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Sex theme park gave way to public clamor
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13:06, May 20, 2009

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By Li Hongmei, People's Daily Online

A galaxy of pioneers in the south-west city of Chongqing ventured out of confines lately to address a taboo turning against the conservative Chinese culture by opening the first ever sex theme park in the country with the aim to improve sex education, but the idea was rapidly poured scorn on and many local residents even see the display as vulgar.

The park manager, Lu Xiaoqing, released to the media that he had been inspired by South Korea's popular sex theme park in Jeju before coming up with the idea to set up his Love Land in China's largest municipality. The park, still under construction, is due to open in October. However, he and his staff already captured enough public gaze last Friday, putting some of the exhibits on display ahead of the schedule—

'A giant revolving model of a woman's legs and lower torso, clad only in an unflattering crimson thong. An oversized replica of a set of genitals, naked human sculptures, and so on,' as was kept in a witness' blog. This, needless to say, delivered more than an emotional shock to the locals, most of whom expressed discontent about the development of China's first sex theme park, which has been described as 'vulgar' and 'distasteful'.

The premature show quickly set up nation-wide debates and then evolved into a general protest, forcing bulldozers to roar into the construction sites. Lu's enlightened idea was thereby nipped in the bud before its flourishing, as demolition already started on Sunday by the order the Chongqing authorities had given.

Last week, China Daily cited Mr. Lu in an interview as saying, '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.' Now it looks as if he were unduly optimistic. Or perhaps, the idea in itself falls short of a close study and scrutiny of the true public mindset. In China, sex is still a taboo subject, and not allowed to be exposed to such an extent.

Even among the vanguard youth, many also deem it a stigma if, say, they are looking at these things when other people are around, although the young generation in China virtually has a more open attitude to sex. A research project conducted by an expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicated that in Beijing alone the percentage of people having premarital sex rose from under 16% in 1989 to over 60% in 2004.

The disproval of sex in China is largely rooted in a traditional focus on family instead of individual enjoyment. The majority of Chinese adults, especially those living in the vast countryside, are still taking sex the only way to carry on their family line. Women in rural areas have long been regarded as nothing more than a sex organ. Seldom can they feel any pleasure from sex act, let alone female orgasm or a harmonious sex life.

Viewed from the prism of the ancient Chinese history, however, sex and love affairs used to be one of the main themes in human life and running through civilization, which was manifested by numerous fresco scenes and paintings depicting human activities then. They were not only artistic expressions, but more sent a message to the descedants that in those days the Chinese people had more positive attitudes towards sex. But in the Song and Ming dynasties, people tended to be more ascetic. In modern times, especially ensuing 1919 New Culture Campaign, sex-liberation had once acted as a forceful weapon in a fierce fight against the feudalist sex-oppression, and under its banner, the then passionate youths had chosen to abandon their arranged marriage and undertake an arduous journey to seek after 'true and pure love', which meant a combination of both physical pleasure from sex and spiritual comfort felt though mutual affinity.

The 'Culture Revolution' lasting for the whole decade from 1966 through to 1976 has not merely wrought a cultural havoc to the Chinese nation, but set up huge waves threatening to overwhelm the Chinese aesthetics and ethics. Sex was thereafter labeled as an obscene issue, and people's sexual desires had long been pent up till the end of the cultural calamity.

Since China adopted reform and opening up policy in 1978, and throughout the entire 1980s, things have been looking up and people are more ready than they were to embrace individual enjoyment and civilized comfort. Sex, at long last, comes to light as a subject worth expertise analysis and, as an index well-accepted by ordinary citizens to assess quality of their marriage and life. Sex pleasure is now counted by many of the modern-thinking Chinese as all that a happy marriage is supposed to point to. But, all in all, it is something that stays afloat on the surface, but beneath, the undercurrents still prove to be the forceful resistance both from traditions and from the public mentality toward sex—a once-to-be taboo, and perhaps remaining to be so for long.

Just before the pulling down of the sex theme park, a junior middle school teacher had been sacked as a result of his demonstration in class of how to use condoms properly. The teacher in question was finger pointed by the parents concerned as teaching pornography to the children below the age of 18. And last month, an exhibition displaying the furniture with the function of inducing sex pleasure had to be halted in process when met with the tremendous pressure of the public opinions.

In actuality, however, the Chinese people really need to have more access to information about sex, although it is also a fact that the Chinese are becoming more tolerant to the issue. As to teenagers, the puberty education available now to schools in urban areas has turned out far from enough in popularizing sex knowledge. In addition, most school teachers are reported to be shy of teaching something like this and, instead, they just issue some handouts to the students for self-reading.

The sad reality is that an authoritative survey conducted by All-China Women Federation showed in China only 28% of women have experienced orgasm, while in the west the number is about 90%. Less than a quarter of the Chinese men have reported in the study they are fully pleased with their sex life.

Sex, the most ancient and supposed to be most sacred topic in human life, still takes a long way to go to win its actual popularity in China.

Related Feature: Controvesy on China's first sex-theme park

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