The Incredible Story Of China’s Sexual Revolution (transcript has been edited lightly by Business Insider for clarity) Adam Taylor Aug. 31, 2012, 3:08 PM | 19,946 | 34
China’s sexual revolution is underway, but it’s a complicated, and sometimes contradictory affair. A new book by American journalist Richard Burger — of the popular Peking Duck blog — seeks to address those changes by studying China’s sexual history over the past 5,000 years.
Every year, thousands of Chinese women pay for an operation to restore their hymens shortly before their wedding so that husbands can see blood on the sheets on their honeymoon night. Brides-to-be who cannot afford the 4,400 yuan operation (about $700) can walk into one of China’s 200,000 sex shops or go online to buy a cheap artificial hymen that seeps artificial blood when punctured. Although the percentage of Chinese women who engage in premarital sex has skyrocketed in urban areas from 15 percent in 1990 to more than 50 percent in 2010, conservative attitudes toward sex, even in big cities like Shanghai, remain largely intact. To most Chinese people, virginity matters, and husbands look forward to their wedding night when they can deflower their young virgin brides. For some husbands, the absence of blood on the sheets can be grounds for divorce.
Burger, a former writer for both the Baltimore Sun and the Global Times was one of the first people to start blogging about China in 2002. He told us he was approached by Earnshaw Books to write a book about the changing face of sex in China. While the book was based on exhaustive research — Burger says he personally went through thousands of articles and dissertations — it’s not just a piece of academia. The point of the book is to bring China’s sexual revolution to a mainstream audience. We’ve read an advanced proof of the book and have to say its a great read. Burger was kind enough to give us a short interview about the book.
Interview follows :
Behind the Red DoorBI: What was the most surprising find of your research for the book?
RB: I think that the material on both prostitution and homosexuality totally blew me away. In the Tang Dynasty, more than a thousand years ago, for example, prostitutes were registered with the state and they were licensed so they could pay taxes. The broadmindedness throughout ancient society to sex astonished me, that prostitution was completely integrated into society.
The same goes with with homosexuality. This might have been the biggest surprise; ever since recorded history, there are records of men having intimate relationships with other men in China. They weren’t homosexuals per se, these were married heterosexual men with families. But to go out with younger men was seen as a sign of their status and privilege . It wasn’t that they were homosexuals; it was something that they did for their own entertainment and amusement. So that was something I really had no idea about — how much homosexuality permeated the culture.
BI: How did Chinese society go from such openness a thousand years ago to the incredibly restrictive sexual culture of the mid-20th century?
RB: You can trace the evolution of sexual attitudes, but there is no single clear trajectory from open to closed and now back to kind of open again. Within different dynasties, China became very conservative with the influence of neo-Confucianists, especially during the Qing dynasty — the last dynasty — when prostitution and homosexuality was outlawed. A whole new consciousness came into China as it met the west via the Opium Wars and Western ideals for example. The notion of homosexuality being a sin or extramarital affairs being a sin began to take hold unlike the early Han Aidi (27 BC – 1 BC) who had a love affair with the official Dong Xian (23 BC – 1 BC), though probably most instances were well kept secrets or openly done depending on what current trends were. The country became obsessed with nationalism. Sexual openness and women’s rights became a low priority.
China’s shift to conservatism really reached its peak during the Qing dynasty, before that it had gone back and forth. Some members were very liberal, but others were reactionary. They even had some of China’s great works of erotic literature destroyed. What happened next was the nationalists and then Mao took over. For a brief while, around the time of the May 4th movement in 1912, it looked like China was about to liberalize, but it never really happened. The country became obsessed with nationalism. Sexual openness and women’s rights became a low priority.
The tragedy was really under Mao. While things had been getting dark in China regarding homosexuality, under Mao it went absolutely black. He considered any discussion of sex outside of the home to be a form of Western spiritual pollution and he insisted on total faithfulness, and monogamy.
All of the brothels were methodically closed, and the prostitutes were reintegrated into society doing other work. This was a very, very dramatic shift. People began to wear that gender neutral Maoist clothing. This really culminated during the cultural revolution when the slightest reference to sex was seen as spiritual pollution, as a sign that you were a class enemy. [Sexuality] was extremely controlled and girls wore their hair short, they became androgynous, and the difference between the genders sort of merged. It was a very strange time and this continued throughout the reign of Mao Zedong and until the late 1970s.
BI: Is a comparison to the 1960s sexual revolution in Western Europe and America appropriate?
RB: That comparison must be made very, very cautiously. The 1960s revolutions were all about personal freedom, doing your own thing, being able to stand up to authority and criticize it, and being defiant — and sexuality was a part of that. You began to have nudity on Broadway shows, and pornography became a big part of society as it became legalized.
In China, on the other hand, this revolution was far more controlled by the government. You could only go so far. It started with prostitution seeping in as Westerners began to come into China during the late 1970s. Finally, the government let that [control over prostitution] go completely and prostitution blossomed again. Bit by bit the Chinese became more sexually liberated, but with a much longer, slower process. As an example, homosexuality was only dropped from the list of crimes in 1997 and was only taken off the list of mental illnesses in 2001.
So it has been a very slow process,and what didn’t come with the sexual revolution in China were those demands for personal freedom and liberty that were won in the 1960s, when co-ed dorms opened and people felt fine standing up to authority . There has been no concurrent political revolution in China.
BI: Is technology playing a role?
RB: It has been astonishing. Nothing has affected the sexual revolution like the internet. You can pretty much trace when the sexual revolution gained speed and traction back to when the internet started to become popular.
The most prominent example of this was in 2003 when a young female blogger in Guangzhou named Muzi Mei opened a sex blog and she described in excruciating detail positions that she enjoyed and named names. In one of her very first posts she named a well known rock musician and described how they made love.
Her whole point was that sex could be enjoyed strictly for the sake of sex — with no strings attached — and that it was fine to have multiple partners. This brought a new discourse into China and created, I think, a shift in the mentality of many, many women who looked at Muzi Mei as a role model. And suddenly, many women started their own versions of sex blogs — they didn’t go as far as Muzi Mei, whose site was shut down after just a few months — but women suddenly began to really get the notion that their sex life was theirs to do as they chose and I think the effects of this have not diminished.
The party itself has a long history of corrupt officials abusing women and abusing their power. One of the most interesting cases that I read about in China was in 2009, when a hostess in a karaoke bar was molested by a party official and she stabbed him to death with a fruit knife. Now normally in a case like this, she would have just been locked up and never heard of again, but the story leaked onto the internet and it became a sensation.
This wouldn’t have happened without the internet.
[The story] really ripped through the country and she became a folk hero. The people were outraged. This became a major, major news story and she was freed — she was let off the hook. This wouldn’t have happened without the internet.
Very shortly afterwards, an official from Beijing was in Shenyang and he molested a 12-year-old girl in a bathroom. When the parents approached him he screamed at them, “You have no idea who I am and the kind of power I have, do you dare to call my behavior into question?”
He didn’t know there was a surveillance camera taping the whole thing so the whole encounter — again, [the story spread] like lightning across the internet and he was removed from the party. They couldn’t prove that he had molested the girl, but he lost all of his power. This couldn’t have happened 10 or 20 years ago and it has changed the way people behave. They’re on their guard, and it has brought a new sense of power to the Chinese netizens who realize they can make a real difference by pulling together and closing rank.
Is China’s sexual revolution part of an inevitable progress towards more sexual openness, or could it be dialed back?
China keeps trying to control things. Just last year they took off two-thirds of their primetime shows from television including dating shows, shows that were considered racy, and replaced them with news shows. There was popular dating site that went too far talking about premarital sex, so they brought in this dowdy cadre from another city to run the show to make sure it didn’t cross boundaries.
That’s the thing with China’s sexual revolution; there will always be set boundaries where it’s understood you don’t cross, you don’t cross that red line. If you do, the government will intervene. But having gone this far, I don’t think there is any turning back. The people of China have tasted sexual freedom, and they have only wanted more and more. And despite the back and forth with the government, the trend definitely seems to be in the direction of increased sexual freedom.
Top 10 nude models in China By Zhang Junmian (China.org.cn)
ICCR Notes :
Do not mistake this ‘Chinese sexual revolution’ phenomenon as an ‘all class encompassing’ effect. For certain the lower classes will again as in the past have access to their entertainments as laws accomodate and protect their simpler/coarser tastes, BUT, the apex classes will as centuries past, will continue to accept no less than the ‘best’ (i.e. Yunfei Trained Women, virginity valued, ‘child bride reservation’ – concerned apex class parents from ‘best’ families etc. begin to normalize), where apex men will not ‘share’ women or tolerate multiple partner escorts (like some of the ‘low class minded’ noveau riche or untitled wealthy do).
The apex classers instead will opt for formal mistresses which will be watched by society in general (and reported for infidelity), or preferably 2nd, 3rd or more wives from equally good families if possible. While nothing will change for the apex classers, the sexual revolution is indeed a boon in sociallly relaxed feel to foreign visitors, and sex positivity (and general better mood in China’s once spartan and almost grim sexual scene in the Commie and post-Commie pre-millenial era) that is anathema to the concept of the apex group which will become increasingly traditional as China re-culturizes along with the Imperial revival as envisioned by ICCR.
The Dukang gene: a gift from China’s father of wine – Staff Reporter – 2011-07-14
We’ll have some more then: A study says 70% of Han Chinese possess the Dukang gene that helps break down alcohol. (Photo/CFP)
About 70% of Han Chinese people possess the Dukang gene which can process alcohol and break down toxins, according to a report from the center of Anthropological Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. The results were published in the latest issue of the UK’s Human Genetics Annual
Report. Li Hui, head of the key laboratory of major education department at Fudan, said the gene is a mutation which can break down toxins produced by food which has been stored too long and become rotten and moldy.
Among the world’s different ethnic groups there exist a large number of highly differing mutant enzyme genes which fall into seven categories. The strongest gene with the detoxification function is the seventh type, which is possessed by 70% of Han Chinese. Looking from both historical and geographical perspectives, Li concluded that the Dukang gene was an important factor in Han expansion in China’s Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties (around 2000-250 BCE), when Chinese people made rapid development in agriculture, producing vast quantities of food leading to techniques of storing and winemaking. During that time the consumption of alcohol had become a widespread activity and Du Kang, for whom the gene has been named, is renowned as the father of winemaking and was well-known in the Xia dynasty for his drinking prowess.
Li pointed out that in the early days of winemaking, the process was not refined and many toxins were included in wine. Some died of poisoning as a result, yet many continued to drink, effectively culling entire populations of people who lacked the genetics to tolerate toxic alcohol. The remaining population had bodies better able to break down such toxins to survive and pass on their genes. The result was Dukang’s Genes, or North East Asian Alcohol Resistant Genes.
In China, alcoholic drinks are sometimes associated with some negative events and words such as “excessive drinking” and “harmful to the health” when mentioning it. The rise in prices of Moutai and Wuliangye every time, as well as the incidents of adulterated liquor, will stir up public resistance and resentment. Without ancient intellectuals’ drinking games and discussions about national affairs during drinking, how the liquor culture can attach to the modern way of life to possess a unique China-style culture, which is really unavoidable
“For example, the innovation in the customs of liquor and the refining in liquor ceremony may form a cultural aspiration that is distinctive and close to the emotional needs of the public, which is a recurrence of the spiritual attribute of liquor consumption,” said Wang Yancai, president of the China Alcoholic Drinks Association.
Chinese Wine Country List :
Northwest (Xinjiang, Ningxia, and Gansu)
Pro: Summers tend to be hot and dry, so the grapes have higher sugar content and fewer problems with disease than in coastal regions, though they sometimes lack acidity.
Con: Winters are extremely cold, thus even burying the vines may not stop a relatively high percentage of them from being destroyed.
Pro: Most grape varieties here are local (species: vitis amurensis) and resistant to the cold, even more so than the North American varietals.
Con: Growing seasons are too short and winters too cold to support vitis vinifera grapes, such as Merlot or Riesling.
North (Shanxi , Huailai and Changli in northeast Hebei)
Pro: Summers are dry and winters are warmer than in Xinjiang, thus while the vines have to be buried here, they are much more likely to survive.
Con: This area sees much more rain in some years than in others, thus disease can be a problem.
North (Beijing-Tianjin corridor)
Pro: This area is close to major markets.
Con: The soil and climate in these relatively flat areas is not good enough for growing quality grapes.
East coast (Shandong)
Pro: The relatively long wine-making tradition here means a greater supply of experienced employees. And unlike in the north, burying vines is not necessary in winter.
Con: Unlike in Mediterranean climates, which tend to experience separate hot and humid periods, this area gets them simultaneously, which means a lot of pesticides are needed to deal with the ensuing diseases.
Henan (Yellow River Valley)
Pro: Like Shandong, winters are warmer and burying the vines is not necessary.
Con: Summers are too hot and humid, and the issue of disease is greater here than in any other major grape-growing region of China.
Pro: The growing season is quite long, so much so that there is potential for two harvests.
Con: Harvest overlaps the rainy season. This could be solved by delaying the growing season – such as by pruning later – and thus utilizing the dry sunny weather that follows the rainy season.
Note: There are also other provinces with small plantings, ranging from Shaanxi and Szechuan with vitis vinifera grapes to Guangxi and Hunan with local grapes.