"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Homosexuality in Ancient China (2/2)

Related: Homosexuality in Ancient China (1/2)


"The male homoerotic tradition peaked during the Qing dynasty; the beginnings of a transition away from homoeroticism as an understood aspect of sexuality appear in the Qing legal codes. In 1679, the Kangxi emperor began a legislative campaign to control homoeroticism. As a Manchu from a more traditional family, his upbringing contrasted the native Chinese sexual practices and made him significantly less tolerant of homoerotic sexual activities. Although he first suggested the series of rape laws in 1679, the Qing rape laws did not come into effect until 1740. Even without the code enacted during his lifetime, the Kangxi emperor worked to limit male prostitution and to minimize the selling and trading of young male actors. While many ignored his efforts and the popularity of male same-sex desire increased during most of the Qing dynasty, mainly due to the cultural powers of the literati, the promulgation of the Qing rape laws significantly contributed to the understanding the development of Chinese culture as it moved away from semi-tolerance of homoeroticism...

Subsection VIII, however, is unique since it is the one of the first legal considerations of consensual male -male sex under the category of illicit sex. It reads, “If there is sodomy with consent, then as in the case of military or civilian consensual lewdness, there is to be one month in the cangue and 100 heavy blows.”...

"Prior to the introduction of the Qing rape laws, other legal edicts and statutes attempted to regulate male homoeroticism, but often they did not succeed. Matthew Sommer’s 1997 article, “The Penetrated Male in Late Imperial China: Judicial Constructions and Social Stigma,” reviews the legislative history of the regulation of sexual relations between men. He distinguishes previous regulation from the Qing legal codes because of their placement under the illicit sex ( jian ) section. He presents examples from the Song dynasty and from the Ming dynasty that prohibit men from acting like prostitutes, from cross -dressing and from doing other things considered to challenge their masculinity. Specifically, in the Jiajing era (1522- 1567) of the Ming dynasty, Sommer describes a statue that bans sexual intercourse between men. The translation he uses reads: “Whoever inserts his penis into another man’s anus for lascivious play... shall receive 100 blows of the heavy bamboo, in application by analogy of the statute on ‘pouring foul material into the mouth of another person....’” Chinese legal code often applied new legislation by connecting it analogously with older statutes. This particular analogy appears in the chapters regarding fighting. Sommer regards this as noteworthy because it suggests “pollution and humiliation were more important than batter to defining the crime of anal penetrations.” To clarify, pouring foul matter into another person’s mouth does not damage the perpetrator in any way, but he does cause the social denigration of another individual. Furthermore, the action does not necessarily hurt the assaulted individual, but it does thoroughly humiliate him or her in the eyes of other members of society. Status and personal dignity mean more than the actual damage or suffering. Sommer’s focus on social stigmas and male-male sex as a threat to social hierarchies in this and the Qing legal code resulted from an academic controversy over the reason why the Manchus enacted the Qing code.

In 1985, M.J. Meijer published an article in T’oung Pao titled “Homosexual Offenses in Ch’ing Law.” Meijer presented a detailed account of the laws regarding homoerotic sex and rape while also providing examples of legal cases related to these statutes. He concluded that the prohibitions of extramarital sex, between men and women and between men and other men, “may have been motivated by the desire to protect existing marriages against adultery...”... he postulates two possible explanations for the appearance of Qing rape laws. He says it may have been possible that the laws intended to prohibit homoerotic sex because of a fear that it would prevent men from fulfilling their familial duties by failing to produce offspring at all. He also considers whether the Manchus enacted the bans as a result of a belief that homoeroticism violated nature by disrupting yin and yang balance...

The introduction of Qing rape laws reinforced the Manchu desire to reclaim cultural capital from the literati by renewing Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism in hopes of gaining the support of the upper classes. According to Ng, the Manchus believed that they could collaborate with the minority faction of the literati who believed that the collapse of the Ming dynasty occurred as a result of the “iconoclastic and hedonistic tendencies” of the Wang Yangming School. By emphasizing the “’safe’ values as filial piety, fraternal affection, female chastity, obedience and respect for elders,” the Qing government could use Chinese morality as a form of social control.

Ng then considers why the codes addressed consensual sodomy. She suggests the possible comparison between homoerotic sex and female unchaste behavior influenced the lawmakers. Perhaps the Manchus and Neo-Confucian scholars felt that sex between men paralleled extramarital sex between a man and a woman since both violated filial piety and social expectations of chastity...

Bret Hinsch’s final chapter of Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China uses both of these articles to support his own analysis of the end of the ‘male homosexual tradition.’ He also limits his focus to the section regulating consensual sodomy. Like Meijer, Hinsch proposes that the regulation supported the “unequivocal stand against all forms of extramarital sexuality as a way of strengthening the Confucian ideal of family, perhaps in reaction to Ming chaos.”...

In 1995, Frank Dikotter specifically disagrees with Brett Hinsch’s view of the western influence on China in Sex, Culture and Modernity in China: Medical Science and the Construction of Sexual Identities in the Early Republican Period . Rather, he argues similarly to Meijer and Ng that “homosexuality was never singled out as a particular category of deviant behavior... Rather, he claims it was thrown together with all kinds of extramarital sex... which were undesirable because they did not lead to procreation.”...

'The normative male was a married, adult householder with a stake in the familial order so valorized by the Confucian state. He was a commoner, a man of respectable family and occupation. He had survived unsullied the delicate journey to adult masculinity; his masculinity was based... on the sexual roles of husband and father. His centrifugal, penetrative sexuality was disciplined by the filial duty to procreate and by a sober fear of community sanction and imperial authority.'

Penetration, therefore, threatened this definition - specifically the requirement to have reached adulthood unsullied. The penetrator, by continuing to fulfill the expected sexual roles of husband or father by being the dominate force, does not lose such status. For example, according to Sommer, the Jiajing era code that compared male -male anal penetration to the pouring of foul matter into another’s mouth implies that there existed a stigma that would only affect the penetrated male since such an action “would stain the [penetrator] no more than foul material would sully one who poured it.” The penetration of another male did not disrupt the penetrator’s masculinity and thus society did not stigmatize the dominant actor. Thus, the masculinity of the vulnerable male being penetrated ca used the concern.

Sommer argues that the weighing of penalties supports his thesis. In heteroerotic rape cases, the experience or emotions of the victim did not dictate the penalties given to a perpetrator. Rather the amount of status lost determined the severity of the punishments. Society considered woman raped a second time less ‘damaged’ by the assault since she had already lost her chastity. Judges thus sanctioned the rapist less severely. In the early 1700s, the assimilation of male -male rape laws with male -female rape laws included this “hierarchy of penetration.”...

Sex between men, as Sommer argues, threatened a different aspect of social stability — masculinity. The laws intended to protect the penetrated male, especially if the male came from a good family. The humiliation of losing one’s masculinity did not have an impact on the individual alone; it directly harmed the reputation of the entire family. Since saving face and maintaining guanxi are essential in Chinese society, the threat to the penetrated male’s masculinity also threaten social stability by possibly ruining the reputation of good families. In the same way that extramarital sex between men and women from good families harmed or threatened society because it threatened keystone family values, the penetration of a respectable young man endangered social stability. Importantly, however, the alterations to the Qing legal code do not imply a total disapproval of all forms of sexuality outside of marriage or between men. This shift of cultural opinion, however, did not occur outright against homoeroticism. Only forms of sexuality that threatened the social hierarchy concerned legalists and moralists. Also significant, there is little proof that the Qing government systematically enforced these subsections...

The first edict issued by the Qianlong emperor in response to the Macartney Embassy showed the Chinese believed that they had nothing to gain from relations with Great Britain:

I have perused your memorial: the earnest terms in which is it couched reveal a respectful humility on your part, which is highly praiseworthy... As to your entreaty to send one of your nationals to be accredited to my Celestial Court... this request is contrary to all usage of my dynasty and cannot possibly be entertained... [your envoy] could not possibly transplant our manners and customs to your alien soil. Therefore, however adepts the Envoy might become, nothing would be gained thereby...

The scholars saw successful marriage and childrearing as essential for the health of the nation. Strong families continued to hold a central role in Chinese politics just as they had in The Great Learning. In order to assume that the default form of sexuality only included relations between men and women, “Chinese intellectuals had to delineate its boundaries and identify relationships that were peripheral to or overlapped with it....” Relationships, therefore, that did not fall within the boundaries of opposite-sex eroticism and love fell into the categories of abnormal or unnatural.

The emergence of heterosexism “allowed same-sex love to be medicalized and pathologized, now being perceived as a mental disorder and psychological essence that requires specific medical-psychological treatment.” By placing homosexuality opposite of heterosexuality and by institutionalizing romantic love through new standards for marriage, Chinese intellectuals adopted western understandings of sexuality without having to adopt western religious doctrine as well. Unlike in the west where ideas of sin and vice motivated the increase in medical discourse related to sexuality, Chinese scholars used theories of yin and yang to adapt “biologized gender polarity” to place homosexual relationships in the periphery of acceptable eroticism. The reformation of gender identities during this time, such as the appearance of “The New Woman,” further contributed to an understanding of homosexuality as “sexual inversion.” Considerations of homosexuality as a medical illness, popular in the West for decades before this, slowly penetrated the Chinese mentality over the next half of the century. As such, treatments attempted to alter individuals with homoerotic desires much in the same way as in Europe and America. In some cases, Chinese medical professionals believed homoerotic desires to be natural which, rather than leading to a view accepting homosexuality as a lifestyle, often led to the belief that doctors could not help individuals with these desires...

Chinese scholars used Chinese culture to implement Western views without importing Western religious values. The waste of semen, highly frowned upon by traditional beliefs in Taoism, defended medical discourse against homoeroticism, not religious sin or immorality like in the West. This view also adds to the heterosexualizing of Chinese society by implying that all individuals originally and ultimately have heterosexual desires within them as part of the natural path in life...

It is likely that communist leaders saw homosexuality as part of the decadence of bourgeois society prior to the civil war. The issue, then, becomes less the object of sexual desire, but rather the conflicts of classism. While it is difficult to find references to actual party politics regarding homosexuality prior to the 1980s, publications from after the 1980s that call homosexuality “a ‘Western social disease’” supports arguments that politicians, if and when they considered the effects of homosexuality on society, probably believed homosexuality contributed to Chinese political weakness by threatening family structures and by supporting western, non-normative sexual practices. By associating it with bourgeois culture, the CCP could use Marxism to defend homophobia. These beliefs may parallel some of the arguments made by Qing scholars against extramarital sexuality and against the indulgences of Ming and Qing literati...

By controlling marriage and sexuality, the state controlled gender boundaries, family stability, and individual behavior in order to ultimately control social and political power...

One of the most interesting views on homoeroticism from this time appears in the personal memoirs of Mao Zedong’s physician, Dr. Li Zhisui. In his interactions with Mao, Li learned that “Mao’s sexual activity was not confined to women. The young males who served as his attendants were invariably handsome and strong, and one of their responsibilities was to administer a nightly massage… Mao insited that his groin be massage, too….” What makes his observations interesting, however, goes beyond popular fascination with political leaders; his view of Mao’s sexuality adheres to a more tradition view of sexuality. He further says,

For a while I took such behavior as evidence of a homosexual strain, but later I concluded that it was simply an insatiable appetite for any form of sex. In traditional times young men… played the female roles in Chinese operas, and many were brought into the sexual service of wealthy merchants and officials… Catamites are part of Chinese tradition.

This passage only accounts for one individual’s view of homoeroticism, but they also may say many things about Chinese views of sexuality. First, the final line of the passage stands out as fairly significant. Li, a professionally trained doctor, considers sexual engagement with catamites as a part of Chinese history and tradition. He knows of the recent history of homoeroticism which implies that works such as The Dream of the Red Chamber and The Golden Lotus, which he mentions specifically as favorites of Mao, continued to inform readers of the homoerotic tradition from the height of the literati same-sex vogue. The sexual appetites of officials and merchants from ‘traditional times’ still existed in the collective memories of Chinese professionals. Second, his dismissal of Mao’s homoeroticism as part of a larger desire for sex, regardless of gender, very much complies with traditional understandings of sexuality as described above. Mao’s fondling of servant boys and the fondling of him in return did not constitute an identity in Li’s opinion; rather it fit within Mao’s character as a powerful leader with very obvious sexual prowess. In his sixties, according to Li, Mao continued to engage in orgies with many women as part of a belief in Taoist sexual practices, “allegedly in the interest of his longevity and strength.”...

Parents, for example, often have little concern for their child’s intimate acts with other members of his or her gender; they focus, instead, on the fear that “she or he becomes ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay,’ a sexed category that privileges sexuality at the expense of his or her position in the family-kinship system, thus making the child a nonbeing in Chinese culture.”...

In China, the word tongzhi replaced English words such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, homosexual or transgender...

When discussing gay men and women from prior to the twentieth century or men and women who do not adopt a tongzhi identity, some scholars use the acronym PEPs which refers to “People who are Erotically attracted to People of the Same sex.”...

Many PEPs succumb to these pressures and marry. Sometimes the spouse knows his or her wife or husband feels erotically attracted to members of the same sex... Some even purposefully get married with the intention of quickly getting divorced in order to stall criticisms from colleagues and family members, but to also avoid making their spouse suffer for too long...

The arguments for universal human rights and freedom of speech, expression or love do not have as much historical weight in China as they do in the West. Furthermore, the fundamental goals of pride festivals contradict Chinese values. Chinese culture, for example, looks down upon pride and individualism because of Confucian values. An individual’s place within the family and within greater society determines the value of his or her experiences. Individualism, a much beloved trait in Western society, disconnects a person from his or her obligations and responsibilities which directly threatens values such as filial piety and the five relationships. Confrontational politics, regardless of the goals of the group, struggle in China because of these issues. The western models, often seen as a universal prototype, “are actually generated by a specific socioeconomic and cultural history of possessive individualism, industrial capitalism, urbanization, a framework of psychoanalysis, and a discourse of rights.”...

The more relational concepts of identity makes coming out seem like the individual admits he or she does not fit the expectations of society. It reaffirms that non-hetersoexual sexual identity deviates from Chinese identity and places more weight on aspects of one’s identity that usually constitute only a minor part of the person. One woman, for example, said, “It is problematic to demand that all PEPS come out with the same identity… I tend to prioritize Hong Kong Chinese identity (cultural), Buddhism (religion), daughter (family-kin), and vegetarian (ecological-political) no less than my sexuality. So, come out as what?"...

Rather than forcing their parents to discuss and accept their sexual preferences, many tongzhi individuals choose to use fundamental experiences to help their parent tacitly understand. For example, one man, James, managed to incorporate his boyfriend, Xiao-Liu, into his family through a slow process of bringing him home for dinner. By initially bringing him home as a friend, James did not need to outright tell his parents that Xiao-Liu was his boyfriend; rather, he allowed them to interact first and realize that Xiao-Liu cares for James very much. For his family, the implicit sexual relationship means significantly less if the outward friendship can persuade them that this situation is good for James. Through time, James’ parents began to invite Xiao-Liu to stay the night or to attend all family dinners. James says,

My parents treat him as their son, and never say a word about sex. I think it is better to come out by action than by words or arguments. I can’t expect my parents to understand the concepts if tongxinglian, The terms gay and tongxinglian could be very scary for my parents as they would be associated with perversity and Western corruption. But they understand intimate ganqing and guanxi, they accept Xiao-Liu fully, not as a gay man, but as my intimate friend.

--- Changing Attitudes: The Male Homoerotic Tradition in Late Imperial China through Present Day / Amy Testa


Given that the Chinese had contempt for foreigners, the hypothesis that they became 'homophobic' to make Westerners happy seems suspect.

The post May Fourth rising of 'homophobia' in China shows one secular basis for disapproving of homosexuality
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