May 1, 2009
By Khai Tran
Sex education remains an awkward subject for both parents and teachers in Viet Nam because of the conservative attitude towards things considered “sensitive”.
Thus, adults either end up not talking about sex and relationships to youngsters or else talk down to them or are evasive.
The Da Nang city Youth Union wants to change this state of affairs. It is joining hands with the Viet Da Travel Company to launch a unique tour, one designed to provide youth highly explicit but intensely cultural sex education.
The tour revolves around the Cham ethnic group’s cult of lingam-yoni, which is worshiped as an emblem of the union between male and female and generative power.
The first destination on the tour will be the Cham Museum, which has thousands of precious artefacts and sculptures created during the Champa Kingdom era. Among them are many stone lingams and yonis collected from ancient Cham towers and citadels scattered around the central region.
“The lingam and yoni always go together,” a tour guide explains.
“While the lingam represents the phallus, the yoni is a representation of the vulva. The lingam is often stylised into a smooth cylindrical mass and placed in the centre of yona, a disk-shaped object. It’s this common form that created the sexual dimension.”
Many of his young audience blush in embarrassment. But as the details mount, only excitement, surprise and murmurs remain. There are no more bashful faces.
The lingam and the yoni are Hindu symbols associated with Lord Shiva and his consort, with the former being a phallic post serving as his representation.
Before their conquest by King Le Thanh Tong in the 15th century, the Cham culture was heavily influenced by that of India. Cham kings frequently erected stone lingams as the central religious theme in royal temples.
“The sculptures also indicate the ancient male-dominated cultures,” the guide adds.
The tour sees the ancient myth of generative power now being examined in a modern, scientific light.
“Thanks to the tour, I can understand what the round statue with 23 breasts under a lingam implies,” Pham Thu Thao, a schoolgirl from Thai Phien High School, says. The breasts symbolise women.
“It symbolises giving birth and teaches us about menstruation as well,” she adds.
“The Cham had a really creative and artistic approach to sex education,” Nham Ngoc, a 10th grader, adds.
On the tour, Son Tra Peninsula is the second pit stop. The young travellers can breath in the ocean air while admiring the Linh Ung Tu Pagoda. The tour continues at the scenic My Khe Beach, with outdoor games focused on sex education.
“The games are meant to normalise physical contact between girls and boys, helping them understand that these contacts are just part of normal communication,” Nguyen Dinh Tri, a member of the Da Nang Youth Union, says.
There is no trace of timidity as the youngsters take enthusiastically to the games.
“We gain soft skills and knowledge of sex more easily through these outdoor activities,” Minh Phuong, a college student, says.