Connect with us

China Sex & Gender

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.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

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 editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Media

Online Outrage over Gansu Female Medical Workers Required to Shave Their Heads

Heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of visual propaganda? A video showing female medical workers having their heads shaved has triggered controversy.

Avatar

Published

on

First published

A Chinese media post praising female nurses for having their heads shaved has sparked outrage on Weibo and WeChat. Are these women heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of gendered visual propaganda?

A video showing tearful female medical workers having their head shaved before going to COVID-19 epicenter city Wuhan has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The video, originally posted by Gansu Daily (每日甘肃网) on February 15, shows how a group of female nurses is standing in line to have their hair shaved off in preparation of their mission to Hubei to assist during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In the short segment that has since gone viral on Weibo and WeChat, some women can be seen crying while having all of their hair shaved off.

According to Gansu Daily and other Chinese media, the fifteen nurses, including one man, are part of a medical aid group that was sent out to Wuhan this weekend. Their hair was reportedly shaved off “in accordance with requirements” to make their work more efficient and reduce the risk of infection.

The original news post praises the women as “the epidemic’s heroes in harm’s way” (“疫情中最美的逆行者”) – a term also used to describe brave firefighters during the 2015 Tianjin explosions (for more background on this term in Chinese, also see Xinhua and Zhihu).

Although the story praises the female medical workers as heroes and was soon reposted and promoted by many other (state) media, it was not just met with positive reactions from Chinese netizens.

On the contrary: it triggered waves of criticism over the medical team’s supervisors requiring the women to shave off their hair, with many deeming the measures unnecessary, humiliating, and sexist.

“Why do they need to shave all of their hair, the men don’t even need to do that?!”, some Weibo commenters wonder.

Many Weibo users wonder how necessary it actually is for the women to go completely bold for medical work purposes, wondering why the male workers do not need to shave their heads and why the women could not just opt for a shorter hairstyle instead – suggesting the media circus surrounding the shaving of the heads is more about visual propaganda than actually being a necessity.

“I am a medical worker myself,” one Weibo user writes: “I consulted an infection control doctor [on this matter] and they said it is not necessary at all to have a bald head. Short hair is convenient enough, and hair has a protective function too to reduce [skin] irritation from the friction of wearing hats and masks. It furthermore also has a function of catching sweat, preventing it from dripping to your eyes. A shaven head does more harm than good.”

“Why do people need to bleed and cry in order for them to become heroes?”, others say: “This is just cruel.”

Adding to the online fury was a photo showing the group of medical workers after their heads were shaved, as the one male nurse in the group not only seemed to wear a better quality face mask, but also appeared to have much more hair left than the female nurses.

The original Gansu Daily post has since been deleted from social media.

On WeChat account Epoch Story (“epochstory2017″/Epoch故事小馆), author Chen Mashu (陈麻薯) posted a critique on February 17th titled “Please Stop Using Female Bodies as Propaganda Tools” (“请停止用女性的身体,作为宣传的工具“).

Recent online Chinese visual propaganda in times of the coronavirus crisis has seen a strong focus on Wuhan medical workers.

This kind of visual propaganda often highlights the idea of “sacrificing,” especially when it comes to women as pretty girls, loving mothers, or good wives.

In the WeChat article, author Chen argues that Chinese state media always uses women’s bodies as a tool for propaganda, and argues that it should not be necessary for women to endure extra hardship or suffering (in this case, sacrifice their hair) in order to make them admirable ‘model workers.’ The fact that they are fighting on the front line should be more than enough reason to praise them, Chen writes.

While these women’s tears were “used to try to impress the audience” and become an example of some “collectivist spirit,” Chen argues, this kind of propaganda backfired because the individual needs and wishes of these women were completely ignored during the process.

Although the original story and visuals may have meant to be empowering in times of coronacrisis, they are actually counterproductive to female empowerment at large.

This is not the first time the role of women in Chinese state media propaganda become a big topic of discussion online.

In 2016, a photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls” (十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web during the Wuhan flood also caused controversy. In the online media campaign, Chinese state media paid a ‘tribute’ to rescue workers by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

At time of writing, various posts about the shaved heads of the Gansu medical workers have been taken offline.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan) and Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr), with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China Sex & Gender

Girls’ Charity Project Funds Boys Instead: Online Anger over ‘Spring Buds Program’

The ‘Spring Buds’ charity supposedly only focused on helping girls, but it turns out this is not the case.

Avatar

Published

on

First published

A charity fund that was supposedly dedicated to girls’ education in rural China has been found to fund the education of boys, triggering anger online.

The Chinese charity “Spring Buds Program” (春蕾计划), a project meant to advance girls’ education launched by the CCTF (China Children and Teenagers’ Fund 中国儿童少年基金) has come under fire for providing financial aid to schoolboys in China.

The “Spring Buds” project, which falls under the All-China Women’s Federation, has received the China Charity Award in the past for its efforts to promote girls’ education. The program was launched in 1989 to help girls in China’s impoverished rural areas to go to school, improve literacy rates among China’s young girls and women, and empower girls to strengthen their influence in their local communities.

This week, the charity’s focus has come under scrutiny after it became known that of the 1267 students receiving financial aid as part of one of ‘Spring Buds’ scholarship programs, there were 453 male students.

The topic triggered wider online discussions on Chinese social media on gender inequality in China.

Some commenters argued that boys, even in impoverished areas, are generally still better off than girls due to a persisting gender preference for boy children.

Weibo users also pointed out how there are multiple non-gender specific charity programs in China, and that ‘Spring Buds’ is one of the few focused on girls only – arguing that it should thus also really be assisting solely girls.

As the news about ‘Spring Buds’ coincided with this week’s launch of the Global Gender Gap Index report, some Weibo users also wondered why Chinese official media would quote this report and mention Japan’s worsening gender equality, while not mentioning anything about the status quo of gender equality in China.

The CCTF responded to the controversy via their official Weibo account on December 17th, stating that although its program was initially focused solely on girls, this year’s project funding was also allocated to impoverished male students who needed “urgent help.”

The organization further noted that they will be more transparent to charity donors in the future about how their funds are allocated.

Although the hashtag “Anger over Spring Bud Project Subsidizing School Boys” (#春蕾计划资助男生引质疑#) was used on social media by several Chinese media outlets to report the issue, the hashtag page is no longer accessible on Weibo at time of writing.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

Featured image photo by Ray Chan.

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.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

Popular Reads