More openness in Chinese sexuality

Editor's note:

China has a long, luxuriant yet checkered history in terms of sex culture, which culminated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) as sexual bliss was widely promoted through hierarchies, according to historical data. The turning point came in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) when the Chen-Zhu Neo-Confucianism that advocated "upholding justice, suppressing human desire" became prominent.

It was not until the end of the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976) that China's sex liberation started to kick off and quickly sweep across the whole country. Although sex remains an taboo topic on many occasions, especially in public, Chinese people definitely harbor a much more open attitude towards it, along with the launch of reform and opening-up  in 1978. The 250,000 visitors to a  sex fair in Guangzhou in October is the latest evidence reinforcing the point. 

This special approaches China's sex liberation from different perpsectives.

More openness in Chinese sexuality

Attitude towards sex is changing 

More openness in Chinese sexuality

"A seesaw battle is ongoing now between old and new generations in China," said Li Yinhe, the country's first female sociologist researching sex. "In the East, people think sex is a desire inside the soul and body no matter if it is a homosexual or heterosexual desire, it has nothing to do with right or wrong in Chinese culture."

Since the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Chinese people's views on sex experienced a revolutionary change.

"Boys and girls being intimate used to be frowned upon in the 1960s and 70s, and was even classed as hooliganism," said Xue Fulin, deputy chairman of the China Sexology Association. "Now, you see couples kissing on every college campus."

Milestones of sex liberation in modern China


In May, Popular Cinema published a poster of The Slipper and the Rose featuring a kiss between the main actor and actress, on its back cover, triggering a national debate on its legitimacy.


China issued the amended Marriage Law in 1980, in which people are entitled to end their marriage by divorce of their own volition.


The Handbook of Sex Knowledge was published in 1985 and 500,000 first-edition copies were sold.


The Shanghai Sex Education Research Society was established in 1986 and a magazine Sex Education was first published in 1988.


Renmin University, one of China's top universities, organized a sexology class.

In the same year, more than 20 teachers of the China Central Academy of Fine Art held an exhibition of oil paintings themed on body art in Beijing, the first one of such exhibitions in China's history.


In 1989, the first radio program themed on sex knowledge and sexual ethics education was broadcasted by Tianjin Radio.


China's authority amended its regulation requiring universities or colleges to offer elective curriculums or lectures about sexual health.

More openness in Chinese sexuality
Popular Cinema published a poster of The Slipper and the Rose featuring a kiss between the main actor and actress, on its back cover, triggering a national debate on its legitimacy.



The China Sexology Association was formally established in 1994 after being approved by the Ministry of Health. Sex shops started to spread in Chinese cities.


Some bars for homosexuals first appeared in some Chinese cities


The Ministry of Public Security made a comment in 2000 legalizing transsexual operations claiming that it is a citizen's personal right to change their gender.


For the first time, China Central Television broadcast an advertisement calling on people to use condoms.

The First China's (Guangzhou) Sex Culture Festival was held in Guangzhou city. The festival has since become an annual event.


The flash marriage - describing a marriage between partners who wed after knowing one another for a short period of time - started to prevail among Chinese young people.


Chi Sufeng, a delegate of the National People's Congress, proposed the legalization of prostitution in order to provide health checks for sex workers to prevent the diffusion of AIDS or other sex-related diseases.


China's first government-funded gay bar finally opened in Dali, Yunnan province in December.

Professor jailed for organizing group sex parties

More openness in Chinese sexuality
Ma Yaohai, a college professor in Nanjing of Jiangsu province who was jailed for organizing sex parties, holds a placard reading "it is not guilty of swinging (exchanging sex partner)" to defend his behaviors on April 4, 2010.

Ma Yaohai and 21 other people were the first group in 20 years to be convicted of group licentiousness, which some sociologists believe to be a moral and private issue.[

Present phenomenons

Porn star and peace advocate big

Premarital sex is common 

Sensational sex fairs

More openness in Chinese sexuality

Japanese porn actress Sola Aoi opened an interesting window to young Chinese people's views on sex.

When Aoi first registered her Sina Weibo micro blog in Nov 2010 she attracted 224,144 followers in the first 24 hours.

And after posting messages calling for peace over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, Aoi now has more than 13 million followers on her micro blog.

In a survey in March, 2012, 71.4 percent of respondents said they had sex before getting married, 43.1 percent said they approved of premarital sex, and only 24.6 percent voiced disapproval. The findings stand in stark contrast with a 1989 survey in which only 15 percent of respondents said they had premarital sex.

The survey pointed to a disparity between the thinking of men and women, with 33.5 percent of the female respondents disapproving of premarital sex, compared with only 17.8 percent of males.

The survey was simultaneously conducted on, a leading micro blog site. There, 19,578 people took part, 79.4 percent of whom identified themselves as male.

More openness in Chinese sexuality
Sex-themed festivals are no longer rare in China. Besides big cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai, some relatively conservative inland urban centers like Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province and Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi province have also held such events.
A sex cultural fair held from June 6 to 10 in Xi'an attracted more than 20,000 visitors on each of the first three days after the fair opened. [more]

Booming sex poduct market  

A kiss of life for sex toysMore openness in Chinese sexuality

The first adult product shop in the Chinese mainland was opened in 1993. In the past two decades, China's sex product industry took off so fast that experts estimate that 200,000 stores have been competing for annual sales of at least 100 billion yuan ($14.7 billion) in the past few years. And China has become the world’s largest sex product market, accounting for about 70 percent of the global share.

The sex toy industry alone, with more than 1,000 manufacturers, is worth about $2 billion a year. Search "sex product" on, China's biggest e-commerce marketplace, and it will come out with nearly 20,000 sellers.

More openness in Chinese sexualityYoung Chinese pursue better sex lives

"It is a lucrative business, with the top five online shops in China reaping 1.2 million to 1.5 million yuan each month in retail sales," said Sun.

The domestic industry has become more competitive since 2007 due to an increasing number of market players and a rising demand for high-quality products, he said.

Nation becomes world's biggest sex-toy producer

The next time you walk into a sex shop in the United States, take a look at the wide range of toys and products on the shelves. Aside from the pornographic material, chances are that most of the vibrators, dildos and lingerie carry the "made in China" label.


 Sex education needed

China has lagged behind in sex education due to a variety of reasons. Authorities started feeling for a way for its promotion since 1990s.

Teenagers lacking safe sex knowledge

About 32 percent of junior middle school students surveyed said nobody had told them why their bodies were changing and the parents of 74 percent of senior middle school students had not spoken to them about sexual knowledge.

More openness in Chinese sexuality

Parents worried about porn content in education book

The direct description of sexual intercourse in China's first sex education textbook for primary school students in Beijing has triggered a wave of parental concern.

"To let sperm find the ovum as soon as possible, dad inserts his penis into mom's vagina at full tilt and the sperm enters mom's vagina."

Sex education needs to be improved

We cannot bury our heads in the sand anymore. It's time we provided better sex education to both pre-teens and teenagers in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

About one-third of Hong Kong's troubled teenagers aged between 10 and 15 believe that sex and dating come in a package, according to a survey in August 2012 conducted by the Federation of Youth Groups. One-fifth of respondents admitted they had sexual experiences.

More openness in Chinese sexuality

Education being offered cautiously

More openness in Chinese sexuality
Chengdu University, a center for promoting sexual health among adolescents, recently organized a sex education exhibition at Guangrong Primary School in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.

Making sex as easy as ABC

"Sex is like food. It functions at the very root of human society," said Zhang Feng, a soldier-turned government official, citing his decades-long experience in family planning.

The book writen by Zhang, The ABCs of Sexual Relationships, delved into sex, a taboo subject in China. It took Zhang more than eight months to convince his wife the book was part of his duty as director of the Guangdong Provincial Commission of Population and Family Planning.

City sex education text targets families

The publisher of the Shanghai's first sex education textbook for primary schools, the release of which last year was a source of controversy, has put out a new edition tailored for family use.

Sex education book introduced in Shanghai

A teacher teaches students in a sex education class called "Traffic Lights for Our Bodies," at a primary school affiliated with the Shanghai University of Science and Technology, Oct 24, 2011.

More openness in Chinese sexuality


Sex workers 


Speaking up for those who inhabit a world of shadows

More openness in Chinese sexuality

"It's easy to be a moralist and ask 'Why don't they choose a decent, safe job?' but the reality is much more complicated," said Ye. "Those who haven't gone through what these sisters have experienced really have no right to judge or offer opinions."

"The reality is that a lot of migrant workers need this service. If the anti-pornography campaign makes it difficult for them to find such places, it will increase the likelihood that they will harass other women and force them to have sex," said Chi, who proposed the legalization of prostitution during the NPC session in March, 2012.

Gays are normal people

In July, 2011, Actress Lu Liping posted anti-homosexual views on her micro-blog, arousing criticism from the media and netizens. So I was glad to see a program on China Central Television that represented the mainstream view in China and called for tolerance for homosexuals. Greater acceptance of homosexuality in China will lead to greater social harmony.

China lifts ban on inmate homosexuality

China has made strides in protecting the human rights of prison inmates in recent years, including scrapping a conduct policy that discriminated against homosexual inmates, according to a judicial official in charge of penal human rights studies.

Beijing's first gay marriage

Da Wen and Xiao Qiang (not their real names) held a "comparatively open" wedding ceremony with fifty-about friends attendance in Beijing on Januaray 22, 2011.

More openness in Chinese sexuality

Knowledge of sex varies for different generations

Chen Fenglan, 50, teacher

"I met my husband on a blind date. We got engaged to each other before we started to date. He lived in the country and I was a teacher in town. Once every week he came to town to meet me and taught me how to ride a bicycle. I thought that was because he had a chance to put his arms around my waist. "


Li Yi, 38, civil servant

"It is a deep-rooted notion that the pair must not 'cross the line' before marriage. My mother tells me that in her generation, the boys and girls in love addressed each other 'comrades', and it was a shame to hold hands and date in public.  "

Zhou Weiwei, 27, foreign trade company staff

"It was pretty common to date openly for in my day. But lovers were still a little bit shy of kissing and hand-holding. When I saw how the grown-ups looked at each other, I used to believe that a girl will get pregnant once kissed by a boy."

Tan Jie, 19, college student

"My peers learn a lot about sex-relations on the Internet. It is undeniable that my generation is much more open about sexuality. But sex also leads to many social phenomena such as shacking-up, one-night stands, love out-of-wedlock and so on."