Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lonely workers force sex into open

The plight of its migrant labour has made China confront the last taboo

In a rare instance of sexual frankness, a Chinese official has called for “conjugal homes” and short-stay hotels to meet the needs of sex-starved migrant workers in Guangdong, the province known as the “workshop of the world”.

The family planning official, Zhang Feng, said millions of workers lived a lonely existence away from their families and he encouraged them to use sex toys rather than the thriving prostitution industry. “In this province we have 30m migrants living apart from their wives or husbands whose hunger for sex has never been recognised by society or the government,” Zhang said. “If we go on like this our society will end up riddled with Aids, so I suggest that we provide conjugal homes and rooms by the hour and I also suggest using sex toys — it’s not shameful and it avoids disease.”

Zhang was speaking in a local newspaper interview to coincide with the opening of the seventh Guangdong Sex Festival, which is attracting hordes of visitors to an exhibition hall this weekend.

The festival breaks numerous taboos about the customarily reticent Chinese treatment of sexual matters while winning official approval by portraying itself as a forum for education and healthcare.

The educational aspects of its lingerie modelling show, easily the most popular attraction, were not immediately apparent but nonetheless drew an admiring crowd of young men.

On display were scanty underwear, inflatable dolls, medicines and sex toys, manufactured by the million in factories around the city.

Many are made by the very migrants Zhang was talking about — young people from the countryside who live in factory dormitories or cramped communal rooms, divided by gender and often policed by security guards.

“People who are full should understand those who are hungry,” said Zhang, whose titles include vice-chairman of the China Sexual Association, a professional body.

Supporters of the festival also argue that traditional Chinese culture had a rich vein of erotic poetry and prose, both refined and bawdy, before ideology and foreign prudishness suppressed its expression.

Visitors were treated to a display of ancient sexual aids modelled in jade, stone and wood, while classical illustrations of beauties and doe-eyed poets adorned the packaging of many modern plastic versions.

Chinese society is changing so fast that customs have overtaken attempts by the state to control people’s private lives beyond ordaining the number of children they may have.

Also attending the Festival was Dong Yuzheng, editor of the magazine Human Nature, who identified 10 changes to sexual and family mores during a panel discussion. The most prevalent was what he called “unstable sex”, such as one-night stands, prostitution and “second wives” — usually paid mistresses.

Second on his list was “deviant sex” which, in his opinion, included homosexual and transgender relationships. Both are legal in China. Then he said there were the 70% of youngsters who enjoyed a sex life but had no plans to marry, the 6% of couples who had no sex life at all and an estimated 15% of couples who wanted children but were infertile.

Dong added that test-tube pregnancies, breast enlargement and the artificial restoration of female virginity were all growing in popularity. Society, he argued, was also paying a price for personal liberation. Many children were packed off to grandparents or carers while both parents worked, “making their family relationships colder”.

He noted that every year more and more babies are born suffering birth defects from pollution. The divorce rate has also risen from 4% in 1979 to about 15% today. The rate in Shenzhen, a city in Guangdong full of migrants, is 36%.

Sex had also become an attribute of power and class, an echo of the way that China’s pioneering Marxists denounced the decadent ways of the old feudal society, in which rich men kept numerous concubines. Recently there has been a flurry of accusations on the internet against university professors who allegedly coerced their female students into sex in exchange for better exam grades or a place at college.

According to an academic, Lei Duo, there is an intimate connection between corruption and the keeping of mistresses. He said a study of recent cases indicated that nine out of 10 officials caught up in graft were using their ill-gotten gains to maintain a mistress.

One energetic city mayor in Hunan, a province of central China, was reported to have enjoyed the favours of 105 mistresses until he was hauled off by the police.

bron: [1-11-2009]

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