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Queerly Not Dangerous

Several authors of a “danmei” fiction website were recently detained by authorities. The injustice is so glaringly obvious that I can’t stop myself from saying something.

Danmei (or “boys’ love”) fiction is particularly interesting only to a minority. The idea comes from Japan and refers to female-oriented fiction featuring idealized romantic relationships between two males, mostly as manga works.

Readers and fans of this genre consider themselves “rotten women,” since rotten in Japanese can mean “hopeless.” It’s a self-deprecating way of describing the fact that they are hopelessly caught up in appreciation and passion for homosexual romance.

These women are not lesbians. They love the opposite sex. So why are they drawn to this love between men? It does sound a bit odd. Nevertheless, being a bit odd is not a reason for arrest or prison.

In my opinion, there are various causes for such preferences. First, the young girls like pretty boys, a most natural and justifiable tendency. Second, they don’t wish these boys to fall in love with girls other than themselves. Therefore, they tolerate one boy loving another because only this will prevent another girl from becoming the object of their love.

Third, they love these boys without being able to have sex with them since these boys have a sexual orientation toward another male. A lot of these so-called rotten women actually come from families with a very conservative sexual upbringing and are not themselves dissipated. To love a homosexual is a non-sexual love since the homosexual will not have sex with girls.

Fourth, some of these women wish to stay immersed in love without getting married. Loving a homosexual means that it will never be translated into a marriage and they can thus enjoy this love purely.

All in all, no matter how the orientation for boys’ love originates and however odd the rotten women’s passions may seem, they are not to be discriminated against—just as discrimination against homosexuals, or the left-handed, or people who enjoy a certain type of book or work of art is wrong.

Moreover, the police arrests were based on the provisions of China’s Criminal Law concerning pornographic products. This regulation is a living dinosaur and something that’s virtually nonexistent in most countries. It’s an outdated law fitting the ethical standards of Europe’s Middle Ages and China’s Cultural Revolution.

In those times, sex was regarded as evil. Pornographic products were considered an ugly form of expression of such evil; they were to be strictly prohibited and destroyed. People who produced and disseminated pornographic products were to be arrested and penalized.

Until the 1990s in China, there were cases for which the death penalty imposed. The People’s Daily in 1994 reported: “Since early last year until this September, city authorities have seized half a million contraband books and magazines as well as more than 60,000 illegal tapes, videos and laser discs. More than 80 investigations combating pornography and concerning illegal publishing activities were undertaken. More than 100 people were taken into custody, investigated and jailed. Among the three dozen people convicted, one was condemned to death, two were given the death penalty with reprieve, and one got life in prison.”

In Europe and North America, where the pornography industry generates over US$1 billion annually, there would have been a lot of people shot were the Chinese standard applied. This is why such judgments are appalling.

Recently, penalties for producing online pornography were loosened in China. A recent convict was sentenced to four months detention. Yet however short the sentence, it remains appalling in the twenty-first century. Any such conviction should be regarded as a serious violation of human rights.

Pornographic products fall within the scope of speech. They are the output of the human imagination, not actions, and therefore are to be protected according to the Constitution’s statements protecting freedom of speech, as well as the freedom to publish.

There were times in the past when China’s constitution was a joke. During the Cultural Revolution, even the president of the People’s Republic of China was beaten to death despite the protection of the constitution. Are we to repeat the same errors again?

Most of all, the consumption of pornographic commodities is an adult’s right. One fundamental reason for this is that sexual activity itself is not harmful. Nor are the pornographic products that are simply the expression in words or images of sex.

In other parts of the world, measures are taken to prohibit and prevent minors from consuming pornographic goods, but they do not deprive adults the right to consume them.

We should show our solidarity with the arrested boy’s love novel writers and protect them from prosecution. Furthermore, we should fight for the abolition of the pornographic products clause in China’s Criminal Law and defend consumer rights for adults.

Li Yinhe is a sexologist and sociologist.

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From the Caixin Editors

By raising the dark specter of the Cultural Revolution, Premier Wen Jiabao justified the recent purge of former Chongqing party boss and Mao revivalist Bo Xilai. Now, one of China’s most widely read promoters of gay and women’s rights, sociologist Li Yinhe, is using the same emotive imagery while railing against opponents of online gay fiction. Internet authorities recently shut down a Chinese “danmei” readers network called 耽美BL小说网 on grounds of violating pornography laws, prompting Li to challenge the crackdown in the following column. In other recent columns for Caixin, to which she contributes regularly, Li opined on U.S. President Barack Obama’s stance on gay marriage and urged sex education in Chinese schools. As a China Academy of Sciences scholar and widow of the late writer Wang Xiaobo, Li’s words carry a lot of weight. She’s written and edited a lot of material since the 1970s. And her enormously popular blog has yet to fall victim to the nation’s porn patrol.

By Li Yinhe