A breath of fresh air in China
Is the government of China easing up a bit on its official prudery toward nonstandard sexualities? The China Daily, published by the Chinese Communist Party in English, features in today's issue a friendly article on the controversial sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) — with a flattering photo of her, no less — and her opinions on gays, casual sex, and polyamory:
When the immoral is not illegal
By Mei Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-10 10:14
Sociologist and gay rights activist, Li Yinhe, continues to stun the country with her comments on hitherto taboo topics such as sex and same-sex marriages.
She has submitted, for the fifth time, to the ongoing 2010 annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC, proposals to allow same-sex marriages, and rescind the ban on sexual orgies as a violation of the Criminal Law of the PRC.
"The first is a continuous attempt as I know it will take time to realize this," Li says. "The second involves doing away with an outdated law."
When the immoral is not illegal
A highly profiled scholar, Li's thoughts have influenced the Chinese public for two decades. In an exclusive interview with China Daily, she shares her views on sex and marriage.
In 2006, Li caused a flutter with her support for one-night stands and polyamory (multiple sexual partners). Explaining her stance, she says unmarried people have the legal right to one-night stands. And while it may be morally wrong for married couples to do so, there is nothing illegal about it.
"I'm not saying I encourage people to have casual sex," Li says, "People have the right to sex just like they have the right to eat. Although both are not explicitly written into the Chinese Constitution, they are not violations of the law."
She says polyamory offers important evidence for her sociological studies.
"I know of three lovers living together in harmony, in China and in other countries. They are straight and are not jealous of sharing lovers," she says, adding this proves that the human emotion of jealousy stems from social rather than physiological reasons.
Li strongly opposes women being mistresses to men. She sees that as an insult to the idea of equal social status for men and women. "It's a pity that young women would like to find such short-cuts to a better life," she says.
She even jokes that when stories of women keeping men begin to appear in the mass media, it could signal a higher social status for women.
Li's sharp ideas have come under much attack on various online forums. She has now shut down the forum for her personal blogs to block off vicious criticisms.
The former wife of late writer Wang Xiaobo currently lives with a 9-year-old adoptive son in Beijing. Her research on marriages, covering five major Chinese cities, will soon be published under the aegis of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In her spare times Li reads extensively and is particularly partial to detective stories. "Most books, I only read once," she says.
"Wang Xiaobo's books are the exception," she adds, with a smile.
Read the original (March 10, 2010).
We last reported on Li Yinhe here three years ago.
The China Daily, according to writers on Wikipedia, "is regarded as the English-language mouthpiece for the government and is often used as a guide to official policy.... The editorial policies differ in being slightly more liberal than Chinese-language newspapers.... Journalists practice a high degree of self-censorship at the paper.... The editor of the paper has told foreign editors that the paper's editorial policy was to support the policies of the Communist Party and only make criticism of the authorities if there was deviation from Party policy."
Update, April 8: On the other hand, the BBC reports:
China charges online 'swingers' in Nanjing
Prosecutors in the east Chinese city of Nanjing have charged 22 alleged members of a wife-swapping internet chat room with "group licentiousness".
A university academic, company bosses and shop assistants are among 14 men and eight women facing up to five years in prison if convicted.
Group sex parties were reportedly held at the academic's home.
The trial has sparked debate between conservatives and liberals, a Beijing-based blogger told the BBC.
Stan Abrams, who writes on Chinese legal matters in his China Hearsay blog, said prosecutors were using a little-known article of criminal law against the defendants.
The 22 defendants are accused of engaging in dozens of group sex encounters between 2007 and 2009, according to China's Procuratorial Daily newspaper.
Ma Xiaohai, a 53-year-old associate professor at an unnamed university in Nanjing, was charged with setting up the chat room and organising group sex parties at his home.
"At first the chat room discussions were very clean, with most people discussing their marital problems," the paper quoted him as saying.
But "swinging" became the focus of the forum, which grew to include more than 190 members, the paper said....
"You have two camps that have come out on this trial," Mr Abrams told the BBC World Service.
"On the one side, you have got the conservatives and, frankly I think, the government, who are saying there are public policy issues here, there is the matter of social order to think about.
"On the other hand you have people who want liberalisation, who want the law to reflect the reality of the situation, who are saying that not only there should be legal reform, but the government should stop cracking down on these people for these kinds of activity."
See the original article (April 8, 2010).
More on this case. It's reported to be the first time anyone in China has been charged with "criminal licentiousness" for more than 20 years.
Update May 20: Ma Yaohai, leader of the swing club, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison, remains defiant, and is appealing. He seems to be gaining support across China; see New York Times article.