Against the currency of sexual liberation, some anxious Chinese youth are going to other extremes.
“Excessive sex is the most vicious thing…stop saying that masturbation is harmless. You will regret when bad things happen,” netizen Dalei wrote on his Sina Weibo account.
With the support and encouragement of Jieseba (a pro-abstinence online Chinese forum), Dalei said he has successfully prevented himself from masturbating for the past year. He also serves as a volunteer to publicize the harmful side effects of masturbation wherever he can, be it on the Internet or out in the streets.
In his 20s, Dalei is one of 3 million users on baidu.com’s Jieseba forum, which claims to help “victims who are addicted to and thus harmed by masturbation” in controlling themselves and becoming healthy again.
Every day, tens of thousands of new posts emerge on Jieseba discussing the pain people regard as being brought about by masturbation and how they are making efforts to stop it. Traditional Chinese medicine, Buddhism and success stories are all used as a theoretical support of their efforts.
Calling himself a “victim,” Dalei said he has a 10-year history of masturbation, which is why he finally took the initiative to spread the word about the harm of excessive sexual activities, because “I don’t like to see others continue to indulge in the abyss of misery caused by masturbation.”
Numerous others with stories similar to Dafei’s who also hope to stop masturbating or who have succeeded in doing so are loyal believers of the anti-sex theories circulated on Jieseba. Now engaged in a publicity campaign across China, they use every opportunity to spread their gospel in colleges, public lavatories, Internet bars and dormitories. They are saying No in an attempt to “save” themselves and, hopefully, the rest of society.
According to a survey conducted by Peking University in 2015, Chinese youth born after 1995 tend to have sex as early as 17 years of age. Movements such as Jieseba are a form of protest against a Chinese society that has become more open and sexually liberated than many Western countries.
Sex is evil
Despite its extreme nature, Jieseba could be called the most harmonious forum in China. While friendliness and civility are rare on most other public forums due to the Internet’s vast diversity of personalities, beliefs and ideas, Jieseba prides itself on conducting supportive and encouraging discussions and its positive energy.
It is a place for people who firmly believe that sexual desire has led to all the bad things in their life. “Indulging in sex and masturbation could make you look ugly, lose your hair, suffer from social phobias, become sensitive, cause diseases like erectile dysfunction, makes you sleepless and lead to problems in your (personal and professional) life,” reads one of their small ads.
Those who have such problems turn to this forum for hope, as they all have something in common: at one point or another, they have indulged in masturbation, sex or porn.
The most popular posts on Jieseba’s forum, among its 57 million archived posts, are often first-hand stories from people who have succeeded in repressing their sexual desires, which are quickly followed up by questions from others who find it hard to control themselves.
Users who make up their mind to stop masturbating often record their progress and feelings day by day; several of them report their moments of weakness as well, such as, “I failed to control myself last night. I need to confess in public,” or “I broke down after 20 days!”
Some have proudly posted their own photos, showing the difference in their appearance before and after they stopped masturbating. Those who have gone on to live successful post-masturbatory lives are rewarded with an enthusiastic applause from other members and regarded as a hero.
Besides masturbation, any sort of premarital sex or viewing of pornographic materials are regarded as evil. “No sex before marriage,” “Continence after marriage” and “Keeping one’s virginity before marriage” are their mottos; women who have had more than one boyfriend ever in their life are “not pure.”
One young man who said he had successfully stopped masturbating alerted others on Jieseba that it is safer not to have any girlfriend, because “a pretty girlfriend can absorb the precious spirit from your body.”
When one Jieseba netizen wrote that it might be okay to have sex once a month with his girlfriend, he was immediately rebuffed by others who claimed “the value of a girlfriend is not for sex but for spiritual resonance.”
Masturbation causes headaches
“It reflects many people’s fear toward masturbation,” Fang Gang, a sexologist and sociologist at Beijing Forestry University, told the Global Times. Their fear, Fang said, is an exaggerated and to some extent extreme form of genophobia (or coitophobia), the physical or psychological fear of sexual relations or sexual intercourse.
As more people join in Jieseba’s campaign “prohibiting masturbation,” the more these same people start to attribute all their problems, be it social phobia, prostatitis or even a simple headache, to masturbation or sex.
Established approximately in 2003, the Jieseba forum was most likely created by a lonely young man who simply wanted to remind himself that he had to stop wasting so much time masturbating. The forum gradually attracted more people who had the same problem and thus encouraged each other with their supportive, empathetic words.
But over time, religious extremists, abstinent puritans and medical quacks also joined in on Jieseba’s discussions, warning others how, for example, masturbation might affect one’s health or how sex is ruinous to one’s success. Such posts catered to the confused psyche of so many Chinese male young adults who received no proper sexual education growing up.
But it was not until 2011, when a user named Feixiang started to introduce his own personal formula for success in stopping masturbation, that the forum had finally found a leader.
Feixiang put forward a series of articles illustrating the harm of masturbation and introducing his ideas, which combines moral education, Buddhism, TCM and success theories, which is regarded as golden by the anxious young people on Jieseba.
A business chain has also sprouted from this success. Feixiang’s theories, which have been compiled into books, are sold on Taobao and WeChat. Numerous other types of anti-masturbation product, from medicine, drinks and even locks and iron “penis cages” are also now being sold online.
In confronting the “monster in their heart,” these “fallen” people suggest being kind to others, doing good deeds and being filial to one’s parents as successful ways to distract themselves from sex and masturbation.
They also draw power from traditional Chinese culture by reading classics like The Analects or chanting Buddhism sutras. It is reported that numerous Jieseba users have converted to Buddhism.
The forum itself has also expanded and branched out into many sub-forums, including ones specifically for teenagers, college students and even for women. Jieseba’s rising influence is also growing offline.
In 2015, Jieseba called upon its many volunteers to get off their computers and start publicizing the anti-sex agenda in public venues such as the subway, shopping malls, Internet bars and public lavatories, where they paste up paper ads (purchased on Taobao).
“I would paste the ads whenever possible, telling people about the harm of masturbation, premarital sex, abortions and so on,” said Dalei. “I think it is a thing I should do for life, to purify the time overrun by prurience.”
Their negative comments have annoyed those who regard sex and masturbation as perfectly normal, human behavior. Some pro-sex advocates have even established parody forums such as Jiehuxiba (literally abstaining from breathing) and Jieshuijiaoba (literally abstaining from sleep), to satirize the absurdity of Jieseba’s “inhuman” agenda. Mostly, Jieseba is cited as a joke simply because it contrasts so starkly with the behavior of modern, mainstream Chinese society.
On zhihu.com, some netizens have written articles analyzing how Jieseba has “brainwashed” so many people and calling it an “evil cult.” Many regard it as an adverse current against China’s rapidly changing attitude toward sex.
Li Yinhe, a renowned Chinese sexologist, once pointed out that there are revolutionary changes to Chinese people’s attitude toward sex that have occurred with China’s reforms and opening up. “No other society has ever had such big changes like China [in people’s attitudes toward sex] in a short period of just 20 to 30 years,” Li once told sohu.com.
A survey made by Tsinghua University in 2013 shows that 71 percent of Chinese people have premarital sex; among them, 100 percent of people born in the 1980s and 1990s have sex before marriage, though only a relatively small proportion of them are well-educated about sex.
As Fang noted, the extreme beliefs found on Jieseba can also lead impressionable young people to fear what the medical and scientific community have proven to be healthy human behavior. “Masturbation is not at all as harmful as they claim. The biggest problem for this group is their fear toward masturbation itself,” Fang said.
“On the other hand, it shows diverse values when it comes to sex,” Fang added, explaining that every country and culture around the world has its own community of sex-phobic groups and individuals who were not raised or educated properly.
“I would suggest they stop going to Jieseba. Even healthy people turn out sick from frequenting such forums. They should go to other forums to absorb some positive energy,” Fang said. “What’s more, we should put more emphasis on sex education among young people in our country.”
This article, written by Xu Ming, was originally published in the Global Times.