Source: 21ccom.net – 04 September 2012
In the past few years, a series of events revealed the Chinese complex around the question of virginity: numerous reports about officials spending nights in whorehouses with virgins caused outrage; a few years ago, a young woman from a Sichuan university emphatically organised a “flawless young women’s group”， swearing to keep virginity till marriage; recently, a school teacher from Wuhan set up a chastity website, inviting everyone to remain virgin till 23, and posted a medical certificate online to prove that she was still a virgin at the age of 38; a place that offers pre-marital checks planned to also check whether the woman was a virgin; a famous university offered pre-marital chastity education, sparking controversy; Right-wing American Christian organisations signed a contract with local governments in eleven Chinese cities and provinces to give pre-marital chastity education, which big American newspapers considered a significant landmark; hymen repair surgery is a commonly advertised operation; and the most absurd news is: a local women’s federation organised fundraising activities so that women could get free hymen repair surgery. In a survey done a few years ago by the Rural Women’s Federation, one of the questions asked whether life or virginity was more important, and 80% of rural women responded that virginity was more important than life. In addition, in previous times, if a newly-wed husband discovered that his wife was not a virgin, he would tear up the wedding contract; and in the present time, where 71% of people have had pre-marital sex, many men still wonder whether their future wife is a virgin or not, and some rich people consider that a virgin is the best choice for a bride.
These phenomena all show very clearly that, in the minds of Chinese people today, virginity remains a question that causes much confusion and anxiety. The reason for that is obvious: traditional cultures and customs. In China’s thousand of years of history, and particularly in the last thousand years (since the Song dynasty), premarital virginity has been a value that people commonly recognised, and was a strictly implemented social custom. Among the world’s traditional cultures, few have given so much importance to virginity as China. Similar practices of governments showing direct recognition of personal behaviour (official recognition, in history books, establish memorial archway for chaste women) are very rare in ancient and modern history, and their huge influence on people’s ways of thinking is unmatched.
In contemporary China, the belief in the value virginity has begun to quaver, and there has been a significant increase in pre-marital sex; within only a decade or two, the practice has evolved from being a rare violation by an upper class minority to becoming an ordinary practice for the majority of people. I believe there are four main causes for this:
First, the purpose of sexual activity has changed. In traditional culture, the main purpose of this activity (if not its only purpose) was to have children: reproduction was regarded as the most legitimate or even the only legitimate reason for sexual activity. However, after family planning was implemented in the 70s, reproduction gradually became a very unimportant reason for sexual activity. Unless you stop having sex after having a child – which most people do not find possible – the purpose of sex changed from reproduction to pleasure and happiness. This change in the purpose of sex means that there is no longer an absolute reason for keeping virginity before marriage.
Second, because puberty is happening earlier and the legal age for marriage has been pushed back, there is around 10 years in between the two, so premarital sexual activity, to an extent, has become a necessity. This is a problem which traditional society did not encounter: at that time, puberty came later than it does now, and the legal age of marriage was around fifteen, so the common practice of remaining virgin before marriage was achievable.
Then, the modern concept of human rights are at an unprecedented height today. Many people believe that they can dispose of their own body, and that they can use their own bodies for the pursuit of pleasure and happiness.
Finally, the traditional requirement of chastity was unilaterally imposed on women; men did not face similarly stringent restrictions. In a contemporary situation where feminism and gender equality are progressing rapidly, chastity demands unilaterally imposed on women are becoming more and more outdated, and more and more women are rejecting them
In short, no matter how much dedication, nostalgia or anxiety Chinese people still have towards virginity, there is not much hope for this custom, and all attempts to turn back the tide will only be more and more ridiculous. While people are lamenting that a thousand year old custom is gradually disappearing, couldn’t they also be more tolerant of new customs and norms of behaviour, and start understanding and accepting them?
Source: 21ccom.net – 04 September 2012