Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No sex theme parks in China

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The picture on this article, published in the New York Times yesterday, is striking: in it, workers pull down a giant mannequin of half a female body, wearing only a red g-string. The accompanying article is even more interesting: the first sex theme park in China has shut down before it even opened. Maybe I'm incredibly naive, but I wasn't aware that sex theme parks existed in America (they do, and in London, and apparently all over the world, as Google informed me). It doesn't seem surprising that the Chinese would object to such a park - I'm very involved with sex-positive activism, but the idea of an "orgasm tunnel" or a dummy that one gropes to find erogenous zones (I swear, both of these exist in a sex park in London), doesn't seem so much sex-positive as just plain bizarre. But the Chinese sex park's creator, Lu Xiaoqing, said that he wanted the park to be available for the public good. He commented, "Sex is a taboo subject in China, but people really need to have more access to information about it."

According to the article, the Chinese are at once more prudish and open than we are - prostitution and "massage parlors" are incredibly common, but parents rarely talk to their children about sex, and the government often censors works of art that contain graphic depictions of sex. So I'm not sure how much a sex theme park would help convince parents that they really just need to sit down and have that embarrassing talk with their kid, but at the same time, it seems better for a teenager to go to a sex park where they would be given information on safe sex and condoms (one of the park's promised attractions), rather than sneaking into a "hair salon." I don't think the park is a bad idea - and if it lived up to its promises of sex technique “workshops” and a photography exhibition about the history of sex, as well as lessons on the proper use of condoms, I don't think it should have been closed (or subjected to so much furor). But I don't think that opening one sex theme park would have changed China's dialogue about sex.

Either way, however, the park isn't happening. And it certainly looks like China (like many countries, including our own) has a lot of work to do before it can, as a culture, approach sex in a healthy way - even the NYT uses weird language to talk about sexual freedom, describing the city where the sex park was going to be built as possessing "loose moral standards." Now what the hell does that mean? Does it just mean more prostitution behind closed doors? Because if a sex theme park isn't going to get built, then there certainly aren't going to be more radical reforms, like, I don't know, comprehensive sex education. And for goodness' sake, what if a someone goes to the "orgasm tunnel" and then doesn't visit the safe sex booth? The potential problems abound!

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