Two nights ago, Canada’s CBC aired a documentary titled China’s Sexual Revolution. It was shot in Shanghai and Beijing using hidden cameras and interviews with academics and pop culture figures.
While we haven’t yet seen the thing, it apparently cobbles together AIDS, bar culture, and the manufacture of sex toys to look at how China is “a country that’s quickly becoming X-rated.” In the trailer, the camera pans a Shanghai disco as the narrator solemnly intones, “A kiss means more than just a kiss here. It’s a symbol of sex before marriage, more sex during marriage, and just more sex. Period.”
Check out the promo on the CBC site:
You’ve heard about China’s Cultural Revolution and its sizzling Economic Revolution. But you haven’t heard about its other great social upheaval — the Chinese Sexual Revolution — and like everything in that country it’s happening at warp speed.
It’s China’s version of the 60s revolution — on steroids.
CHINA’S SEXUAL REVOLUTION is the world’s first glimpse — often using secret cameras — into this forbidden new China. It’s a surprising portrait of the Chinese today: the new free love generation that’s left their parents in shock; the booming sex industry that’s creating an HIV crisis; the new generation of career women and feminists that suddenly wants it all — while millions of men feel left out.
This long untold story goes back to the days of Chairman Mao, who made sexuality a great taboo. He ordered everyone to wear unisexual Mao suits, and forbid women from wearing sexy clothing, getting stylish haircuts, or even wearing make-up. Men and women were expected to be comrades — not lovers — though Mao himself enjoyed an emperor’s sex life, seeking virgins to retain his “youth”.
China’s sexual libido was bottled up for 50 years, but now it’s bursting loose, with dramatic effects on marriage, personal freedom and the government itself.
During the film we meet:
– MADAME CHEN, who runs one of 5000 sex shops that have sprung up in Beijing alone in the last decade — that’s more than New York City.
– MUZEMEI, a gutsy woman blogger who became a household name and hero when she broke the “sexual sound barrier” by recording her own love moans — on the internet.
– XIAO FENG, a real-life Chinese version of Carrie Bradshaw, TV’s Sex and the City heroine. She’s the editor of FHM, China’s hottest magazine — and she’s part of a new feminist revolt that’s trading in husbands for careers.
– RU RUMEIN, grandmotherly host of “Whispers” a popular late night sex talk show that’s finally giving the masses their sexual classes.
– JIANYING ZHA and other authors and intellectuals, who give us an intimate personal glimpse into the Chinese today.
We also visit steamy Shanghai discos, where rich playboys have exchanged Mao’s little red book for little black ones — and Beijing hip-hop bars filled with China’s new Generation Sex.
We see how China’s one-child policy has resulted in tens of millions more men than women. Many of those men will never find a wife or have a family – so prostitution now flourishes. Using hidden cameras, we spy on the new karaoke brothels that are more reminiscent of Thailand than China. They’re creating a rising sexual epidemic that’s forcing the Chinese government to loosen up.
Finally, we visit SEXPO, a massive new sex fair where peasants meet 21st Century sexual paraphernalia. And we learn about the tens of millions of Chinese tired of sexual repression and suddenly finding the joys of sexual expression.
Will the Sexual Revolution succeed where the Tiananmen one failed?
We’re all for coverage of China’s sexual revolution. We’ve written about it ourselves. We can even tolerate a few Mao references now and then. But we do believe in aspiring to truth in reporting. Our concerns:
- It’s generally a good idea to get the names of your sources right, or, barring that, to spell them in a way that looks like they could be actual Chinese names. “Ru Rumein” might be a little tricky (actually we don’t know who that is, does anyone?), but it should be especially easy with darlings of the foreign press like Muzimei.
- While we appreciate what third-wave feminism has done for lipstick and miniskirts, if you’re going to find a poster girl for “a new feminist revolt that’s trading in husbands for careers,” it might be a good idea to look beyond the masthead of FHM.
- From the accompanying “fact sheet,” we learn that only 20% of Chinese men know where to find the clitoris and only 50% of Chinese women have ever had an orgasm. We wonder whether these women have been tripling up with the 20% of men who know how to handle them — or whether most of them have just been faking it.
- “Will the Sexual Revolution succeed where the Tiananmen one failed?” Last time we checked, girls and bling did not add up to political freedom.