• One of the less risque illustrations on Germany's new sex ed site, 'Zanzu' (Zanzu)Source: Zanzu
Is Germany pioneering sex ed, or culturally assimilating?
Sophie Verass

17 May 2016 - 2:18 PM  UPDATED 17 May 2016 - 2:18 PM

For many adults, sex ed is a thing of the past. Graphic illustrations in text books, shocking photos of infections, and failed attempts at learning how to roll on a condom are mostly memories of uncontrollable hormones and secondary education.

For new migrants in Germany, however, many adults are learning the ins and outs (both, literally and figuratively) of sex, with a new government initiative.

Having recently welcomed an influx of asylum seekers, the German government has made efforts to integrate refugees into society. This includes providing settlement services like language classes and work opportunities, to this controversial website offering sex and relationship advice.

The site, Zanzu: My Body in Words and Images operates under the premise that many Syrian, Iraqi and other Middle Eastern and mostly-Muslim migrants are naïve to European approaches to sexual conduct, sexuality and general sex-positive attitudes.

The online manual, created by Germany's Federal Centre for Health Education, covers all aspects of sex; from losing one’s virginity, to sexual gratification and pleasure, to being accepting of those with different sexual preferences, and family planning and pregnancy. The website even contains a section on sexual rights and law, providing information on woman’s abortion rights and female genital mutilation.

After a string of sexual assaults in Cologne over New Year’s Eve, some allegedly committed by male refugees, Germany has made sexual education a priority in settlement development. In Bavaria, public money is partially funding classes to teach migrant men how to respect women in Germany and warning signs have been placed in public pools, demonstrating that women in revealing outfits should not be harassed or objectified.

This website is another easy learning tool, featuring graphic illustrations of ethnically diverse people in a range of sexual situations. While these soft-core cartoons are good for those with poor literacy, they also have text information on the page, conveying the basics of sex, simultaneously making it sound terribly unsexy. “You can have sexual intercourse in various positions: lying, sitting, standing or squatting,” the website states. 

However, some have argued that the ‘manual’, which cost the government approximately $136,000, is condescending and even, racist. The Washington Post reported that Heinz-Jürgen Voss, a sex scientist at the University of Merseburg said that the site assumes refugees are less-educated about techniques and overall gratification of sex than people in the West, nor do they know about sexual health or the risks of intercourse. “It’s important to promote this kind of open and free sexuality, to fight for it,” he said. “It’s not something that the state can force people to do, to live openly. But it needs to be negotiated.” While Zanzu is a useful educational tool, perhaps it should have been aimed at the public more broadly?

As the German government’s online sex manual takes their new citizens back to basics, their portal of sexual resources is a groundbreaking means of sexual education, regardless of their intended audience. With a variety of information on niche topics like erectile dysfunction to transmitting STIs onto your foetus, Zazu’s sex-positive website teaches any person with Internet access the fundamentals of sex.