Changing sexual attitudes and behaviour in China: implications for the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases

Zhang, K.; Li, D.; Li, H.; Beck, E.J.

Aids Care 11(5): 581-589


ISSN/ISBN: 0954-0121
PMID: 10755033
DOI: 10.1080/09540129947730
Document Number: 274510
This paper discusses the changing attitudes towards sex and sexual behavior in China and its implications for the potential future spread of HIV. Two important philosophies have influenced the evolution of imperial Chinese attitudes toward sex and sexual behavior. Confucianism stressed conformity of sexual behavior within the boundaries set by society, while Taoism encouraged multiple sexual partners and prolonged sexual intercourse to promote better health and pleasure. In addition, homosexuality and commercial sex was tolerated, but masturbation was denounced. This tolerant attitude came to an end in the 17th century when the government exerted effort against all forms of extra-marital sexuality including homosexuality and masturbation. However, with the introduction of the One Child Family and Open Door policies by the end of the 20th century, attitudes toward sex and sexuality changed again. The Chinese have widely accepted premarital sex and are more tolerant toward extramarital sex. Homosexuality has begun to be considered as a legitimate lifestyle choice and attitudes towards masturbation have become more tolerant. Attitudes towards sex and sexual behavior have become recognized as an individual's responsibility as long as no offence occurs against society or other individuals, resulting to an increasing diversity of sexual behavior. Consequently, HIV infections are also rapidly increasing with heterosexual transmission becoming the most important route of transmission. This critical situation needs to be addressed immediately in order to control the AIDS epidemic in China as well as the rest of the Asian region.

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