Intimate attitudes, practices and knowledges: Chinese-speaking international students in Australia

In May 2019, The Burnet Institute  and the University of Melbourne in Australia published this report based on their recent survey. The authors of this report are Fran Martin, Can Qin, Caitlin Douglass, Megan Lim and Carol El-Hayek.
An Executive Summary (pp. 4-5) of this report can be found below. To access the report, please click here.

In 2018, University of Melbourne and Burnet Institute conducted the survey Intimate attitudes, practices and knowledges: Chinese-speaking international students in Australia. This study aimed to generate data on Chinese international students’ sexual experiences in order to inform sexual health service provision in Australia. We provide this summary report as a resource and reference for future work in this area.
The survey was open for nine weeks and completed by 723 Chinese-speaking international students. Participants were aged 16 years and over, self-identified as Chinese-speaking international students, and were studying across Australia in high schools, universities, language schools, foundation studies courses, and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sectors. The majority (96%) of participants were from the mainland of the People’s Republic of China, and almost half (47%) had been in Australia for less than a year. The median age of participants was 22 years and most identified as female (69%).
Sexual attitudes
• Respondents had broadly liberal sexual attitudes, with high acceptance of premarital sex and living together outside marriage.
• Most male participants hold females to a more conservative sexual standard than themselves, especially in relation to multiple sexual partners and casual sex.
• A majority of respondents perceived that males and females bringing condoms on dates was acceptable (74% for women bringing condoms and 72% for women bringing condoms%).
Sexual experiences and behaviours
• Over half of respondents had engaged in genital touching and/or other forms of sexual activity in their lifetime (56%).
• On average, participants were 19 years old the first time they had vaginal or anal intercourse.
• The largest proportion of sexually active respondents reported one sexual partner in their lifetime (50% for vaginal intercourse).
• A majority of respondents reported no sexual partners in Australia (74%).
• Of those who did have sexual partners in Australia, a majority were of the same ethnicity and nationality as the respondents themselves (74%).
• A large minority of respondents reported a change in their sexual and dating behaviours since arriving in Australia (20%), especially increases in sexual activity and engaging in sexual behaviours for the first time.
• Rates of consistent condom use with regular and casual partners were high (59% reported always using condoms with a regular partner, and and 58% with casual partners).
• During participants’ most recent experience of vaginal intercourse, the most common forms of contraception were condoms (79%) and withdrawal (23%).
• 8% of females and 3% of males reported experiencing forced or pressured sexual activity.
• A small percentage of males reported they had paid for sexual services in Australia (9%).
Sex education, knowledge, and health
• Approximately one in three respondents had not received any sex education in high school (31%).
• Content of sex education varied based on location. Human reproduction and HIV/ AIDS were emphasised more in sex education participants had received overseas; while how to use a condom, preventing sexually transmissible infections (STIs), sexual consent and sexual harrassment were emphasised more in Australia.
• On average, participants obtained low scores on our STI knowledge quiz; for example, only 6% knew that many STIs can be easily treated with antibiotics.
• Almost half of participants had visited a doctor or other health service in Australia (47%); however, very few of these had discussed sexual health with an Australian health professional (21%).
• The majority of participants stated that they would use Chinese-language internet sources for general information on sex and relationships (81%); however, over 75% would seek information from an Australian health provider if they thought they had contracted an STI or experienced an unplanned pregnancy.
• Among participants who had ever had penetrative sex, most reported they had never had an STI test in Australia (13%).
• Half of particpants thought they would benefit from more tailored information for international students about sexual health, and 61% thought they would benefit from more tailored information about the Australian healthcare system.
Attitudes toward gender and sexual violence
• In general, respondents disagreed with sexist statements; however, there was a gendered divide in opinions.
• A greater proportion of female than male respondents disagreeed with sexist statements in most instances.
Internet and online pornography use
• Chinese-language online platforms were used far more frequently than English-language platforms.
• A majority of respondents had viewed online pornography, though a higher proportion of males (84%) than females (66%) had done so.
• Participants first saw online pornography by accident at a median age of 13 years and intentionally at 15 years.
• Males first saw online pornography at a younger age than females (12 years compared to 14 years), and viewed it more regularly and frequently.
• Participants most commonly preferred pornography featuring Japanese porn actors (54%).
• Most participants had never sent or received a sexually explicit image of themselves or another person (77%).



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