Sex and the Chinese city: Classes help women shed taboos

Sex and the Chinese city: Classes help women shed taboos

SHANGHAI - In an unmarked room at a three-star hotel in downtown Shanghai, Ma Li teaches small groups of Chinese women about a topic that traditionally has been taboo - sex.

The two-day tutorials are not cheap at 2,500 yuan ($410), more than half the average monthly wage in Shanghai. But a rising number of women are signing up for Ma's classes and similar sessions in other cities to learn about the anatomy, psychology and techniques of intimacy.

"I had absolutely no sex education at all. I thought adult male bodies look the same as baby boys'," said Sophia Hu, a 30-year-old lawyer. "I want to understand myself and the realities of sex."

Ma, certified by the US-based World Association of Sex Coaches, favours a frank approach to encourage confidence. Her lessons include explicit videos of oral sex and appropriately shaped fruit for practice sessions.

She avoids repeating what is available in magazines, saying tips such as "light candles for romance" are dull and not new.

The classes, which started in January, are fully booked weeks in advance, Ma said. In Beijing, psychologist Zhenhong Li started her own series of meetings in July for women to talk openly about sex.

China's conservative attitude towards sex, ushered in by the prudish Communist Party when it took power in 1949, has slowly been changing alongside growing affluence, more overseas travel and exposure to foreign popular culture.

"In Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities, women are very influenced by Western, Taiwanese and Korean culture so have very modern attitudes to sex," said Jay Zheng, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan. "But in rural areas, some women know nothing."

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