Sunday, September 28, 2014

China: Virgin Only Territory?

Sex. Perhaps a topic on which I should tread lightly—not only because it's taboo, but also because I am no expert. I wrote about it once before and it's been weighing on my mind again lately thanks to some interesting blog posts I've read (a recent one on Speaking of China and an oldie but goody on a great China blog I discovered: Laowhynot) as well as due to a rather disturbing discussion I had with a student last weekend—more on that later.

There are lots of different stereotypes about foreigners in China, notably that we are sex hounds with insatiable sex drives. Since I'm married, I rarely have to deal with the problems that come with being perceived as such. Ming has shared some of the locker room talk he has with his male co-workers and (although I'm sure he somewhat sensors it), it sounds fairly innocuous. He faces a few rather benign questions about his sex life with a foreigner. Mostly, he just tells people it's none of their business. I guess it's not, though I understand why people are curious. Though people everywhere are generally the same: they have family, they eat, they have friends, they work, they have sex. It's the attitudes towards these things which sometimes vary greatly.

photo by popawilli via Photobucket

Even in modern China, I feel like attitudes toward sex and dating are a bit backwards. While the situation is certainly changing, double standards abound. Most notably, young women are often expected to save themselves for the man they intend to marry. One of my close Chinese friends exemplifies the situation perfectly.

Firstly, she feels I am one of the only people she can openly talk to about sex. She admitted that even in conversations with her closest Chinese friends, the topic is skirted around. As a 20-something woman, she afraid to even admit she's had sex. She was most afraid to admit this to her mother, but after having dating the same man for five years, the truth finally came to light. The true injustice of things surfaced once her and her boyfriend broke up. Her mother marked her as damaged good's, proclaiming that if she wanted to get married she'd “have to settle for a divorced man.” Evidently, only virgin females get to marry single Chinese males.

Of course, a lot of Chinese people see the unfairness. My oldest student, a 17-year-old high school girl, actually brought the topic up. She is frustrated by the double standard and told me that lately it's been fervently debated online. Many people support women's sexual freedom, while others make wild claims that it is a woman's duty to remain a virgin for her intended husband. Why? According to my student, some netizens are arguing that when a woman sleeps with a man, part of his DNA is left behind. When the woman later become pregnant, the DNA of all her past lovers is passed on to the fetus. Whaaaaaaat? And the rationalization for wanting a virgin wife continues on. . . 

What are attitudes like in your country? Do you think there is a double standard when it comes to sex and gender?


Anonymous said...

Laowhynot is a genius haha. I don't understand why her blog is so little known (I guess she's not interested in promoting it).

Chinese sex education seems to be atrocious. Last week I met my ex colleagues and they informed me that several of our officemates had an abortion recently because they got pregnant and they already had the allowed one kid. Come on girls, you know you can't have more kids, why don't you do something to prevent yourself getting preggers?? I just can't understand it. One of them decided to keep the baby anyway and she will have to pay a fine of around 300,000 RMB. I hope her husband is rich or they have huge savings because she must be earning no more than 7,000 RMB a month.

rosieinbj said...

Part of the problem is that they believe oral contraceptives make people infertile. My Chinese friends and family were shocked that I took them. In the States, it is incredibly common. I think most of my friends use or have used them.

It is really too bad that there is so little education and misinformation.

Marta said...

Oh really? I didn't know they believe that! Well, one more for the collection... like a few months ago when they tried to forbid people with AIDS using public baths (I always wondered how were they thinking to enforce that? Do HIV positive people have it written on their foreheads?...).