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China: Sexologist shuts up

Renowned Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe announced last week that she had been told in no uncertain terms, by people whose identity she declined to identify, to shut up.

A longtime fixture of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li is known mostly for her liberal attitudes towards a whole range of sex-related issues which she speaks about at length on her blog and in mainstream Chinese media, and in particular for her many proposals, like same sex marriage, to China's legislature, the most recent attempt being in 2005.

With Li's self-silencing goes the voice of one of the most influential and progressive public intellectuals in China. First, her critics, starting with To Library blogger Drunk Eyes See Sand:

再说了,她所说的什么虐恋啊,一夜情啊,婚外恋啊,换偶啊,乱伦啊,卖淫啊,同性恋婚姻啊,都不是什么新鲜的事情,居然有人说她观点前卫,真的搞笑,还说什么太前卫了,所以人们不能接受,甚至还有说是时髦时尚,简直令人喷饭!相信这些作为饭后谈资的时候,大家最多也是一笑了之,不接受并不代表

Again, she always talks about S&M, one night stands, extramarital affairs, partner-swapping, incest, prostitution, same sex marriages, none of which are really fresh topics, yet some people still go as far as to say that her ideas are in the avant-garde. So funny! Some say they're too avant-garde, and that's why people can't accept them. And then there's those who say these are trends! Really makes one spit out his rice! I believe, that when these are are talked about when people sit down after dinner, that the most people will do is laugh. This does not mean they don't accept these things.

而李银河偏偏几次三番几次三番地在媒体和公众场合大放阙词,说什么卖淫非罪化啊,同性恋婚姻合法啊!说得多了,反感的人就越来越多了。本来这些在社会上存在,也没人去刻意干涉,而司法机关干涉最多也仅限于卖淫而已。而李银河把旧时代那些对这些行为的不宽容对待一股脑搬出来,只能说明她还活在她的过去时代,看不到现代社会的文明,而更可笑的是她一直以为自己是文明的,而不接受她观点的人都是野蛮的。甚至狂妄到如果说她某些观点有悖法律,那法律就是错的。这些也是荒唐之极,

Time after time, Li Yinhe talks a lot of nonsense in the media and in public spaces, talking about this and that, the criminalization of prostitution, legalization of same sex marriage and what not! Enough already. The number of people who can't stand it keeps going up. These existed in society to begin with, and nobody went out of their way to get involved, and the law's involvement is mostly limited to prostitution at that. What Li Yinhe does is bring up intolerant behaviors dating back to feudal days, which only proves that she's still living in the past, unable to see the culture of modern society. What's most laughable is that she's always thought herself so cultured, and those who don't accept her stances as barbaric. She's even egotistical to the point of saying that some ideas of hers go against the law, and the law is wrong.

…..

而李银河说婚外恋一般是男方占主动,体现了男权主义。而换偶是双方自愿的,她更能够接受一些。那她这更是孤陋寡闻了。只要不是白痴都知道,现在社会出现的换偶现象,绝大部分是以男方为主导的,所以更多的称为”换妻”而很少提及换夫

The extramarital affairs of which Li Yinhe talks are usually initiated by the men, reflecting male chauvinism. And if spouse-swapping is voluntary, she's all for that. But even an idiot knows that when spouse-swapping occurs in society, by far the majority of it is directed by the man. That's why most of the time it's wife-swapping and not husband-swapping…

Ranging even to the rabid like Sohu blogger Guofana to the printably pragmatic Cat898 blogger A Bucketful of Baloney's ironic ‘Li Yinhe, you free-thinking pig’:

我想,这也不好怨天尤人,都是李银河自己找来衰的。老子说;“人之所畏,不可不畏。”这是智者之言,这也就是所谓“犬儒”应该奉行的圭皋了。大家都怕说,就你敢说,则你就很危险了。这不但是中国特色,其实也是国际惯例呢。在“要为真理而斗争”的口号下,牺牲了性命的勇士,不只中国有,国际上也是比比皆是。

I think she can't really blame others for her problems, Li Yinhe has brought this upon herself. Laozi (Lao Tzu) said, “what others fear, one must also fear.” These are the words of the wise, just the sort so-called “cynics” should follow more closely. Most people are afraid to talk about these things, it's only you who dares, and now it's put you in danger. This isn't just Chinese characteristics, it's just as much an international convention. Heroes sacrificing their lives behind slogans of “fighting for the truth” happens as much overseas as it does in China.

Well, at least Chinabounder is back and keeping the discourse going. Here's BlogLegal's Feng Lei, via Tianya, posted on Valentine's Day.

今天,我们很遗憾的看到李银河在自己博客上所公开的”最新决定”。这个决定告诉我们,我们中的绝大多数,还没有勇气或者还没有意识到性生活本身是属于自己的权利、使自己的隐私,更没有意识到性生活本身更鼓要科学和文明的引导。

Today, we regretfully saw Li Yinhe's “latest decision” made public on her own blog. This decision tells us that the vast majority of us lack the courage and have yet to realize that our sex lives are our own prerogatives, our own private affairs, and that we have definitely yet to realize how sex itself both encourages and is conducive to science and civilization.

我们注意到,在李银河以一个社会学家的身份谈论性的话题的时候,公众的反映让人大跌眼镜。当一个社会学家谈到的性的文明和性的层次的时候,我们的民众其实是当作笑话和戴着所谓道德的眼镜来看待和理解这个问题的。他们没有把性的问题当作一门社会科学来对待,相反,而是作为茶余饭后的谈资来对待,并且以自己的原有的观点来评价这个问题。

We've noticed that when Li Yinhe speaks on topics of sex in her role as a sociologist, public response allows the National People's Congress to see things more clearly. When a sociologist speaks on the civilisation and layers of sexuality, our people actually take it as a joke, treating and understanding the subject through ‘morality-tinted glasses’. They don't see sex as a matter of social science, but rather better suited for post-dinner, post-tea chats.

….

对于很多人而言,可以不接受李银河的观点,却完全不必以卫道士的姿态试图让别人闭嘴,甚至取消别人说话的权利。这本身就是赤裸裸的剥夺。

A lot of people will reject Li Yinhe's ideas, but there's absolutely no need to try and shut someone's mouth based on a moral stance, or cancelling another's right to speak. This in itself is naked deprivation [of rights].

当我们自己没有能力对自己的生活进行反思和改造的时候,或者说当我们不打算打破自己原有生活轨道和游戏规则的时候,能够容忍不同的声音存在,显然也是一种美德。对我们的社会而言,包容首先就意味着一种进步。我们今天容忍不了李银河的观点,非要她闭口不可,这实在说明我们的精神文明还有待进步,我们的文明还没有达到能够容忍不同观点存在的地步。

When we are no longer able to regret or improve our own lives, or, say, when we no longer seek to break out of the orbits of our lives or rules of our games, when we can just tolerate the existence of different voices, that would evidence a kind of virtue. Speaking of our society, acceptance first of all suggests a kind of improvement. Today we are not able to Li Yinhe's views, and require her mouth to be closed. This in fact proves that the state of our culture [精神文明] still has room to improve and that we have yet to reach the point of being able to tolerate the existence of different viewpoints.

Which isn't to say that such viewpoints don't exist. From Pheonix TV blogger Pierre Hanson:

读到这里却是让我很不是滋味了一番,李银河的'闭嘴',我认为这是我们中国的悲哀,这种悲哀就像上世纪蒋统时代的中国,要让鲁迅闭嘴一样。

在这里我想说的是,不管李银河们说的对不对,至少应该给他们一个可以自由的发表自己言论观点的环境,同时我们的李银河们也应该拿出鲁迅先生式的战士精神来,因为这是你们应尽的社会责任。

Reading this leaves a really sour taste in my mouth. Li Yinhe's ‘shutting up’, I feel is the sorrow of us Chinese. This kind of sorrow is just like the China of the President Chiang days last century, when Lu Xun was forced to shut up in the same way.

What I'd like to say here is that regardless of whether Li Yinhe was right in what she said, [public intellectuals like her] should at least be given an evironment in which they can freely express their own opinions and points of view; at the same time, the Li Yinhes among us should develop a fighting spirit the likes of that Mr. Lu Xun had, because you have that responsibility to society.

Bad girl Hexun blogger Yu Fei responds to Dr. Li's speculation that having been silenced in this way will likely lead her down a path of cynicism:

与其封一个专家,不如大大方方宣布性学是丑学,说我们这个社会、民族与万恶的性无关,彻底终止性学研究,好弄个”白茫茫大地真干净”,大家都省心。李博士也好考虑第二次再就业,不必为自己是否会成为”犬儒”而担惊受怕。对同性恋者、妓女,不能因为其是我们社会中小小的群体,或因其超越了我们一贯的行为准则和道德范畴就予与忽略,恰恰相反,也许他们更应该被关注和被关怀。所以,李银河博士的劳动完全在专家的责任心和本职之内。

With her silencing, sexology might as well have been announced far and wide as a disgraced science, saying nothing of this society and nation of ours’ heinous nature, leading to a complete end to research into sexology, all for the sake of a ‘spotless white clean land”, saving everyone from having to worry. Dr. Li, PhD. should start thinking about another career. No need to fret over or fear ending up a cynic. As for homosexuals and prostitutes, we can't ignore or overlook them just because they are minority groups in our society or exceed our norms of consistent behavior and moral limits. Quite the opposite, maybe they ought to be paid attention to and cared for. This is why Dr. Li Yinhe's work is completely within the responsibility and profession of an expert.

Some places would understandably be more in tune with contemporary values than Beijing, like Hong Kong neighbor Shenzhen, and its resident, lawyer, blogger and representative to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Yang Yiping posting from the Shenzhen News Blog :

在当今社会,一个学者是想发言还是想闭嘴,则是其个人的自由。作为公众,是想请一个学者发言还是闭嘴,则也是他们的自由。两者都是自由的,这才能称得上是一个理性的社会。学者李银河的性学之说,有人赞成有人反对都是正常的,我们并没有看到有哪个部门出来”封杀”她的言论,也不清楚她的压力究竟来自于何方。性的问题比较敏感,性的内容更有点”儿童不宜”,不顾场合、公开宣扬性学理论的做法可能为大多数人们所难以接受,这或许是李银河受到压力的主要原因。因此,我们不妨建议李银河无须”闭嘴”,只须注意点场合就可以了。

In today's society, should a scholar want to speak up or keep their mouth closed, even if it is their personal freedom? As the public, do we want scholars speaking out or closing their mouths, even if it is their freedom? Only when both are free can a society be called rational. Speaking of scholar Li Yinhe's sexology, that some people approve and some disagree is normal. But we haven't seen which department it was that spoke out and “killed” her, and we're not clear just from which direction her pressure has come. Matters of sex are rather sensitive, and content of sex is a little “not suited for children”, regardless of what the situation is. Publicly declaring theories of sexology might be hard for a lot of people to accept. This might be the main reason Li Yinhe feels pressure. For this reason, we might as well suggest that Li Yinhe need not “shut her mouth”, that simply more paying more attention to the situation would suffice.

And some excellent perspective as always from ex-Bullog blogger turned independent and Yunnan Air employee He Caitou,

这看起来是学术机构由于官僚体系的压力而钳制学者的学术和言论自由,但是台湾的李敖早在三十年前就解释了这种问题并提供了解决方案。李敖不拿研究院的钱,自己出来贩卖电冰箱,卖牛肉面。为什么?因为李敖认为知识分子在经济上的独立才能赢得人格独立,赢得人格独立才能谈其他问题。

This appears to be academic institutions controlling scholars’ academic work and freedom of speech due to pressure from the bureaucratic system, but Taiwan's Li Ao not only explained this problem thirty years ago, but provided a solution as well. Li Ao didn't take money from research institutes. He went out himself and sold fridges and beef noodles. Why? Because Li Ao felt only through financial independence could intellectuals attain personal independence, and only through personal independence be able to discuss other matters.

李银河受打压,是因为她自己身在体制内,而非江湖人。进入社科院那一天,她就应该知道自己会面对什么,就会有“上面”,有“注意”。李银河拿社科院的工资,那么她在经济上就要依附社科院。她要想放言,想不受打压,离开社科院就可以。或者按照一般路线,熬到满头白发,那么就可以想说什么就说什么。中国最勇敢的人都是70岁以上的老人,到了那时候就可以过把说真话的瘾。

Li Yinhe has been silenced, because she herself is within the system, and not out “in the wild”. The day she entered the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, she should have known what she would be up against, that there would be “uppers” and that they would be “paying attention”. Li Yinhe takes CASS’ wages, thus she depends on CASS for money. If she wants to speak out and not be silenced, she could always leave CASS. Or she could take the normal route, stay until her hair goes white and then be able to say whatever she happens to be thinking. The bravest people in China are all in their seventies or above; when they reach that age they can indulge their urge to speak the truth.

假设现在李银河现在中了2亿元的体育彩票,那么上面的话我相信她绝对不会说。组织上不高兴了,她可以一纸辞呈告诉对方:你不高兴?我还不爽呢。新浪不让她开BLOG了,她可以买服务器自己架个网接着说。派出所要找她去谈话,可以花几百万买个国外的身份,有事请先找大使馆。为什么?因为她经济独立,没必要看老板的脸色。

Suppose Li Yinhe were now to win two hundred million RMB in the sports lottery. Then she wouldn't, I believe, say anything on behalf of her superiors. If ‘the organization’ were not happy, she could write on her resignation letter, ‘you're not happy? I'm the one who's not cool with this.’ Sina.com doesn't let her blog, she could always buy a server and speak through her own web page. If the police station wants to bring her in for a talk, she could spend a few million RMB and buy a foreign passport, if they have any problems they can talk to the embassy. Why? Because she'd be financially independent and wouldn't have to worry about what her boss thinks.

所以,李银河说自己犬儒不犬儒的,那是空话。犬儒对世界无动于衷,是因为他们对世界所需甚少,木桶也可栖身。李银河要拿社科院的工资,要福利劳保,所以领导说收声她就得收声。这就是经济不独立带来的问题。

So, Li Yinhe's talk about ending up a cynic or not, that's all empty talk. Cynics are indifferent to the world, because they need little from it, live in a barrel if need be. Li Yinhe wants to take CASS’ money, wants their benefits and unemployment insurance, that's why when her leaders say stop talking, she's gonna stop. This is just the problem that comes with lack of financial independence.

4 comments

  • Peggy Lee

    Whether its political or sexology research, the academia is a special space that can raise discussions and debates in an informed and critical manner. The closure of such spaces for whatever reason -be it political or moral- is a loss of freedom for all.

    Whether people agree or not with the views of public academics, they have in important role to play by raising ideas, stimulating people to think and to look critically at their own conceptions and misconceptions on a topic.

    The topic of sexual freedom of expression, if I am correct in characterizing Li Yinhe’s writing, is pertinent to modern China now ever more so than before. We cannot deny that it is a reality that sexual culture is changing in China -people are having sex in a diversity of ways- and people need to look critically at themselves, their sexual practices and their notions of sexuality. To turn a blind a to a reality is only decieving oneself.

    More importantly there are things such as respect for people of diverse sexual orientations and practical realities of public health in terms of safer sex practice that need to be addressed in an open and informed manner.

  • A malformed society!

  • […] China: Sexologist Shuts up February 19th, 2007Renowned Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) announced last week that she had been told in no uncertain terms, by people whose identity she declined to identify, to shut up. (globalvoices) […]

  • Catherine

    “the people shall not be deprived or abridged of the right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.” James Madison
    “I may disagree with everything that you say, but I shall defend to the death you’re right to say it.” Voltaire
    “People do not have to listen to people they find offensive, or read what people have written if they find it offensive, or watch entertainment they find offensive, or look at art they find offensive. They have the power and the right to censor for themselves, but not others or society.” N Scott Mills

    As long as there are people who are willing to hear Li Yinhe, she has the right to speak. If no one hears her, she will shut up herself. No one has a right to stop her.
    There are always different ideas. There are always avant-gardes. In most cases, the most “unaccepted” idea at that time is always the most advanced idea. Why our society will advance? Bcause we think. Because we continuously raise different ideas.
    More than a hundred years ago in US when the suffragists raise the idea that women should have the right to vote, this idea was considered as most offensive and even ” wrong” by the public. However, viewing the opinion of the suffragists today, we think their opinion most natural.But if the suffragists were forced to shut up a hundred years ago, what will happen? Maybe the American women will still be forbidden to vote.
    I think she can’t really blame others for her problems, Li Yinhe has brought this upon herself. Laozi (Lao Tzu) said, “what others fear, one must also fear.” These are the words of the wise, just the sort so-called “cynics” should follow more closely. Most people are afraid to talk about these things, it’s only you who dares, and now it’s put you in danger. This isn’t just Chinese characteristics, it’s just as much an international convention. Heroes sacrificing their lives behind slogans of “fighting for the truth” happens as much overseas as it does in China.
    I am ashamed of these sentences. Aren’t we obliged to be willing to fight for and to die for the truth? If everyone follows this sentence “what others fear, one must also fear.”, how can we expect our society to advance? If no one is dare to question the authority, to question the public?

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