China discovers the Sexual Revolution


High tech is a capricious beast. While on one hand the debate about pervasive and uncalled for Statal snooping on citizens rages on almost too fast and complex to be effectively followed, the other side of the matter concerns the exact opposite – technology is empowering more and more people every day. Case in point: China, whose Great Firewall is severely creaking under the pressure of… sex.

Modern Chinese culture managed to denial sexuality in an almost surreal way. One of the best (and few) papers about sexual practices in the Red Country dates to 1997 and paints a medieval-like notion of the topic. Wikipedia reassures us that the last decade has seen a dramatic reform and opening towards a Western-like conception of sex, yet I’d say Chinese people have still to familiarize with it, and I probably won’t bring any of my seminars in Beijing anytime soon.

In this context even minor erotic developments appear to have an explosive impact on local mainstream culture. A first hint of how dangerous the mixture of sex and technology was came last week when the self-shots of a six-persons orgy among Party officials leaked on the Web defeating every attempt to censor them.
The latest culprit is however Weibo, the Twitter-like social network used by over 300 million users – too many to be reliably censored by the army of roughly 1.000 specialists tasked with scanning and flagging “offensive” items, especially when new alternative idioms come up every day to circumvent the massive blacklist of dirty words automatically blocking most sex-related messages.

The ease of use and relative anonymity of Weibo has introduced China to staples of Western lifestyle like porn stars (Japan-based Sora Aoi is leading the pack, with about 13 million followers), online hookers, sex tips, exhibitionism and kinky sex. What’s more important, however, is that people are learning the advantages of hacking the Net to access more information – of a sexual nature, then in other fields. A real sex revolution if there ever was one.