Grass Mud Horse, Ai Weiwei

From The Chronicle Review:

Katrien Jacobs, a conference speaker from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studies what she calls porn activism. In People’s Pornography: Sex and Surveillance on the Chinese Internet (Intellect, 2012), she discusses the recent flourishing of that culture’s pent-up desire for porn manifesting itself in a range of new outlets, and she sees in this phenomenon the seeds of popular counterauthoritarianism.

A complete ban on pornography dates back to the formation of the Communist state in 1949, so there is officially no pornography in China. But, in fact, Jacobs has found a burgeoning industry. A common motif features “hidden camera” scenes of people in places like parks and libraries, perhaps co-opting and subverting the profuse trope of government surveillance. These scenes are titled and archived by location—”amateur sex in Beijing”; “Chengdu college students”—which Jacobs characterizes as “sexualizing China, or, perhaps, resexualizing it after an era of suppression. The films are very rough and amateur, very ‘authentic,’ as if to say, sex is going on all over the country.”

Jacobs posits crosscurrents between pornography and political activism: For example, the Chinese government accused the artist/activist Ai Weiwei of spreading pornography after he appeared with four women in a nude photograph called “One Tiger, Eight Breasts.” And Internet porn-distribution networks also feature subversive memes like the “Grass Mud Horse,” a made-up animal whose name resembles a Chinese profanity for a taboo activity involving one’s mother.

The liberating aspects of sexuality represented by China’s growing porn culture have a spillover effect that fosters other incipient freedoms, Jacobs argues. The appeal of cybersex creates a keen impetus for developing new Web outlets and overcoming censorship and firewalls.

Beyond pornography, futuresex promises emancipation from constraints and scripts.

“Sex 2.0”, Randy Malamud, The Chronicle Review