Sex With Chinese Characteristics: Sexuality Research in/on 21st-Century China


This article examines the changing contours of Chinese sexuality studies by locating recent research in historical context. Our aim is to use the literature we review to construct a picture of the sexual landscape in China and the sociocultural and political conditions that have shaped it, enabling readers unfamiliar with China to understand its sexual culture and practices. In particular, we focus on the consequences of recent changes under the Xi regime for individuals’ sexual lives and for research into sexuality. While discussing the social and political regulation of sexuality, we also attend to the emergence of new forms of gendered and sexual subjectivity in postsocialist China. We argue throughout that sexuality in China is interwoven with the political system in a variety of ways, in particular through the tension between neoliberal and authoritarian styles of governance. We explore normative and dissident sexualities as well as forms of sexual conduct that are officially “deviant” but nonetheless tolerated or even tacitly enabled by the party-state. In particular, we highlight the dilemmas and contradictions faced by China’s citizens as they negotiate their sexual lives under “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

The Journal of Sex Research, 55(4-5), 486-521
Chi Kwok
Chi Kwok
Assistant Professor