Sex and Conservatives in China (2) [NSFW]

Written by Julen Madariaga on March 13th, 2010

SP32-20100312-192923Disclaimer: In the interest of science, this post contains sexually explicit material. If you are underage and/or a sensitive person you are advised not to scroll down. If you don’t read Chinese it’s OK.

This is the continuation of the previous post in the series, where we ended up rambling off the main topic and into a thick soup of political terms. Today I am back to impose some discipline. The article was meant to be about sex, and sex we will do. Just stick around for a few paragraphs of theory, or scroll right down to the examples if you prefer.

The question we considered last time was: why communist regimes, most of which have abolished religion at some point, are in fact among the most puritan countries regarding porn? Which can be otherwise formulated: why are Chinese commies so prudish? With the ever growing impulse of the porn censoring machine, this may well become one of the fundamental questions to understand modern China.

My take on the question

One obvious answer is that prudishness is not strictly related to religion, but rather to the character of a society and its leaders. You only need to see the thousands of starched black-suited cadres participating in the NPC, looking exactly like their CCP ancestors preserved in formol, to realize that the leadership of the party is overwhelmingly conservative. And it is perfectly normal that they should be conservative, since the main objective of the CCP today is harmony and maintaining the status quo.

But this short answer is not completely satisfying at least in two ways. First, the Chinese communists were already prudish long before 1949, according to first hand accounts of their life in Shaanxi. Besides, conservative people as described above are focused on following the path of their predecessors, they wouldn’t have such a problem with porn if it hadn’t been condemned by the party founders in the first place.

A better answer to my question is that, contrary to some common believe probably spread by Cold War propagandists in the West, communist was never about having sex in common. Instead, it is a very boring economic theory written by a German philosopher, more concerned with the proletariat and the means of production than with naked calisthenics.

When it came to its practical application, most communist countries soon realized that the theory required extreme levels of pressure and discipline on the “proletariat” to ensure it behaved according to plan. Sexual freedom and lewd behaviours have never fitted well with discipline, as Mao himself knew very well. Not only they divert energy from the revolution, but they also promote individualism and conflict among men. In fact, one might argue that a market phenomenon like porn will always be more comfortable with Smith’s Invisible Hand, wherever this hand might have used to wander in its free time.

In China in particular, the case for suppression of lewd behaviours was even stronger than in other communist regimes. This is because the old society that communists were set to destroy was characterized precisely by the exploitation of women by men, and of all by aristocrats and capitalists. From feet-binding to concubines, an important part of the injustice in pre-revolutionary China was directly caused by the lust of the powerful, as illustrated in works like Pearl Buck’s classic  ”The Good Earth“.

Maoism emphasized the “purity” of thought and criminalized those behaviours that were inevitably tied to the old society, both for practical discipline reasons and as a matter of necessary consistency with his rhetoric of liberation from the feudal society, especially in the early days. Some interesting anecdotes of Mao’s initial crackdown on prostitution after taking Beijing are told in the excellent “Peking Story” by David Kidd.

This legacy of communist policies has still a deep influence on the conservative minded cadres that rule the party today, and it will probably take a few more generations of leaders before the party changes its views on porn and “unhealthy” content in China.

Conclusion and some examples of Chinese Porn

One of the main reasons I needed to write this post is that the crackdown on porn doesn’t make much sense from a pure “follow the money” perspective. Porn, just like prostitution, is a huge parallel market, and like all shady businesses everywhere it is a great source of revenue for the powerful who protect it. The links between prostitution and the army are well known in China, and there should be strong economic motivations to establish similar links with online sex providers. I hope this post explains why this is not happening.

As I already clarified in part 1 of this series, I don’t really give a damn for the companies that run pornographic sites, and I am just as happy if they all get banned in China. I think Western netizens waste way too much effort in such basic pursuits as could be fulfilled better offline, to the point that porn has become the first commodity on the internet. For a self-confessed internetholic like me, it has always been a source of embarrassment when offline people link both concepts together.

Regarding the consequences of these restrictions on porn in China, some commentators suggest they lead to frustration and an increased obsession with erotic content on the internet. While this obsession is certainly there, I don’t see it is any worse than in the West. In fact, in many ways it seems healthier, judging by the email forwards I regularly get from my (male) colleagues. The pictures that are popular  in China often show a cute girl, fully or at least half dressed, smiling for the camera. In contrast, the ppts I receive from the West rarely involve just a girl, or even a human being. They tend to cover a range of sick scenarios that you surely do not want to explore clicking here.

But enough with the theory. Have you ever seen porn done with Real Characters?

Here I leave you with the most amazing examples of Chinese porn that have still not been banned from the internet!

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Young lady performs blog job on fat headed man

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A well endowed guy doing missionary in China

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Close up of the action in figure 1…. gross!

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And finally, to illustrate the social problems caused by the use of lewd content and the dissolute behaviours that necessarily follow, here is the little story of Mr. Ren. For those who don’t understand classical Chinese, the story tells how the man goes out with his young lover, while his wife is waiting at home wondering why he is so late:

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Mr. Ren out with his lover.

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And in the following chapter, we see the beneficial action of Chinese officials devotedly working for the revolution, selflessly monopolizing all the available lovers to ensure that married men return to their families, thereby preserving social harmony.

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Mr. Ren happily reunited with his family again

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I hope my little character stories will not hurt the feelings of the Chinese people too much. Now please scroll back up again and read the main part of the post. What do you think of the explanation? Alternative theories?

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Comments so far ↓

  1. Mar
    13
    2:14
    PM
    Julen Madariaga

    And yes, I know I spend way too much time playing with the Chinese fonts on my computer. I bet this is a good way to retain characters.

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Mar
    19
    12:27
    PM
    Wukailong

    Your analysis is actually quite close to what George Orwell provided in 1984: the party needed to restrict pleasure in order to create the disciplined and tense people they wanted. I know from experience that this attitude still resonates with people aged 50 or older.

    I read an account of an eyewitness to Pinochet’s coup back in the 70′s, and he said that one of the things he noticed were soldiers walking around the streets ensuring that men had short hair and women wore skirts instead of trousers. When the military (or their successors) are ruling the country, it’s going to be more strict.

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Apr
    9
    12:48
    PM
    Robert Woo

    As much as CPC was revoluntionary, it was also super-conservative. It was revolutionary because it strove to break down the business as usual, it was conservative in that it strove to bring back that world, that un-earthy system and set of values and practices we liken to a pure ideal.

    [Reply to this comment]

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