CHINA—Talk about a glut of user-generated porn! Talk about taking jobs away from the West! Talk about a boom in manufacturing! If Professor Katrien Jacobs is correct in her evaluation of the Sino state of porn, the Chinese are on the cusp of a wave of homemade pornography production that will make the current output of UGC seem like a one-man gangbang.
In a fascinating interview that provides a sneak peek into the contents of her new book, People’s Pornography: Sex and Surveillance on the Chinese Internet, James Griffiths of web magazine Danwei talks China and internet porn with the Ph.D. in comparative literature and media, who is currently an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Of particular interest, besides her comment that while there is not much Chinese-made porn at the moment, “China is so ready for it,” Jacobs paints a vivid portrait of a country at public pains to keep a perception lid on the unfettered proliferation of porn through digital networks. China, she says, knows it has already lost the war, but can’t admit it. Instead, it is cracking down on porn’s outliers, the sexual misfits and minorities for whom the internet has been a boon in terms of community building and audience development.
“It seems indeed that porn cannot be banned and that the PRC government is perhaps even secretly letting it into the country,” said Jacobs. “But besides their bombastic cleanup campaigns, they also censor web communities that stand for sexual freedom or queer identity. It seems as if sexual minorities, sex artists and activists are much more vulnerable than those involved in mainstream commercial porn, especially at this moment when film festivals are being shut down and human rights activists are being tortured and detained. These are the dark times of China’s civil right and sexual creative outlet, but there is still so much porn and sex entertainment available that we can see it as safer outlet.”
That is a typically mixed and conflicted picture of China today, at once open and teeming with opportunity while simultaneously closed and oppressive of certain populations. But despite the “dark times” that China is currently living through, Jacob’s interview also reveals that even when the light is eventually allowed to shine, the Chinese market may be more or less closed to Western adult content, not because of censorship but design. Chinese men, she says, simply prefer Asian porn, and specifically Japanese porn.
“I think it is primarily because the Japanese know how the play the Chinese markets for pop culture and sex entertainment,” she told Griffiths. “They simply supply an excessive kind of erotic imagination that Chinese entrepreneurs cannot handle. Even though there is a wealth of genres and mind-boggling fetish products available from Japan, the cultures actually share a quite narrow-minded patriarchal view on sexual pleasure. This is perhaps the reason why Chinese men like Japanese stars, because they embody a feminine ideal of innocence and purity that is harder to find in Western porn. Western females in porn are considered to be too active and too ‘coarse’ for Chinese men.”
Underneath the somewhat encouraging message that “net-porn industries are surviving and flourishing despite the [Chinese] ban [on pornography],” Jacobs concurred with the view that the reliance by Chinese youth on porn for their sex education was problematic in that “it creates distorted expectations in males who do not know very well how to handle their women sexually. Generally speaking the porn culture and erotic vanguards in China are leaving behind the women and sexual minorities.”
China, she added, needs porn education, which she thinks “would be more exciting than sex education, and would allow all kinds of people to watch and judge products, or even to make some of their own. But this is merely a fantasy at the current moment.”
A fantasy that could one day become a reality.