China Censorship Primer: Just Say “No” to Female Orgasms

Don’t let media in the West fool you—talking about sex in China is not taboo. But apparently references to female genitalia and orgasms are still big no-nos.

To see how such touchy subjects are handled in Chinese media, let’s take a look at what happened to the Guardian’s China to Open First Sex Theme Park (May 15, 2009) when it was translated and published in Cankao Xiaoxi.

As noted in my earlier updates on Cankao Xiaoxi, this daily newspaper is a respected Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many cities across China it sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and no content is added. But references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often deleted.

To show you how censorship/repackaging works in the People’s Republic, the Guardian’s original news item is fully reproduced below. Note that both uses of “genitalia” in the original, which are gender-neutral, have for some reason been rendered in Chinese as “phallus” (男根). Words that have been crossed out like this are those that did not appear in the published Chinese translation (Cankao Xiaoxi, March 17, 2009, p 8):

China to Open First Sex Theme Park

Maybe it was the giant revolving model of a woman’s legs and lower torso, clad only in an unflattering crimson thong, or perhaps it was the oversized replica of a set of genitals. Either way, many residents in the south-west city of Chongqing are not happy about the development of China’s first sex theme park, which has been described as “vulgar” and inappropriate.

The park manager, Lu Xiaoqing, who was inspired by South Korea’s popular sex theme park in Jeju, says that Love Land, due to open in October, will improve sex education and help adults enjoy a harmonious sex life. Inside, visitors will be able to view naked human sculptures, giant replicas of genitals and an exhibition about the history of sex and sexual practices in other countries.

The park will also offer sex technique workshops and advise on anti-Aids measures and using condoms properly.

“Sex is a taboo subject in China but people really need to have more access to information about it,” Lu told the state newspaper China Daily.

“We are building the park for the good of the public. I have found that the majority of people support my idea, but I have to pay attention and not make the park look vulgar and nasty.”

But Liu Daiwei, a female police officer in Chongqing, complained: “These things are too exposed. I will feel uncomfortable looking at them when other people are around.”

A commenter on the popular Sina website said Chinese people did not treat sex as boldly as foreigners, adding: “These vulgar sex installations will only make people sick.” Li Yinhe, an expert on sexual attitudes at the Chinese academy of Social Sciences, said 

But another commenter said Chinese people needed sex education, promising: I will visit the park when I go to Chongqing.

Li Yinhe, an expert on sexual attitudes at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that in ancient times Chinese people had more positive attitudes toward sex. They became more ascetic during the Song and Ming dynasties, but this trend peaked at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Since the 1980s that had reversed, she said, adding: “The fact that the park has been built shows the change and that open attitudes to sex are now mainstream.” One of her research projects showed that in Beijing the percentage of people having pre-marital sex rose from under 16% in 1989 to over 60% in 2004.

Li said that while disapproval of sex stemmed from religion in the West, in China it was largely rooted in a traditional focus on the family instead of individual enjoyment, leading people to deplore premarital and extramarital sex.

“But people will become more tolerant and have positive attitudes towards sex; for exampl, people [already] care more about female orgasm. I read a report saying in the West about 90% of women have experienced orgasm, but in China the number is only 28%,” she said. [end]

Comments

  1. Interesting comparison, Bruce. I always find it interesting to look behind the veil of censorship.

    As a side note…that revolving model at the park entrance really is horrendous.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Bruce. I am SOOO going down – no pun intended – for a visit to Chongqing. Here’s the comment I made on Paper Republic, below a link to the above article:

    Wow, where to even begin the comments on this one?

    Firstly, I’m pleased as punch about the thought of a Chinese theme-park dedicated to sex and sexuality, especially one that features “giant replicas of genitals”. Only wish it were located in Beijing. Can you imagine waking up every morning, looking out your window and being greeted by the sight of a GIGANTIC PHALLUS, or a MAMMOTH PUDENDA, even? Way better than shrubbery and bicycle sheds, if you ask me.

    As for the female orgasm, it seems like the Daoists had it right, with their emphasis on female pleasure. China ought to respect its traditions – and the half of us who are busy holding up the sky for the rest of you dudes.

    A final word on the penis (and wouldn’t that be a great title for a memoir?) –

    As Bruce notes: “…both uses of ‘genitalia’ in the original, which are gender-neutral, have for some reason been rendered in Chinese as ‘phallus’ (男根).

    Now, that’s a very strange choice. A direct translation of “genitalia” into Chinese would have yielded 生殖器 (shēngzhíqì, “reproductive organ”), which is offensive only in that it is overly medical and rarely-ever-used (the word, that is, not the reproductive organ). I can’t see how 男根 (nángēn, “man-root”) is much of an improvement. It certainly doesn’t seem that much tamer than 鸡巴 (jība,”cock”), 家伙 (jiāhuo, “guy/fellow”) 鞭 (biān, “the whip”) 屌 (diǎo, which I like to call “the hanging man”), 阳物 (yángwù, “Yang-thing”) or 阴茎 (yīnjīng, “Yin-stalk”).

    (Don’t even get me started on the vagina.)

    Yes, I think my work is done here.

  3. I believe the 3 words that caught the editor’s evil eye were “Cultural Revolution”, “religion”, and “orgasm”

    There are already sex museums in Shanghai and Guangdong (Danxia), but they don’t include interactive features such as a “sex technique workshop”!

  4. Note that within 24 hours of my article (and of course, hundreds of others on the subject of the sex theme park!), the authorities ordered the park torn down over the weekend. Read the report in the New York Times.

  5. winddrinker says:

    new york times article again associates this with cencorship…This theme park is just ugly, vulgar and a money-making plot..good riddence!

  6. I’m afraid the “censorship” here was largely a China affair: 1) Censoring the article about the Chongqing Sex Park when it was published in Cankao Xiaoxi, and 2) Ordering the park destroyed within a day or two of coverage of it by the international media.

    While ordering a park destroyed is not “censorship” in the strict sense of the word, the intent is very similar: To ensure that something is not seen or heard…

    Many thanks for your visit, and hope to hear from you again.

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