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Sex in Shanghai

I passed by this reference on EastSouthWestNorth yesterday but had no idea it was such a cause célèbre until I read Ryan’s posting on his great Suzhou blog.

A young English teacher out of Shanghai has been trysting with the ladies and then posting the rather intimate details on his blog under the unoriginal title “Sex in Shanghai.” (Ed. Note as of 8/29/06 the author of the SiS blog restricted his readers to those signed on to blogspot due to the amount of hatemail he received in the last 24 hours). I went over and checked it out (ahem) and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve seen better smut. That said, the guy is a cad who lacks the insight or irony (or frankly the double-X chromosome) that made Candace Bushnell or Jessica Cutler (in)famous. He’s not doing this to poke holes in the powerbrokers of New York or Washington, he’s doing this to say, “Hey, yo! Look at me! I’m not a virgin anymore, Mom!” It’s childish and despicable. It’s also, apparently, sufficient to make our young “Casanova on the Bund” the subject of a China-wide internet manhunt.

It seems that in addition to the students and young coeds with whom the Shanghai Lothario has dillied his dally, there were also not a few married ladies who, according to our wanna-be Playah, needed a little something more than Chinese men could give. This guy is a real piece of work, let me tell you. Grandma back home must be proud as punch.

But honestly if he’d stopped with just being a cad, he’d probably have been okay. But questioning the masculinity of Chinese males in general…well anyone who is familiar with the machismo and 面子 mianzi of the Chinese male can guess what happened next.

Professor Zhang Jiehai (张结海) at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences launched a full-on attack on the lascivious laowai calling on all members of the Chinese net community to smoke out his true identity and to have him booted from the Middle Kingdom for good. (English translation courtesy of ESNW. Original text and comments available on Professor Zhang’s own blog.)

Unfortunately for the peeved prof, being a scumbag is not a deportable offense nor is it responsible to call for some kind of “net lynching.” Unfortunately for the cad, however, the movement seems to have some traction.

Sex in Shanghai put up a spirited defense and he does have his supporters but I have to agree with Professor Zhang that this guy is no good. Professor Zhang is wise to note that standards for English teachers have fallen. (“You have blond hair and blue eyes? Good. You speak only Polish? That’s okay. You’ll look the part. Go and teach. Dziekuje, I got to take a call. John Mark Carr is on line 2 and is looking for work.”) But the near hysterical response I think says more about anxieties in China today as increasing numbers of foreigners come to work and live there than it does about any of the naughty postings on Sex in Shanghai.

Professor Zhang writes:

“On one hand, as a scholar and a man, I have relentlessly and directly criticized Chinese men, because I am one of them. On the other hand, I have always been reticent with respect to Chinese women, which included our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

But after reading this piece of garbage’s blog today, I must ask these Chinese women, “What is the matter with you?”

I know that many of you don’t understand what it is like outside of China and you don’t realize that there are such pieces of garbage among foreign men. Amongst all this, there is one girl who heard that this piece of garbage mentioned that he has a blog and suspected that he has other girls; so she found this blog through some Internet searches and read how the details of her lovemaking with this foreigner has been told to the public. And she also finds out that the foreigner does not love her. Meanwhile, none of the other women know about this.

I can understand that some women do this for the money and others do this in order to be able to go overseas. But, our female compatriots, when you make friends with foreigners, please always remember this: Are you willing to be the female star in a pornographic blog?”

Judging by the comments on Professor Zhang’s blog, the story has definitely touched a nerve and it is not too far-fetched to place the scandal in the context of an increasingly assertive sense of nationalism by Chinese both in China and abroad. Sexuality has always been an important part of the process of creating and maintaining national identity. Colonial administrators of the 19th century fretted over the intermarriage of European colonial officers and native women. One of the first and last rules of the Manchu rulers was that no Manchu women could marry Han men. They did it anyway. In 1988 at Nanjing University, two African males escorting Chinese women to a campus Christmas party sparked a series of anti-African demonstrations there. During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the virtue of Chinese women was held up, by males, as symbolic of the strength and purity of the Chinese civilization at a time when that civilization had been conquered by outside forces. Women have always been, to use the words of Beverly Bossler, a Song historian at UC Davis, “vessels of the symbolic.”

That said, women are also of course more than just mere “vessels.” What disturbs me about Professor Zhang’s post is the way he himself seems to think so little of Chinese women. He sets up an almost “Bushian” dichotomy: “You either stick with the local boys or wind up videotaped naked tied to a bed on YouTube.”

Chinese women are not hopeless imbeciles ready to hop into the sack with whomever offers a bit of candy. Many choose to have relationships with men who are not Chinese. This does not make them stupid or 汉奸, it makes them human. (For my own thoughts on the subject see my tongue-in-cheek posting “Yellow Fever.”)

I believe what Professor Zhang might find discomforting is the historical echoes of hypergamy in Chinese marriage. This is a pattern we see throughout Chinese history and it’s one reason why there has always been a market for women in China. The trend was for Chinese women to marry up the social scale, thus poor village women married men from larger towns. Those from large towns often married men in cities. What is objectionable here is that some women (and apparently not a few ill-educated foreign males) tend to equate “nationality” with “social status.” That’s a trend we’ve seen play out in Japan and Korea in the last century, here’s to hoping it dies a quick death in China.

6 Comments on Sex in Shanghai

  1. 有意思!不过个人认为,那位教授大可不必兴师动众。首先,根据法律,那个英国人并没有强奸女性,没有违反法律,所以仅凭他的言论,并没有理由把它驱逐出境。再有,那个家伙确实是个混蛋,花心大萝卜,但是中国这么大一个国家,有几个无知的外国说三道四,我们还是应该能承受得起的。如果这点胸襟都没有,怎么能称得上是大国。

    话说回来,感觉中国人对外国人还是不了解。很多女孩子觉得外国人什么都好,有钱,浪漫。但是首先,外国人和中国人一样也有三六九等,有绅士,也有混蛋,擦亮你们的眼睛, 不要太世故, 否则吃亏的是自己。


  2. The Humanaught // August 29, 2006 at 8:47 pm //

    @J.: Again, great to see some historical perspective on this hot topic. And thanks for the shoutout. 😉

    @Lemur: Where has this Chinese commentary been on the other English blogs about this? Please, PLEASE translate this into English and go post at some of the other blogs. Your compatriots are making comments on your behalf that support many foreigners’ stereotypes of Chinese reactionary and ignorant nature. Go, please, prove them wrong.

  3. I don’t want to prove that somebody is wrong, or somebody is correct. I just want to speak out about what I think, and try my best to be objective.

    I have to be clear that the British dude is realy a jerk, I really don’t like his behavior.

    BTW, I saw a lot of the Chinese comments on the Sex and Shanghai blog have sort of the same idea as what I wrote before. Not all were supporting the professor.

  4. It is so easy to jump to conclusions and become emotionally agitated over this entire event. The opinions expressed by the writer above seem to almost incite hatred to all foreign or white men. Please, my Chinese friends, both men and womaen…. WE ARE ALL NOT LIKE THAT. In fact, many of us laowais come to China to work, go to school, and to contribute to the community. Most of us are not here to play with Chinese woman and we have absolute respect for all woman, Chinese and non-Chinese.

    All of this talk about Yellow-Fever is crazy. Men and woman meet and fall in love every day. All colors of people and ethnic groups. Love is love. It is not about color. I see many mixed ethnic couples that are happy and married and even have kids together.

    I am not saying it is ok to do what the “garbage man” did, if in fact he did. I know many Chinese woman and honestly, they have never seemed that easy, they way he says. Give the Chinese woman more credit than that… they are smart and do not fall easily for such small talk or the hope of a green card.

    Chinese men… have nothing to worry about when it comes to comparing to white men or other foreigners. This is the time for you Chinese and even White women to stand up and defend them !!

    If anything, this entire incident show how the internet can be used as a positive social tool to educate and effect change.

    But remeber, not all foreigners are bad and should be hated. People are people and love is love.

  5. Hey J, Fantastic post. I hadn’t heard about this until I read it on your blog. Now my MSN is off the hook with girls asking me if I know this clown. Who should we pin it on? Hahah.

  6. The guy is a great writer, actually, and I find the reaction against him to be quite appalling. One could almost think we were in China at the turn of the last century, listening to the Boxers talking about expelling the immoral foreign barbarians.

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