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In the Mood for Love
2004/10/26
China is going through a sexual revolution, accord-ing to a story in the China News Weekly.

The article quoted Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe, who said although Chinese haven't advanced "sexual freedom" as a slogan for sexual emancipation, they have widely acted upon it in practice. She said in respect to sexual practices, Chinese would "catch up" with Western countries in no more than 20 years.


An online survey conducted by Sina.com showed 17 per cent of Chinese youth between the ages of 24-33 have had more than 10 sexual partners, and nearly 12 per cent have participated in group sex.


Another sociologist, Liu Dalin, remains skeptical about such drastic changes. He believes very "open" attitudes towards sex are not mainstream, and won't be so in 10 or 20 years.


"The present situation is a co-existence of traditional and avant-garde ideology," Liu said. "Chinese culture has always taken the middle road. Step-by-step evolution is an unbreakable trend, but it won't go to extremes."


China entered 30 years of sexual repression after 1949, with sex strictly limited within marriage, aimed at reproduction. Changes started with the development of the market economy. Today, sex not only breaks the limit of marriage, but also of love.


Unchained desire


Casual sex, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, sex industry ... all these have entered into the urban life of China. The Internet has played an important role in opening up sexual ideology, bringing up innumerable topics that remain too sensitive for other media.


The easy mode of communication also helps in arranging dates. People can give their phone numbers in online chatrooms after exchanging a few words and then arrange to meet offline.


"The anonymity of the web helps people to drop any misgiving. It encourages them to express their real ideas," said Liu.


"Someone asked me about contraceptive methods through QQ (an online chatting device like ICQ)," said a local netizen. "I was glad to help. Think about it. You can solve your very private problems by just clicking on a stranger's name and popping your question. It is unimaginable without the Internet."


Many problems about sex are discussed for the first time "not because they didn't exist before, they were long hidden, un-talked about," said Wang Yuru, a psychology consultant who hosts love and emotion Q&A columns in several women's magazines.


Wang takes a radical attitude in her column, encouraging her readers to seek sexual pleasure on the premise of "not harming others and benefiting yourself". "The body devoted to love can be understood at any time. The body is innocent. Chastity is psychological instead of physical. It doesn't matter how you set out to get it, as long as it is safe and not harmful," she said.


Conservative attitude


The Chinese Government remains conservative, "trying avoid the issues", according to Liu. "The society in general tends to be conservative. Officials underestimate the people, and parents underestimate their children, which is completely wrong."


It was only recently homosexuality ceased to be treated as a mental disease, and it still remains a taboo topic in some circles. Several movies on this issue by directors on the mainland as well as in Hong Kong gained wide acclaim from audiences, who had to access them through pirate DVDs as they were never shown in public theatres.


Adultery was included in the Chinese Criminal Law until 1979. In the third amendment to the Marriage Law, extra-marital affairs were a major focus of conflicting ideas. Social workers and sociologists argued about whether the law should make divorce easier or more difficult - to put emphasis on maintaining the family or respecting personal choices.


"People are aware of their rights now. That's good, but don't go too far," Liu said.


Chinese law bans prostitution, but nobody can deny the existence of the sex industry in China. Some 30 per cent of those surveyed admitted to having received commercial sex services. Their underground situation makes it impossible for the government to administer or control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.


"It is impossible to eradicate prostitution. At the beginning of the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties, strict bans against prostitution were promulgated, but none of them succeeded," Liu said. "Theoretically speaking, red light zones should be established, but China needs a long adjustment process. We still have to face the reality of the situation."


Medical issues


Li Yinhe said the government had not yet comprehended the arrival of the sexual revolution. Official sexual education has been focused on medical issues, which only comprise one aspect of the subject.


Liu agreed that Chinese sexual education is not sufficient to prepare youngsters. The administrators still have reservations about promoting the use of condoms among school students, for fear that it will encourage them to have sex.


"People are opening their minds, but know little from a scientific angle," Wang said. "They don't realize the difference between sexual emancipation and promiscuity. Sexual morality does not have to be given up."

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