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Sexual Revolution in Place in China: Expert

Once a taboo topic in China, sex is now becoming something that can be discussed at the dinner table.


"Chinese people are experiencing a sexual revolution," said Li Yinhe, China's first female sociologist on sex issues, in Guangzhou yesterday.


Li delivered a speech yesterday on "Emotion and sex of Chinese in social reform" in the capital city of south China's Guangdong Province, as part of the Third Chinese (Guangzhou) Sex Culture Festival.


Sex issues such as one night stands, extramarital affairs, prostitution, cohabitation, contraception and abortion have already become part of Chinese people's life, Li said.


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 percent in 1989, which increased to 60-70 percent in 2004.


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


"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.


Li said during her 10 years of study about the sex life of Chinese people, such as her survey on women's initiatives in having sex and homosexuality, she encountered a great deal of misunderstanding.


Li said many Chinese have ignored their rights to sex, considering sexual life as a marital obligation rather than personal enjoyment.


One of her surveys shows that 26 percent of Chinese women never experienced a sexual climax, a much higher figure than the Western countries' 10 percent.


"The women in Western countries would talk to psychologists or friends when they have sexual problems, but most Chinese women are too shy to do so," Li said.


Li said the sex is something like the economy in China, which has seen tremendous changes in the past two decades. She said that in no more than 20 years, Chinese would "catch up" with Western countries in becoming more open to sex.


Yesterday's speech was held in the auditorium of Guangdong provincial government, which attracted more than 1,000 people, including a large number of soldiers.


Li Yinhe has a PhD degree in sociology from Pittsburgh University in the United States and a post-PhD degree in Sociology from Beijing University. She was once listed as one of China's "50 Most Influential People" by Asian Week.


(China Daily November 8, 2005)

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