Cultural Express—Sexually Open or Conservative

   Last Wednesday,I had a morning shift and was trying to put the books thrown anywhere by guests back to the shelves in order.Some magazine popped up into my sight.”City Weekend,what is it about???”I browsed a few pages in front and found many culturally interesting stuff in the Contents list.So I decided to sit down and delve more into it.

   It was actually a magazine co-edited by native English speakers as well as Chinese who has got as authentic English,mainly writing about Beijing from all aspects.There you might find the pricey exotic fares and bargain local specialties,or recommendations of latest books,movies and nice clubs around,or even some sweet tips on health and relationships.

    What attracted me the most was in fact a book written by Richard Burger,who had given many knives-out,”wow” commentaries on cultural things.Its name was Behind the Red Door,talking about some “taboo” topic in China—sex.

    Before I read this,I got the same misimpressions about sex in China too.I as well as many others believed China was very conservative on sex since in the ancient times,a girl and a boy were not allowed to walk hand-in-hand on streets even though they were a couple.If you dare do that,you would be cursed as lascivious,evil.It turned out that girls would blush while hearing her Mr Right’s name from another one’s lips,and a novel depicting a couple kissing in one plot,merely in one or two sentences would be banned as pornographic.

     However,it seems that standers-by see more than gamesters.Richard apparently had did much research to this topic and had successfully discovered something surprising.

     According to the magazine,Richard opens this(metaphorically and literally) with a discussion of hymen restoration surgery and delves into the days of Daoism,when prurient practitioners of free love encouraged multiple sex partners as “the ultimate co-joining of yin and yang”.Promiscuity,along with prostitution,flourished during the Tang Dynasty–recognized as China’s cultural zenith–which Burger’s research surmises us no more coincidence.

     Enter the Yuan Dynasty,and its conservative customs of Confucianism,whereby sex became regarded only “for the purpose of producing heirs.”Later,Mao Zedong is credited with single-handedly wiping out all those neo-Confucian doctrines,including eliminating foot binding,forbidding spousal abuse,allowing divorce,banning prostitution(with some exceptions) and encouraging women to work.But in typical fashion,laws were taken too far—within 20 years China under Mao became outwardly androgynous state.

     Then transition from China’s red past into the pink-lit present,whence “prostitution is just a karaoke bar away”,yet possession of pornography is punishable by imprisonment—despite the fact that millions of single Chinese men(called “bare branches”)will never have wives or even girlfriends due to a gender imbalance in favor of the male gender.Burger laudably also tackles the sex trade from a female perspective.There’s an interview with a housewife-turned-hair-salon hostess who finds greater success with foreigners than with her own sex-starved countrymen.

     Western dating practices among hip,urban Chinese are duly contrasted with traditional courtship conventions.When it comes to settling down,Burger points out that many Chinese people are still generally resistant to the idea that marriage can be based on love,This topic naturally leads to a discussion of the custom of keeping mistresses(“little thirds”) and “homowives”—straight women trapped in passionless unions with gay men out of filial piety.

       After reading all those,shock was on my face.I am really not sure if China is sexually open or conservative.I guess the sexually repressed openness might fit more.


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