The Representation of Women’s Sexual Subjectivities in Republican China: A Case Study of Ling Long Women’s Magazine (1931-1937), Shanghai

Abstract

In line with the "sexual turn" in historical research, this thesis analyzes women's sexual discourses in one of Shanghai's most popular women's magazines during the 1930s, Ling Long Women's Magazine (Ling Long for short, 1931-1937). Sexual experiences, feelings and concepts of female writers are uncovered to shed light on the studies of urban women's daily lives and the sexual culture in modern China at that time. Literary discourses on sex in Tanci(彈詞) and Chinese dramas(戲曲) have indicated that traditional Chinese women, most of whom were talented ladies from middle class families, expressed their sexual desire in an allusive and strategic way. In contrast, female authors of Ling Long discussed sex straightforwardly, and even expanded the types of sexual discourses. In addition to literary discourses including sexual novels and erotic poems, there were also daily life essays on sexual thoughts and current event reports of sex-related cases. Most of the female authors who discussed sex in Ling Long were middle school students. The transformations of female writers' social identity constitutions and the way they expressed sex, indicated the significant influence of modern society on women. Through critical textual analysis and contextualization, this thesis ascertains that women's discourses on sex in Ling Long reveal the diversity of female sexual subjectivities. For example, some female authors voiced their anti-sexuality intention after experiencing sexual harassment, some urged for editors' advice on certain sex-related problems, and, some even out-rightly expressed their sexual desires. These multiple female voices indicated that sexuality was an essential topic for urban women. Furthermore, the large number of women's anti-sexuality discourses in Ling Long revealed that women's sexual security was frequently threatened in the public sphere during the 1930s. In contrast, some other discourses detailing women's own sexual desire challenged the gender norm of sexually active men versus asexually passive women.



Author Information
Peilin Zhang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2013
Stream: Media Studies

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