The Uneven Sexual Revolution in China

The Guangzhou Sex Festival has been in the news recently.  Here is a quote from China Daily:

Li has been shocked at how rapidly Chinese people's sexual attitudes are changing. According to her study in Beijing, the percentage of Chinese people having premarital sex was 15.5 per cent in 1989, which increased to 60-70 per cent in 2004.

"The ratio in Guangdong reached 86 per cent," Li said in her speech, "which shows that Guangdong is probably the most sexually open place in China."

But we must remember that the story about China after the reform era has always been about uneven development.

"Even though sex is becoming more open in China, the majority of Chinese believe sex is private and a negative thing that can't be talked about in public," Li said.

Li listed three reasons behind such an attitude. One is the traditional view that tells people to be abstinent in order to stay healthy. Too much sex is unhealthy, according to traditional Chinese medicine.  Another is asceticism that was encouraged by the Chinese Communist Party during the war periods.  Moreover, Chinese culture views sex as a shameful act.

In the following, there is a translation of a Xinwenhuabao (via Wenxue City) story from the Chinese countryside.

"Mom, I did not change.  I am still a little girl.  You will never understand no matter what I say.  The only way to establish my innocence is for me to die.  I will see you again in the next life.  Sister, mom, I am leaving now."

These were the last words that 17-year-old Li Hongying left for this world.  The girl had a good dream.  She wanted to come out of her home in Nong'an County Kai'an village Majia village to share the family burden but her life in the city ended after three days.  As disappointed as she was, there were rumors in the village that she had been raped.  The girl gave up her life to quash those rumors.

Yesterday, the reporter came to the home of Li Hongying.  Her parents and elder brother were eating.  In remembering her daughter, the mother Zhao Shumin began to cry.

Li Hongying only reached grade 4 in elementary school before quitting.  Her father is ill and cannot engage in physical activities.  At the end of August, she left to work in Changchun, but her mother objected.  "Let me go and earn some money so that dad can get medical treatment," Hongying begged her mother.  On that afternoon, she went to Changchun in spite of the objections of her family.

Zhao said that her daughter left together with another village girl named Xiaomin.  That night, the daughter called home from Changchun to report that she had safely arrived.  "Three days later, the daughter came back.  As soon as she entered the house, she said, 'Mom, I don't want to work again.'"  Zhao remembered: "The child said that she only her one meal and two packs of instant noodles."

The next day, Hongying told her mother: "Why did I imagine the outside world to be so wonderful?  It is not very easy to earn money."  Zhao said that her daughter did not tell anyone about what happened during those three days in Changchun.

More than 10 days after the return, there were rumors about the girl in the village.  Someone said that she had been gang-raped by five men.  What happened?

Zhao said that the rumor came from Yu Xiaomin's mother Wang Guoxia.  Afterwards, the reporter went to see Wang Guoxia who said: "On September 9, my elder daughter came back to tell me that Xiaomin and Li Hongying were gang-raped by four or five men."  Wang Guoxia said that other people claimed that Li Hongying and Xiaomin went to a public entertainment place in Changchun where four or five men told the two out to dinner; afterwards, they got a room and the two met their unlucky fate.

In Xiaomin's recollection, when Li Hongying arrived in Changchun, she failed to get a job at a restaurant.  "We went to a public entertainment place.  That night, a man even bought a bouquet of flowers for Li Hongying, but she tossed them away immediate," Xiaomin said.

Wang Guoxia's elder daughter heard the story from a man named Li Xiangfu.  When the police interrogated Li, he said that he heard it from other workers in the same village.  Xiaomin knew a few men who have prior arrest records for burglary.  Xiaomin and Li Hongying went out with these men to a public entertainment place, and they rented a room.

Early morning on September 10, Wang Guoxia and Zhao Shumin took their daughters and went to confront the three people who spread the rumor, including Li Xiangfu.  The angry Zhao Shumin even slapped her own daughter and Xiaomin in the face.  Finally, Li Xiangfu took responsibility for those rumors, but he said that he did not say that the two girls were gang-raped -- he only said that they rented a room.

"Let us go to the hospital and see who is still a virgin!"  Zhao remembered those words from her daughter during the quarrel.  "Daughter, there is no need to do to the hospital.  Tomorrow, mom will buy you some new clothes," Zhao comforted her daughter.  "But someone else in the village had some business, and I went to help ..."  At this point, Zhao's tears came pouring out.  At around 230pm that day, she was worried about her daughter and asked a neighbor to check on her.  "The neighbor went to my house and then raced back to tell me, 'Go home quick ...!'"  Zhao arrived home to find her daughter foaming in the mouth on the bed.  "She held a slip of paper on which she wrote her final testament.  As she was about to die, she still wants to tell the world that she is still a little girl!"  Zhao stopped crying suddenly: "The rumors killed my daughter!"

Someone in the village saw that Li Hongying bought some pesticide, along with a pack of instant noodles, a ham sausage and a piece of ice cream.  "My family is poor, so I gave her only one yuan that day.  She got the instant noodles on loan."

The friends and relatives of the Li family came only to help on the funeral, and the village party secretary was there too.  In the afternoon, the people took Li Hongying's body to a piece of unused land on the west side of the village, stacked firewood, poured gasoline and lit the fire.  "I did not see how my daughter was cremated.  According to them, they wrapped the child up in a cotton blanket and cremated her!"  Zhao became more and more saddened.

"Is cremation in this manner in accordance with regulations?"  asked the reporter.  "This is rural custom.  There are no regulations!" replied the village party secretary.

According to Kai'an village's police officer named Cai, two days after the death of Li Hongying, the Li family asked the police to go after the people who spread the rumors.  After an investigation, it was determined that Li Xiangfu and others did not maliciously attack the deceased; rather, they thought that they were offering advice as relatives.  Since Li Hongying did not die from natural causes, the police officer has reported the case to his superiors.  But the situation does not warrant a case.

"The rumors killed my daughter!"  Zhao Shumin will insist on suing those who spread the rumors.