China / Society

Fair evidence of changing attitudes toward sex

By Ma Lie in Xi'an (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-09 07:29

As China develops socially and economically, the Chinese are becoming less likely to view sex as a taboo subject.

That tendency is evident at a sex cultural fair being held from June 6 to 10 in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province. Deng Jianfeng, project manager of the event, said the fair attracted more than 20,000 visitors on each of the first three days after the fair opened. About 70 percent of them were middle-aged and old people.

The event, named the Fourth Xi'an Reproductive Health and Sexual Culture Art Fair, is sponsored by the Xi'an Population and Family Planning Commission and managed by Deng's company, Xi'an Qujiang Exhibition Co.

About 30 people lined up in the hot sunshine in front of the fair's ticket office to buy admission to the event and obtain a free booklet titled Knowledge About Sex.

The fair presented a number of spectacles, including an exhibition of ancient sexual artifacts, an exhibition of sexual arts and painting, live body painting, a sexy lingerie show, an exhibition of ancient Chinese erotic pictures, seminars on sexual knowledge and an exhibition of nude photography.

Zhao Guiyao, 61, a resident of the city, visited the fair with his wife and said an increased willingness to consider sexual subjects is a sign of social development.

"Sex was a taboo subject when we were young, and now it can be openly discussed," Zhao said. "I think that's an example of social progress."

Zhao's wife, who is surnamed Liang, felt a bit embarrassed about visiting the fair. She said she and her husband, who are both retired, attended to gain a sense of society's progress.

"But I do not think some of the fair's contents really embodied progress, such as the sadomasochistic show and homosexuality," Zhao's 60-year-old wife said.

In contrast, a young man surnamed Qiao thought that sadomasochism and homosexuality are parts of sexual culture.

"I do not like homosexuality, but I do not think people who like it are wrong," said Qiao, a 25-year-old graduate student.

"This diversified sexual culture is also a sign of social progress," he said.

A middle-aged woman waiting for a bus in front of the fair's exhibition hall said she disliked the event, saying it was disgraceful to display things that belong in the bedroom.

Ni Guangtian, director of the Xi'an Population and Family Planning Commission, said the annual sexual cultural fair was meant to spread correct sexual attitudes and knowledge and promote the use of high-quality sexual products and sexual healthcare products.

"We held the fair to provide proper knowledge and products for people to have healthy and safe sex and hope that people, especially young women, have enough knowledge and methods to protect themselves when they engage in sexual activities," the director said. "We can see that many women have had to have abortions, which harmed their health."

Deng said that more than 2,000 square meters at the fair, or a fifth of the total display area there, were used to provide information about sex.

In recent years, several sexual fairs have been held in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming and Xi'an. Some said the events were meant to promote culture, while others said they were being used to disseminate pornography.

"We held the fair with the serious intent of spreading correct sexual knowledge and products, and, since its contents are likely to be objectionable to some, we required that visitors to the event be more than 18 years old," Deng said. "Those who are younger than 18 had to be accompanied by their parents."

Fang Haiyun, social expert with Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the fair was helping promote social development and make people happier.

"It is important to have good discussions about sexual culture, and such fairs open a door to help people understand sexual culture and civilization," Fang said. "But tawdry methods, such as publicity stunts, should be avoided in order to prevent the fair from becoming a place where pornography is disseminated."

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