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i86 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Li Yinghe. Zhongguo nüxing de xing yu ai [Chinese women's sexuality and erotic love] . Oxford, New York, and Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1996. xii, 299 pp. Paperback HK $90, isbn 0-19-590050-2. Women's newly awakened awareness of their own sexuality has become a focus of research in Chinese academia in the late 1990s. The years 1996 and 1997 witnessed the publication of Zhongguo nüxing de xingyu ai (Chinese women's sexuality and erotic love) in China, Xingxinqing (Sexual feelings) and Nüer quan (The lesbian world) in Taiwan, and Hou-zhimin tongzhi (Postcolonial Tongzhi), which devoted a whole chapter to discussing the bias faced by lesbians in Hong Kong. All of these studies recount the life histories of a small sample ofwomen. Although they do not offer any quantitative data, and are thus not statistically meaningful, the confessions of these women that they present do give us a glimpse into the changing social atmosphere with regard to women's sexual behavior—and they would be of great value if these kinds ofpersonal experiences could be subjected to scholarly analysis in light of the social and historical factors that help to shape individual lives. Given the immense economic, social, and political transformations that have taken place in China in recent decades, the outside reader would expect to find sociological analyses of the impact of these changes on women's inner selves as well as their strategies in coping with the new social forces. Unfortunately, Chinese Women's Sexuality and Erotic Love provides little more than a fragmented picture of the erotic knowledge and experiences ofwomen in contemporary China. Individual statements are quoted and placed out ofcontext. As lively and idiomatic as these statements are, we fail to see the real, living individuals who are the sources of these statements. Devoid of their personal histories, the women in this study are nameless, ageless, classless, and thus lamentably invisible. The author interviewed a total offorty-seven women, mostly college graduates , aged twenty-nine to fifty-five, each interview lasting between one and five hours. The findings are loosely organized into thirty-four categories ranging from "First Menstruation," "Erotic Knowledge," and "First Kiss" to "Sexual Offenses," "Women's Sexual Rights," and "The Status ofWomen." Each category is then divided into two to seven sections consisting of autobiographical statements with the author's commentaries. For instance, "Orgasm" is discussed in the sections "The First Experience of Orgasm," "Description and Frequency of Orgasm," and© 1998 by University "Women who Never Experienced Orgasm," while "Divorce" is dealt with in "The ofHawai'i PressCause," "The Process," " The Psychological Impact," "Children," "Sexual Relationships after Divorce," and "Housing." The findings are most interesting for the way Reviews 187 they reflect the circumstances ofChinese women in a patriarchal, post-socialist societybefore the sexual revolution and the massive invasion ofWestern sexology. In the post-socialist era, women in general have lost the occupational security that they once enjoyed and have often became the economically dependent party in their marriages. Now the stories of deserted wives are as common in China as they are in Taiwan and Hong Kong. But Chinese ex-wives have often suffered more in terms ofeconomic hardship. Compelled to remain in the same cramped apartment with her ex-husband because ofa housing shortage, an interviewee had to put up with the humiliation ofliving with both her ex-husband and his much younger lover. On one occasion, he even attempted to push her from the balcony of the apartment (p. 176). Another divorcee agreed to stay with her exhusband for the sake oftheir child, and subsequendy caused an embarrassing fistfight between the ex-husband and his new lover (p. 177). On the otiier hand, not yet obsessed with orgasm and other "correct" sexual behaviors prescribed by Western sexologists from the androcentric point ofview, Chinese women are freer to pursue or forego sexual pleasures as long as they avoid public display. Unable to imagine two women making love, the heterosexual communities are more tolerant oflesbians than of gays (p. 198). As a result, Chinese women are less troubled by sex-related guilt or anxiety...


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