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Boy's Love: A Chinese Defense Of The Right To Odd Romance Novels - And Pornography
Li Yinhe

Recently several authors of a BL fiction website were arrested. The injustice is so glaringly obvious that I can’t stop myself from saying something about this.

The so-called BL (Boy's Love) fiction is a particular interest of a minority of people. The concept comes from Japan: it refers to female-oriented fiction featuring idealized romantic relationships between two males, mostly as manga works.

These women consider themselves as “rotten” -- rotten in Japanese meaning “hopeless.” It’s a self-deprecating way of describing the fact that these women are hopelessly caught in an appreciation and a passion for homosexual romance. These women are not lesbians -- they love the opposite sex. So why are they drawn to this love between men? It does sound a bit odd, but to be odd does not constitute a reason for arrest or prison.

In my analysis, the formation of such a preference has various causes. First, the young girls like pretty boys, a most natural and justifiable tendency. Second, they don’t wish these boys to fall in love with girls other than themselves. Therefore, they tolerate one boy loving another because only this will prevent another girl from becoming the object of their love.

Third, they love these boys without being able to have sex with them since these boys have a sexual orientation towards another male. A lot of these so-called rotten women actually come from families with a very conservative sexual upbringing and are not themselves dissipated. To love a homosexual is a non-sexual love since the homosexual will not have sex with girls.

Fourth, some of these women wish to stay immersed in love without getting married. Loving a homosexual means that it will never be translated into a marriage and they can thus enjoy this love for love's sake.

All in all, no matter how the orientation for Boy's Love originates and however odd the rotten women’s passion may seem, they are not to be discriminated against -- just as discrimination is wrong against homosexuals, or the left-handed, or people who enjoy a certain type of book or work of art.

Sex as evil

Moreover, the police arrests were based on the provisions of China’s Criminal Law concerning pornographic products. This regulation is a living dinosaur in today’s world -- it’s virtually inexistent in most countries. It’s an outdated law belonging to the ethical standards of the Middle Ages in Europe and China’s Cultural Revolution.

In those times, sex was regarded as evil. Pornographic products were considered an ugly form of expression of such evil, they were to be strictly prohibited and destroyed. People who produced and disseminated pornographic products were to be arrested and penalized.

Up to the 1990s, China still had cases where the death penalty was imposed. For instance, a piece of news from the People’s Daily in 1994 reported “Since early last year till this September, the city authorities have seized half a million contraband books and magazines as well as more than 60,000illegal tapes, videos and laser discs. More than 80 investigations combating pornography and concerning illegal publishing activities were undertaken. More than 100 persons were taken into custody, investigated and jailed. Among the three dozen people convicted, one has been condemned to death, two to the death penalty with reprieve, and one to life imprisonment.”

In Europe and North America where the pornographic industry generates over $1 billion annually, a lot of people would have been shot, were the Chinese standard applied. This is why such a judgment is appalling.

Recently the punishment for pornographic web publishing was lightened in China. A recent felon was sentenced to four months of detention. Nevertheless, however short the sentence is, its mere existence remainsappalling in the 21st Century, and any such conviction should be regarded as a serious violation of human rights.

Pornographic products belong to the scope of speech. They are the output of human imagination, not action, and therefore to be protected according to the Constitution’s statements about freedom of speech, as well as freedom of publication.

There were times in the past when China’s Constitution was a joke. During the Cultural Revolution even the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China was beaten to death. Are we to repeat the same errors again?

Most of all, the consumption of pornographic commodities is an adult’s right. One fundamental reason for this is that sexual activity itself is not harmful. Nor are the pornographic products that are simply the expression of sex in words or images.

In other parts of the world, measures are taken to prohibit and prevent minors from consuming pornographic goods, but they do not deny adults the right to access them.

We should show our solidarity with the arrested web BL novel writers and save them from prosecution. Furthermore, we should fight for the abolition of the pornographic products clause in the Criminal Law to defend the consumer rights of Chinese adults.

Li Yinhe is a well-known Chinese woman sexologist and professor of sociology.

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