Shanghai women’s liberal views on sex during the Mao Era; beginnings of the illicit sex industry

A propaganda poster featuring Mao Zedong from during the Cultural Revolution
A propaganda poster featuring Mao Zedong from during the Cultural Revolution

The following stories are first-hand recollections of life in China during the years immediately after the Communists took power (1949-1951). They are written by Chan Kai Yee, author of Tiananmen‘s Tremendous Achievements (see link in right sidebar). We would recommend this book for those interested in more first-hand perspectives of life in China, particularly the political climate:

The Emergence of Lasei and the Che Lasei Activities in Shanghai

A few weeks before I heard the greetings between the boys and girls mentioned above, my fiancée and I were dating in the streets in the evening. We saw a boy and a girl very intimate walking before us. The boy held the girl’s waist tight and they were so attracted to each other that they could not keep going straight forward, but were going in a slightly zigzag way, sometimes a little to the left and sometimes a little to the right. The children in the street said “che lasei” when they saw the couple. When they saw my fiancée and me, they said, “Wild pigeons.” That was the first time I heard the phrase “che lasei.

I asked my fiancée what “che lasei” meant. She said that it was the first time she heard that phrase, but she knew what lasei meant. She said that a girl in her neighbourhood was called lasei when she broke up with her boyfriend and began to date various different boys for fun. But my wife said that the girl was not to blame.

One day a boy from another area saw the girl and liked her. He asked a boy living in the neighbourhood to introduce him to the girl. The next time this admirer of the girl came, he was surrounded by a few boys. One of them hit him in the nose, made it bleeding and said, “This is a lesson for you for wanting to date a girl who belongs to a boy here.”

The girls’ admirer apologised, saying, “I am sorry, I did not know that she had already had a boyfriend.”

“What will you do to show your remorse?” asked the group of boys.

The girl’s admirer spent about 10 yuan to buy two cartons of cigarettes and two bottles of wine as a token of his apology. When the group of boys including the girl’s boyfriend, were enjoying their trophies, the girl broke into the room.

She said with rage to her boyfriend, “Who says I belong to you. Why don’t I have the right to date that boy? He may be rich or have a good job to enable him to marry and support me. I gave my body to you because I loved you and pitied you. I knew we could not marry as we could not support ourselves. We may have to remain unemployed for a long time. It is too hard for you to wait for sex. I gave my body to you to ease your hardship. You think I am your property and can be used to make profit?”

Her boyfriend said, “No, I never think so.”

The girl said, “You never think so? You think I belong to you because I have lost my virginity to you. Virgin or not virgin, I am still so pretty. My body is still so attractive and still worth a thousand ounces of gold. In the past, I thought you were an honest man and loved you. Now, I know you are worthless. You are not educated and you have no job and no money. You have nothing. I have no job, but I still have my pretty face and lovely body. I’ll teach you a lesson. I’ll show you how many men I can make crazy about me.”

A boy lost all his dignity before his girlfriend because he did not have the opportunity to receive education and get a job due to Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Do you know that in Shanghai alone, there were a few hundred thousand such men in at that time?

I asked my fiancée whether those words were what the girl really said. She said yes.

“Did she really not care that she had lost her virginity?” I asked.

“No, she did not. Who cares about it now since it is known to everybody during this Cultural Revolution that our great leader Chairman Mao married Jiang Qing after she had slept with lots of men,” said my fiancée.

If people all over China changed their view on virginity due to the Cultural Revolution, it shall be regarded as a great achievement of the Cultural Revolution. However, judging by the general populace’s attitude towards first nights, they still had the prejudice against brides who were not virgins.

My fiancée said that the next day a messenger came for an appointment of gang fight between the girl’s ex-boyfriend’s gang and the girl’s admirer’s gang. The girl told the messenger to ask her admirer what he wanted, taking revenge or dating her. She said that she had already dumped her boyfriend and was free to date her admirer. If her admirer only wanted to date her, there was no need to fight. He only had to tell her when and where she was to meet him. However, she urged the messenger to tell her admirer that she was not a virgin. The girl dated her admirer and there was no gang fight. Since then, the girl dated quite a few boys and received quiet a few gifts from them.

I said that I now understood that che lasei meant dating a lasei. Later I learned from my friend that the word “che” is also originated from English. The English for it is “chase.”. As lasei means a lustful girl, “che lasei” means chasing a lustful girl.

The above is the excerpt of the part of my book following the except in the previous post “Dating in China during the Cultural Revolution”
 
Source: Chan Kai Yee “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”
 
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