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Reinventing LicentiousnessPornography and Modern China$
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Y. Yvon Wang

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752971

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752971.001.0001

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Sex(ology) Sells

Sex(ology) Sells

The Marketplace Assimilates Global Modern Innovations

(p.125) Chapter 4 Sex(ology) Sells
Reinventing Licentiousness

Y. Yvon Wang

Cornell University Press

This chapter points out the persistence of early modern genres and technologies in turn-of-the-century markets for sexual depictions. It shows that existing ways of thinking about licentiousness among urban Chinese consumers, merchants, and law enforcement helped novel media content and forms take root in early twentieth-century China. The chapter focuses on the simultaneity of novel material developments and long-standing trends in the markets for and regulation of sexual representations. It also describes the distance between the letter of the law and its enforcement, arguing that grassroots law enforcement's definitions of transgressiveness directly, powerfully shaped what counted as pornographic. The chapter dissects the most dramatic example of Chinese early modern sexual culture's enduring power: its assimilation of the self-consciously modern genre of sexual science. Existing sexual discourse and print economies absorbed sexological treatises so that, in the eyes of buyers, sellers, producers, and police, sexology became difficult to separate from licentious xiaoshuo and lyric books. It then examines continuities and changes in the perceptions and lived experiences of those on the demand and supply sides of the market. Ultimately, the chapter discusses the case of Zhang Jingsheng's rebranding as “Dr. Sexology,” and the assimilation of sexology into existing markets and vocabularies for eroticism.

Keywords:   sexual depictions, licentiousness, novel media, transgressiveness, sexual science, sexology, market, eroticism

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