The Mao years in China, particularly the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), are considered extraordinarily sexually “repressive.” Sexual correctness was equated to political correctness and both were imposed on all citizens as never before. But from my existing research it is clear that this vision of Maoist repression is inadequate as an explanation for why and how trends observable at the beginning of the twentieth century--from vast urban sex work markets to discussions about the rights of sexual minorities-- returned so rapidly and forcefully at its close. The main objectives of this project are to show to what extent erotically charged media (known from World War II on as "yellow" in Chinese) survived the PRC's crackdowns, and to offer initial explanations for how it did so. A secondary goal is to tap and bring to attention to new sources and sites as yet unexplored by historians of modern China. This work adds new dimensions to and in the process transcends the questions of continuity and change that haunt twentieth-century Chinese history; it also offers a fresh perspective on how sex, states, and media interact in a global modernity continuing to unfold today.
Principal Investigator: Yvon Wang