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Sex, lies and surveys: Point is, is there a point?
By Zhou Liming (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-15 06:04

Media obsession with female students' chastity, or the lack of it, has moved up a notch with a student paper at a top Beijing university refuting a report on the high rate of sexual activity.

The survey was conducted in response to an online claim that only a small minority of female students at Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beiwai) were inexperienced in sex.

"I feel this is unfair. Female students as a group have been the target of a demonization campaign," said He Min, a junior of the school majoring in journalism, who spoke on the condition that her real name not be revealed.

Chinese media, especially the tabloids, seem to be fixated on the private lives of female college students.

There are numerous reports of college girls moonlighting in houses of ill repute, with some putting their number very high.

A posting titled "The night life of a Beiwai girl," which has been making the rounds on the Internet, claims to be a first-person account of a "san pei" (escort) girl in the city's Sanlitun bar district.

Also, an online survey, purportedly conducted by the Beijing Film Academy's "Single Men Society," concluded that, by the time they graduate, only 15.86 per cent of female students at Beiwai are virgins.

The poll was conducted by a dozen people through "social networking and online data gathering" and "does not guarantee its accuracy," said the report.

He Min, the Beiwai student who was riled by it, defended their "good name" with their own poll, which was done on campus.

The result, published in "107 Investigation," a student newspaper, said that only 11.5 per cent of female students engaged in sex during their college years.

"This is a resounding rebuttal of the online figure," said He.

Discussions on Internet forums show that most Chinese are troubled by a sense of sliding morals, which they attribute to a growing materialistic craving. The loss of virginity at a young age is often seen as a manifestation.

Some experts have different views.

"The Beiwai students were trying to protect their values," said Ai Xiaoming, a feminist scholar. "But it played right into the traditional virginity obsession."

As Professor Ai argued, the whole fracas is pointless except that it has highlighted how ironclad thousands-of-years-old concepts of a male-dominated society are and how they still grip public imagination.

"What does it matter whether a student is a virgin or not? As long as it's a voluntary act, I don't see any problem with it," she told China Daily.

"The fixation on a woman's chastity is more important to men than to women."

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