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Sex and the City – Women’s Sex in China (Liveblog)

Gender and sexuality specialist Dr. Pei about her book ‘Sex and the City’, a book for which she interviewed dozens of Chinese women about their sexuality. Pei explains her research, including masturbation and cyber sex.

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Event: Lecture by Dr. Yuxin Pei on Masturbation/Sex in China
Date: May 21, 2015
Place: Leiden University, the Netherlands

Gender and sexuality specialist Yuxin Pei (裴谕新) talks about her book ‘Sex and the City: A Study of Shanghai Young Women born in the 1970s’, a book for which she interviewed dozens of women about their sexuality. Pei explains her research, including masturbation and cyber sex.

 

“In China, we don’t have sexual rights”

 

Today Yuxin Pei will talk about how to articulate women’s sex in China. “We don’t talk about sexual rights in China,” Dr. Pei says: “We don’t have them.” Pei explains how sex in China is considered part of a healthy lifestyle, together with sleeping and eating. When talking about sex, people therefore often refer to it as “sexual health” or “sexual needs”. Sex, especially for men, is seen as a natural part of life. Many women, however, say they do not need sex. Their excuse is that they are still a virgin, or that they are single, and that sex is therefore not a part of their lives. In Chinese traditional thought, still hugely influencing modern-day society, there are many misconceptions about women and sex. Women are not supposed to have sex when they are pregnant, for example, or when they are raising young kids and are tired. For couples who have been married for a long time, sex becomes taboo.

 

“One drop of semen equals ten drops of blood”

 

Masturbation is one of Pei’s research subject – a topic many Chinese people do not know much about. Pei therefore set up a “Masturbation Research Group” on Sina Weibo to get a discussion going on how people think about masturbation. “People asked me if it was an April Fools joke,” Pei says: “But it was very serious.” Pei wanted to research how people in China talk about masturbation. The video that was made for this, where people were asked if they had ever masturbated, received over 10 million views on Youku. Pei’s Weibo group now has over 30.000 followers, and due to the great interest in the subject, Pei organizes a monthly workshop on masturbation, where people from the age of 18 to 68 talk about sex.

Dr. Pei discovered many deeply ingrained misconceptions on masturbation. “Only men can do it”, “too much masturbation will give you small penis”, “one drop of semen equals ten drops of blood”, “I might not have normal sex again after masturbating”, or “women who masturbate are no good” – just a few examples of existing ideas on masturbation.

“Talking about masturbation opens the door to so many other topics,” Pei says: “Research on masturbation led us to conceptions about femininity, masculinity, gender, body image and even self-development.”

 

“What’s normal for men, is ‘dirty’ for women”

 

Masturbation was not Pei’s original focus of study. Pei Yuxin did her PhD at the University of Hong Kong over ten years ago, using Shanghai as her research field. “I talked to dozens of women from the 1970s about their sex lives,” she says: “and masturbation already came up during the second interview I did.” Pei was fascinated with the topic, as it brought up so many other issues concerning women and sex: while many sexual acts, including masturbation, are considered ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ for men, they are considered ‘dirty’ for women. Oral sex is another example, Pei says, as women will give it to men, but will not accept it.

“Women really liked to talk about their experiences to me”, Pei says. She discovered that many women had experienced ‘cyber sex’ [having sex through camera online], as they felt ‘clean’ doing it – since they did not consider it “real sex”.

 

“Sexuality is empowering”

 

Pei Yuxin sees sex as female empowerment. Power and sex are intertwined in multiple ways, according to Pei.

In one chapter of her book she pays attention to the topic of women having affairs with foreign men, especially Western ones. “It’s not about the green card,” Pei says: “It’s cultural capital.” Many women told Dr. Pei that having a Western boyfriend is like having a private English teacher. It is a status symbol and improves their ability to compete on the Shanghai job market.

“Some women speak of their boyfriends as if they are picking restaurants,” Pei says: “Right now, it is said that a good boyfriend should have a car, a house and a dog.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a group of female writers called “the Beauty Writers” (美女作家) became popular in China, one of them being Wei Hui, who wrote “Shanghai Baby”. These writers, who were young and beautiful, openly wrote about sex and relationships. Writing about their sexuality made them influential – the first powerful generation that put sexuality in Chinese literature. “What they did with their books then, is done online now,” Pei says: “Like famous blogger Muzi Mei (木子美), who published her sexual diary online.” The internet has made it possible for people to discuss sexual experiences and sexuality from behind their computer screens.

There is a long way to go for sexual rights in China: “There’s no act on marital rape or sexual harassment yet,” Pei says. The empowerment of women is one of the motors driving Pei’s research. Creating awareness on sexual issues and understanding the relation between sexuality and self-development will further the sexual liberation of Chinese women.

(This liveblog is now closed.)

Blogged by: Manya Koetse 

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. benny ferdy malonda

    June 30, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Hi, Dr Pei,
    Firstly greet from me. I wonna know whether you are a mediacal anthropologist and medical doctor.
    Actually i am interested in your paper above, thtat related to health and mediacal science, however because
    you write about habit and culture related to health, that is an mediacal anthropology theory. But, of course
    you write an interesting paper as research result

    Best regards, benny

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China Memes & Viral

Prohibited to Promote Top Students, Chinese Schools Are Praising their Excellent ‘Fruit’ Instead

Who knew Chinese schools were so good at harvesting fruit?

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It is that time of the year again: China’s gaokao results are in. Chinese schools that are proud of their top-scoring students would like to scream it from the rooftops, but they are banned from doing so. So they are now posting about their very successful fruit production instead.

This week, the scores came out for China’s gaokao (高考), the National Higher Education Entrance Examinations that took place earlier this months.

The exams are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are taken by students in their last year of senior high school. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation.

Those who succeed in becoming top scorers in their field and area are known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’). Gaokao champions are usually widely praised, not just by families and friends, but also by their hometowns and schools for which the top-scoring students are their pride and unique selling point.

But since 2018, as explained in this article, it is prohibited for Chinese media and schools to give publicity to gaokao top scorers. The Chinese Ministry of Education banned the promotion of top achievers in line with Xi Jinping Thought, emphasizing the value of equality and sociability instead.

This year, local authorities again reiterated the message that in order to set the right example and “establish the correct orientation of education,” the hyping up of school exam results and publishing top score rankings are strictly prohibited.

Because of the Ministry of Education guidelines, schools can not openly flaunt the successes of their top scorers, but some have found creative ways to do so anyway.

“Of a batch of 1320 ripe mango’s, there are over hundred weighing more than 600 grams,” one school in Guangxi’s Nanning wrote. The ‘weight’ refers to the score, with 600 being a very high score (the maximum score is usually 750, depending on the field and area). “”[We] picked a mango weighing as much as 696 grams, the king of Qinzhou fruit. Two fruit dealers in the capital have already heard of it and are eager to take it.”

Besides mango’s, there were also other schools mentioning their successful production of ‘plums or peaches.’

One blog by Jiangchacha (姜茶茶) listed various examples of schools boasting about their ‘fruit harvest’ in social media posts.

The blog explained that some schools in Guangxi used the mango metaphor because Guangxi has some of the country’s largest mango-producing regions. Meanwhile, the word for ‘peaches and plums’ in Chinese (桃李) also refers to one’s pupils or disciples.

Another school’s post said: “It is harvest season (..), and the campus is fragrant with peaches and plums, and fruitful results!”, adding that “a total of 2400 high quality peaches and plums have been harvested, and over 93% are of high quality!”

There was also one school that mentioned other schools were below them in scores, writing that its “excellence rate” was “clearly ahead of the three other big gardens on the east coast.”

“Our king peach weighs no less than 689 grams,” another school announced. There were also schools that did not discuss fruit but were making references to fish, trees, and high-speed trains instead.

The issue of schools reporting their ‘harvest’ became a trending topic on Weibo, where some found it very funny. But others also voiced criticism that schools cannot publish about some of their students being gāokǎo zhuàngyuán, top scorers.

“There is nothing to hide, the exam scores are the result of hard work by both the teachers and students,” one popular comment said, with others replying: “Why wouldn’t you announce the scores? It might inspire other students!”

“This entire guideline is just nonsense,” another typical comment said.

Meanwhile, some netizens suggested that Sichuan schools could use pandas as a metaphor for their top scorers, while Chongqing could use chili peppers next year, with others suggesting other types of fruit that could be used in these ‘covered-up’ gaokao score publications. It’s bound to be another fruitful year in 2023.

Want to read more about gaokao? Check out more related articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Photo by Bangyu Wang on Unsplash

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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