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Tracy James
IU Communications

Charles Rondot
School of Public Health-Bloomington

Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

IU sexual health expert invited to China to share textbook, insights into sex education

Aug. 7, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A human sexuality textbook co-authored by Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington professor William L. Yarber has been translated by volunteers into Chinese and is part of efforts to improve and expand sex education in that country.

Human sexuality textbook

Translated into Chinese, "Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America"

Directives from the Chinese government call for sex education during high school and college, but a national culture that demonized sex for decades has resulted in a short supply of science-based curricular materials as well as the teachers capable of providing the instruction.

"It can be astonishing how little people in their 20s know about their own bodies," said Damien Lu, a volunteer with Aibai Culture and Education Center, the largest and oldest China-based organization working to educate and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

Lu, who lives in Los Angeles, hosts an online advice column where Chinese-speaking people can ask LGBT questions. He also gives numerous lectures involving LGBT- and sex-related topics during semi-annual trips to China. He said the lack of a basic understanding of sexuality hampers efforts to discuss sensitive LGBT topics, such as sexual orientation and prejudice, or to provide useful information about safe sex and other matters of sexual health.

Yarber has a strong record of research, publications and service involving sexual health and education. A professor in the Department of Applied Health Science, he is senior director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention and senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. He served an integral role in the creation of the first national guidelines in the U.S. for K-12 sex education when he chaired the National Guidelines Task Force for SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. "Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Kindergarten Through 12th Grade" was developed in 1991, with Yarber also contributing to all three editions.

William L. Yarber

William L. Yarber

Print-Quality Photo

Yarber is lead author of the 780-page college textbook "Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America" (McGraw-Hill), which took a team of volunteers three years to translate. He describes the book as an overview of human sexuality with an emphasis on diversity and the role of sexuality as an important part of healthy living, not just procreation.

This is the first time the popular textbook, co-authored by California State University's Barbara Sayad and used in more than 250 colleges and universities in the U.S., has been translated into another language. Lu, who reviewed numerous other texts before choosing Yarber and Sayad's book, said its reliance on research and up-to-date information drew him to the book, which was in the sixth edition when the translating began and will see its eighth edition published in the fall. It is thought to be the first up-to-date textbook on human sexuality published in China in the past 50 years.

Aibai is bringing not only the textbook to China, but it's bringing Yarber and Sayad, as well, to address a major sex education conference this month and to travel to bookstores where the textbook will be sold and promoted. On Friday the co-authors will meet with U.S. Embassy Beijing and Chinese government officials to discuss opportunities and challenges for promoting sex education in China.

Lu expects Yarber's experience with "Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education" to be of great interest because of the need to adapt sex education curricula to reflect the diverse cultural regions throughout the vast country. Yarber said the guidelines took this into consideration in the U.S. and also have been adopted in six countries.

Lu said the emphasis on science-backed approaches also is important because of the lack of such information in China and because of efforts by conservative groups outside China to promote sexuality education that is not based on science, such as efforts to promote abstinence-only approaches to safe sex instead of a comprehensive approach.

Yarber, who said he will discuss other prominent guidelines, such as those created by the World Health Organization, is looking forward to the trip. He said it provides another opportunity for the School of Public Health-Bloomington and The Kinsey Institute to contribute to increasing sexual health globally, which is an important part of the missions of both units.

"Chinese citizens have been isolated when it comes to basic information about their sexuality," Yarber said. "They're just thirsty for reliable information."

About the School of Public Health-Bloomington, formerly the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

With nearly 2,500 students in more than 50 undergraduate and advanced degree programs, the School of Public Health-Bloomington offers a traditional campus experience enriched by 21st-century innovation. More than 120 faculty in five academic departments -- Kinesiology; Applied Health Science; Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies; Environmental Health; and Epidemiology and Biostatistics -- conduct major research, teach and engage with communities across a broad spectrum of health, wellness and disease-prevention topics. Each department offers numerous majors, minors and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate studies. In addition to its academic departments, the school administers the Campus Division of Recreational Sports, which serves roughly 80 percent of the IU Bloomington student body through various intramural, club and individual sports opportunities.

For more information, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or Tweeting @Vitality_IU, with more news from IU at #IUNews; Blogging Health & Vitality.