Could the Uniqlo sex video be China's sexual 'rebound'?

Young people pose in front of a Uniqlo store in Beijing, after a sex tape shot in a fitting room there went viral.

Story highlights

  • China cracks down on what they fear could be new wave of immorality after sex video went viral
  • Expert: Sex scandals may be a rebound after centuries of repression

Beijing (CNN)China wants its citizens to behave.

From water parks to subways, officials are cracking down on what they fear could be a new wave of immoral sex after a video of a couple making love in a Beijing Uniqlo store fitting room became the country's hottest topic.
    Now, say the words "Uniqlo" or "fitting room" and you'll get knowing smiles from just about anyone in China who's been on the Internet.
    But the government has had enough: The clothing brand's name has been censored from social media.
    Authorities have spoken to executives of Chinese Internet companies and chastised their social networks' role in spreading the indecent material, which opposed "core socialist values."
    Women take a selfie outside the Uniqlo flagship store in Beijing.
    That hasn't stopped streams of visitors taking selfies outside Uniqlo's flagship store in Sanlitun -- one of Beijing's trendiest entertainment and shopping areas.
    Other places aren't taking any chances. Hundreds of miles away from Beijing, a water park in the megacity of Chongqing hung up signs banning sex in the pool.
    One of the banners says, "The Uniqlo incident was scandalous; there was no winner in the fitting room."

    Sex 'rebound'?

    Li Yinhe, a renowned Chinese sociologist, told CNN a feverish interest in sex scandals could represent a "rebound" after years of repression.
    In addition to the Uniqlo tape, a couple was filmed this week kissing and groping each other on a subway in the city of Shenyang, sparking a frenzy of discussion on the Internet.
    Edison Chen caused a national uproar after a sex photo scandal in 2008.
    In June, tongues wagged after a mainland Chinese woman pleaded guilty to an act "outraging public decency" for having had sex on a Hong Kong street, while her partner pleaded not guilty, according to the South China Morning Post.
    And a nationwide storm ensued in 2008, when hundreds of nude photos of Hong Kong celebrity Edison Chen with more than a dozen starlets leaked online.
    The sociologist suggested part of the appeal has to do with the government's tough stance on porn, which has been banned since the Communist Party took over in 1949.
    "If you have easy access to pornographic publications and products like in other countries, you won't be excited about the Uniqlo video," said Li.

    History of repression

    Tradition and laws making sex a taboo in China date back thousands of years, to the 10th-century Song Dynasty. But Li says sexual repression reached its peak during Communist leader Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.
    Fighting for gay rights in China
    Fighting for gay rights in China


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    At the time, "having sex was only meant for reproduction but not for enjoyment," she said.
    In the 1980s, said Li, it was not uncommon for people to be sentenced to death for having sex parties or selling pornographic products and publications.
    It wasn't until 1997 when sexual repression was lifted in China. That year, so-called "hooligan crimes" -- broadly defined laws targeting everything from extramarital affairs to homosexuality -- were abolished.
    Since then, China has experienced a sexual liberation. More than 70% of Chinese people have premarital sex, said Li, citing a recent survey.

    Double standard?

    Even today, many traditional attitudes toward sex remain -- sexist double standards, say some.
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    Dating shows give Chinese women power


      Dating shows give Chinese women power


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    Like feminist activist Zheng Churan, who believes the woman in the Uniqlo video has become the incident's biggest victim.
    "Whenever there is a sex scandal, people either think the woman is pathetic, or denounce her for being slutty," Zheng told CNN.
    But fewer have condemned the man in the video, who was seen as brave or powerful.
    Zheng likened the video's aftermath to the fallout over the Edison Chen scandal, after which the women Chen slept with were often shamed more than Chen himself.
    As Li put it: "Essentially it's a patriarchal society where men can enjoy sex while women shouldn't. The double standard has been existed for thousands of years."