Don’t Swing in China
Ma Yaohai, a 53-year-old computer science professor at Nanjing University of Technology, was recently sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for “crowd licentiousness” — better known as swinging. Roaring Virile Fire, as he calls himself online, belongs to clubs that practice group sex and partner swapping, and organized many of the sex parties himself. He was arrested after a group who were caught at a hotel sex party named names.
Maximum sentence for the “crime” is five years in prison. Ma was the only swinger among those arrested who refused to plead guilty, for which he was doubly punished. Three defendants were acquitted with no penalties because they turned themselves in, and 18 received sentences of less than 3 years. The Court said that, by pleading guilty, they demonstrated “good attitudes.” Ma, on the other hand, must have a bad attitude, as he stood up for sexual freedom. “What we did,” he said, “we did for our own happiness. People chose to do it of their own free will and they knew they could stop at any time. We disturbed no one.”
In a rapidly changing society, China’s laws on sexual behavior are undergoing much debate. In the 1980s, people convicted of the now defunct crime of “hooliganism” — which prohibited several types of sexual activity including group sex — could be executed. While acknowledging much has changed, sociologist and sex expert Li Yinhe was disappointed in the court’s ruling. “The real improvement,” Yinhe said, “should be the complete abolishment of this crime.”
Citizen opinion, of course, varies. “This behavior has caused social chaos,” wrote someone on an online forum. “People like you should be punished severely.” Like most people and societies, China’s sexual laws, mores and attitudes reflect much confusion and ambivalence. Pornography is banned, but users get through blocks on adult websites with software made to circumvent the government’s system of censorship. “Adult health stores,” the Chinese version of Good Vibrations, are common throughout China. People document their promiscuity for wide Internet readerships. Every time a corrupt official is exposed, a story about his pampered mistresses follows. Prostitution is illegal, but brothels poorly disguised as hair salons exist in every city.
Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Still, you have to admit, American swingers aren’t likely to end up in jail. Three cheers for American freedom! And another three for Roaring Virile Fire, a brave man indeed.
If You’re Disabled in Russia You’d Better Be Athletic
While the Russian Olympic team brought home a paltry three gold medals from Vancouver, their Paralympic team – people with disabilities – took first place in a parallel competition, snaring 38 medals, including 12 golds. They proudly carried these home to Mother Russia, despite having gotten a lot less government financing than the inferior able-bodied squad. Their victory is even more impressive when you consider that in Russia disabled people struggle just to get in and out the door.
Accessibility is so limited that some disabled kids have to study at home because they can’t get around the schools. Perspektiva, an organization fighting for disabled people’s rights, resolved one case by providing a chair lift so a fifth grader could get to his upstairs classes.
The Kremlin did a quick about-face when the Paralympians’ success provided some solace after the embarrassment of the Olympics. President Dmitri A. Medvedev fairly gushed at a ceremony welcoming the conquering heroes: “It was so nice to watch and cheer for you, especially since the Olympics held earlier evoked such ambiguous emotions. You are all simply fantastic!” He even promised to allocate funds for developing athletic infrastructure.
Sochi, a city on the Black Sea south of Moscow, is to be the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. After months of negotiations, Perspektiva finally led the first disability awareness training for those who’ll be working at both the Olympics and Paralympics. Let’s hope that people with disabilities excel again – maybe they’ll earn a few ramps.