarly, Happy Sex Culture Center head Bae said “from consultations we’ve had with students, we get the feeling that their knowledge about sexual matters is woefully inadequate”, and that “because sex education is also  inadequate, and because students are getting information for themselves instead, then there is a danger that they will be misinformed.” Professor Lee Jeong-hwa of the university consultation center agrees, and says that “it’s easy enough to find information on the internet about the process of sex [James - does she mean the basic biology of it?]. But the important thing is communication, and in this sense public sex-education is severely lacking”. (end)

(Source)

To play Devil’s advocate for Yonsei punishing the authors for giving the survey to students, of course we don’t know how severe that punishment was as of yet; Yonsei’s religiosity is by no means uncommon for Korean universities (my own has similar requirements for Chapel attendance in order to graduate, regardless of one’s religion); the punishment probably pales in comparison to effectively expelling a student for being gay like this one is; it has the oldest LGBT group of any Korean university; and, as Part 3 will reveal (see here for a sneak peek), it even has mandatory sex education classes. Indeed, in the light of the last in particular, then the fact that there was any punishment at all is very surprising and confusing, and I’d be very grateful if any Seoul-based readers can send me any further information about that (and please feel free do so anonymously if you prefer).

Meanwhile, what did you think of the survey? Do you think the results are actually of any use, given that only 1,287 students out of nearly 30,000 replied? Has anyone heard of similar surveys and/or mandatory sex education classes at other Korean universities?

Regardless, thanks again to the person who sent me all the articles, and – writing this next week now – here is Part 2!

7 thoughts on “Sex and the University: Part 1

  1. I think it’s very interesting! Especially with quotes and not just numbers. Looking forward to the rest. And the students doing the survey themselves is positive. Also, shout out to y’all students, if you think society is conservative but the majority of you are liberal, you’ve got the numbers to change it. Well, some time in the distant future when the elderly majority isn’t so overwhelming.

  2. Or, rather, if you are tired of the myth being perpetuated that your society is “conservative” when the reality seems otherwise, then you do have the numbers to force the gates of that change open.

    I am happy to say I imagine fondly the day when Korean college students routinely say, “Korean society is very liberal today…” But yes, I think it will take time.

    Thanks for posting this and of course for comparing to other “punishments.”

  3. I should say that these numbers are likely skewed to the “perverts”^^

    the shy ones won’t even respond and male responses in these type of surveys are notoriously unreliable, even when anonymous.

    This does seem to represent a change, though there is no way to judge how profound…

    • Yeah: in hindsight, the numbers issue almost makes the entire exercise a complete waste of time. And especially if, people being provided the questions via email and all, then they also had to email them back in…? Surely not!

      • It’s certainly not the most scientifically useful survey ever, and it’s certainly full of all kinds of bias and problems. That said, I still think it’s an interesting snapshot.

  4. Yes, it’s definitely an interesting snapshot and should create a significant amount of debate. The attitude toward sex is still debatable in every country. College students are still conservative in many aspects; however, freedom loosens the shoulders a little.

    The media in the USA is over-sexualized, which perpetuates the idea that Americans citizens are. The media in Korea still carries an undertone of conservatism, but it’s a different world to the viewers. Students are very much liberal and it seems as though Korean students are grappling with natural instincts, social norms, and judgments.

    The next few years will be pretty interesting!

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