Tackling the taboos of sex and desire in Hong Kong (SCMP)

Source: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/books/article/1036715/tackling-taboos-sex-and-desire-hong-kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 12:26pm
Ethics Sex and Desire in Hong Kong by Petula Sik Ying Ho and A. Ka Tat Tsang HKU Press 4 stars Hannah Hodson

Sex and Desire in Hong Kong – by Petula Sik Ying Ho and A. Ka Tat Tsang (HKU Press)

Hannah Hodson

Subjects many of us are familiar with but dare not speak about are challenged in this refreshingly candid anthology. Petula Ho Sik-ying, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, and A. Tsang Ka-tat, a professor at the University of Toronto, have compiled 15 years of community-based sexual research, giving a deeper understanding of these taboo subjects.

Split into five sections, we are provided with an insight into: Discourse, The Body, Identity, Relationships and Desire. Each section gives a rare glimpse into the intimate lives of those who took part in the studies, which are then analysed and supported with academic and scientific research.

When looking at discourse, the conflict of everyday language versus academic and professional language is taken into account.

The socially constructed ideas of what is “normal” are understood to affect perceptions of the body, identity and relationships as well. Insight is given into how both social “norms” and the negative effects of living in a patriarchal society impact various social groups, particularly homosexuals and women. Depression, another taboo subject, is touched on with regards to these pressures; we are therefore given an understanding of cause and effect.

Moving on from sexuality, a broader notion of desire is given. Money, as well as socio-economic conditions, are reported to be contributing factors to how sexual desires are lived out. The so-called “normal” people, who belong to wealthier subgroups, are studied with regard to sexual deviance and how they contradict their social stereotype.

The juxtaposition of former colonial rule and traditional Chinese customs allows us to understand the history which has generated conflicting views and attitudes on these topics. A by-product of colonial rule is the hybrid language of Cantonese and English. Taboo words are often said in English, reflecting the more reserved attitudes regarding sex and desire in the Chinese community. However, the ease of access to information has challenged these conservative views, with the younger generations being increasingly exposed to more forthright Western attitudes.

There has been a clear shift in beliefs regarding both “sex and desire”, particularly in the Western world in the past year. With the demand for self-proclaimed “mummy porn”, with the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey, there is a growing need for more knowledge regarding the subjects. A clearer understanding is expertly provided in this anthology, which combines evidence-based research with theoretical reflections.