Sex, Culture and Modernity in China

28 09 2008

Dikotter, Frank. Sex, Culture and Modernity in China. University of Hawaii Press, 1995.

“Educated groups were convinced that the proper control of sexual desire was the key to restoring the strength of the nation and achieving modernity. Since the rise of evolutionary theories in the late nineteenth century, reformers like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao had consistently explained national weakness as the result of an inadequate knowledged of human sexuality and reproduction.” (2)

Gendered social roles were thought to be rooted in biology. Gender hierarchy was called natural or progressive, and women and children were portrayed as being at the lower stages of evolution.

Industry was growing in the early 1900s, attracting young people to the cities and increasing their personal and economic independence. The extended family structure began to weaken, as did a young person’s connection to the older generation. Unmarried women started going to college, become politically aware, and participate in public activities. “Human biology was invoked to suggest that woman was endowed with physical characteristics which marked her as the passive counterpart to the more active constitution of man.” (23) During the time, the oppositeness of the man and woman, biologically, was strongly emphasized.