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The China 2003 top 10 items of sex news
(China Today)
Updated: 2004-02-16 14:14

Sex has always been a taboo in China, With regard to this the China 2003 Top 10 Items of Sex News chart is a sociological breakthrough. A judging panel of 23 experts, 11 of them women, in the fields of sociology, social gender research, law, medicine, psychology, ethnology and literature selected 10 out of all 26 news items in slight shade of sex.

Visitors were ushered out of Beijing's sex exhibition just hours after it opened. [sina]
The intention was to analyze social and cultural significance of sex news, promote public awareness of sex issues and boost sex research.

Two items that made fourth place concerned votes on attempts to show the public how dominant a cultural role sex has played throughout history. One was the close down of Beijing's first sex culture exhibition on October 27, 2003, hours after the opening ceremony. On show were 700 fertility worship and sexuality exhibits, including sculpture and paintings of genitalia, models used for sex education in ancient China and explicit depictions of the sex act.

According to insiders, the exhibition was aborted due to pressure from higher-ups who feared it might have negative impact, yet few viewers found it in any way obscene or offensive.

China's first sexual culture museum, founded in 1995 by Liu Dalin, professor of sociology at Shanghai University and vice chairman of the Asia Sexology Association, suffered a similar fate. The museum had a prime location on a bustling commercial street in Shanghai, but the administrative authority prohibited use of the word "sex" above its door. Ticket revenues fell far short of expectations, and by 2003 Professor Liu was obliged to move his museum to Tongli Town in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

Rule of Law Crucial

Lei Man (first right), plaintiff in Beijing's first sexual harassment case, meets media at home. [sina]
There were five items involving the law that made up the chart's top 10. One occurred in July 2002, when a Miss He, teacher at a business school in Wuhan City, sued her colleague Mr. Sheng for sexual harassment. In October 2003 the Wuhan Central People's Court found the man guilty as charged, and ordered him to apologize to the plaintiff. The case, along with one other in Beijing that set a legal precedent, aroused national stirs.

Liu Bohong, member of the judging panel and vice president of the Women's Research Institute of the All China Women's Federation, explained, "There is no legislation in China regarding sexual harassment. As China progresses towards a law-dominant society, such trials are historically significant, regardless of the outcome, because they pose challenges to the judicature and test existing laws." These events indicate that China's opening up has extended beyond the economy, as its people are now unafraid to take issues concerning sex to be resolved in court.

An item regarding reportage on a couple arrested for watching a pornographic VCD in their bedroom in August 2002 was one of the chart's runners-up. The newlyweds Zhangs were forced to spend a night at police station, and two months later Mr Zhang was taken into custody for another 15 days on charge of interference with public funtion. On release he at once filed a lawsuit against the police. The court ordered the police staff at the station concerned to make a formal apology to the couple, and pay them compensation of 29,137 yuan. According to Wu Xiaofang, senior judge of the Supreme People's Court, the case sparked a debate on the definition of pornography, its scope of use and justification. Experts argue that Chinese law should make a clear distinction between the public and private domains. The public after-shock of this event lasted well into 2003.

The law is, however, less strict than it formerly was on certain sex issues, as illustrated by the topic at fifth place on the chart -- the new marriage regulations. These make marriage registration easier as couples are no longer required to obtain certification from the workplace, and the formerly compulsory pre-marriage physical examination is now optional. Gao Dewei, professor of Capital Normal University's comment is that this change is a clear sign of progress in China's civil rights and marital administration.

The eighth top news item concerns premarital sex -- another controversial issue in China. A man accused his daughter's college of infringing upon her rights as a citizen when it expelled her for falling pregnant after cohabiting with her boyfriend. His action triggered off debate among college students regarding their right to have sex as well as an education.

The tenth item made plain that societal changes call for greater specification in the law for cases of sex outside marriage. The news that went under the headline "Shengyang police break up ménage a trois" occurred at midnight on June 6, 2003 when the Shenyang police raided an hotel room where three people were engaging in group sex. The police were, however, confounded as to whether the trio concerned had the personal freedom to engage in such acts, or whether they should be charged with lewd behavior. The case has since been suspended.

The handling of a case like this would have been far different back in the early 1980s, when in one case of wife swapping, the person who masterminded a game involving four couples was sentenced to death. In 1983 the death penalty was also awarded a Beijing theater art designer for taking pictures of nude women. This would suggest that, compared to two decades ago, it is now the law, rather than social norms, that holds sway when defining what is and is not indecent behavior.

Setbacks and Progress

Students of Beijing No.2 Middle School at a class on HIV AIDS. [sina]
As the economy thrives and the legal system improves, Chinese citizens are becoming more tolerant. But feudal remnants are still apparent, most obviously in regard to women. Female status has risen dramatically since the founding of the People's Republic, but discrimination against women is nevertheless deep rooted and prevalent. Item number six cited the headline: "Sichuan Province proscribes female secretaries for male leaders." Panel member Liu Bohong commented: "This is the modern version of the old concept that women are a source of trouble and temptation. The ruling is based on the assumption that male leaders are bound to fall prey to the feminine wiles of their female aids. Such blatant gender discrimination is an insult to all women."

Yet on the whole progress is the main trend. In 2003, the controversy over sex education for children, ongoing for years, finally eased enough for one Chinese middle school to provide a sex education textbook, and for several works of fiction with sexual content to be included on the compulsory after-school reading list for middle school students. This item made the number seven slot.

The ninth item, "Chinese films to be rated" represents a notable achievement, as it helps adults distinguish between films suitable for family viewing and those containing images that might be disturbing to children. Renowned scholar Li Yinhe welcomes the rating system, saying it will give film producers greater scope.

The items at number three on the list were: "Japanese tour group's sex romp in Zhuhai" and "Japanese students give obscene performance in Xi'an." From September 16 to 18, 2003, on the anniversary of the 1931 Japanese invasion of China, a 300-member Japanese tour group held an orgy involving as many as 500 Chinese prostitutes in a luxury hotel located in the scenic coastal city of Zhuhai, Guangdong Province. This event caused public outrage, and the Chinese people were further scandalized in late October, when Japanese students at Northwest University in the historic city Xi'an staged an indecent public stage performance. Hundreds of angry Chinese students demonstrated in the street, and insisted on a formal apology.

The list has had at least one positive effect: after it was published the sexual culture exhibition in Beijing announced it would soon be re-opened. According to Ma Xiaonian, collector of the exhibits and chief member of the Sexual Medicine Commission of China Sexology Association, the site and theme of the exhibition will be unchanged, the only difference being that there will be more exhibition rooms.

The Top 10 Sex News Items encompasses positive and controversial phenomena. In any event, Chinese people are becoming more open minded towards sexual issues, in line with the steady expansion of their economy.

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