Li Yinhe: “Criticizing the Sex Double Standard”

ChinaGeeks translates a blog post by sociologist Li Yinhe:

In something that both sides obviously benefit from, enjoy, and voluntarily engage in, traditional thinking conversely holds that one side benefits from [sex] while the other loses something, this is the ‘logic of gain/loss’ about sex. This thousand-year-old patriarchal logic of gain and loss firmly holds that in sexual intercourse, the man gains and the woman pays. If a man ‘does’ a woman, he has profited, if a woman ‘does’ a man, she has lost. Because everyone things this way, and has been thinking this way for too long a time, this has already become perfectly justified, a fact that no one argues over.

The origins of this gain/loss logic lie in the fact that women were once considered the property of men, and weren’t independent human beings. The buying and selling of marriage is basically just men buying women, and something that has been paid for in money is obviously the purchaser’s property, to be looked after and protected from theft. So women don’t suffer losses/get tricked until they have lost their virginity.

In a related post, Gina Anne Russo writes (h/t China Beat) about stereotypes of Western women, as defined by Sex and the City, and the status of women in Chinese society:

As a woman who is quite proud of my independence and my personal choices, I hated being pigeonholed into this “morally degenerate” category. But it seemed like a losing battle; for everyone I told that this was not the case for even most American woman, 10 other Chinese people would continue to have this same stereotype. Over time, I came to hate that show and the way it represented white American women.

And this stereotype was furthered by advertisements found all over Shanghai. Thinking about it, it is absolutely incredibly how many advertisements depict white women instead of Asian women; it has to be well over half of the advertisements, clearly not indicative of the population. Furthermore, almost all advertisements about lingerie or sexy clothing had white women; advertisements showing good wives or girlfriends in cutesy scenarios were more often than not Chinese. One particular advertisement made me feel naseous; it showed a man and a woman on top of each other, and he is about to touch in her in a way that should be R rated, and not all over the subway (meanwhile, of course, she is all bust). I thought about how the Chinese would react if that girl were not blonde, but instead Zhang Ziyi or some other Chinese star; it would have looked completely out of place. I actually wrote about this when I was writing my thesis last year, as photos in women’s magazines from the 1930s had similar patterns of putting white women in more liberal situations. What I argued (and would argue still) is that this allowed the Chinese population to live vicariously in this liberal, modern society without feeling to threatened by too MUCH moral openness. In a sense, they enjoyed the idea of the liberalism, but also wanted to maintain their own standards of morality and culture, and by seeing white women act this way, their own ideas about morality weren’t under threat.

August 17, 2009 1:09 PM
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Categories: Society