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Title: Gendered change and continuity in China : sex, sexuality and intimate relationships in the reform period
Author: Zarafonetis, Nicole
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 9540
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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China has experienced rapid economic and social change since the beginning of the 'Open Door' policy in 1978. Yet at the same time, the legacy of the Mao era remains and elements of Confucianism have been revived and circulate in the reform period (Hershatter, 1996; Rofel, 2007). As a result, traditional views concerning gender roles and sexual attitudes and practices persist within this environment of social and economic change. This thesis examines the ways young women in China consider sex, sexuality and intimate relationships in this context. Based on semi-structured interviews with forty-three young women in Shanghai, I investigate the theme of continuity and change in a period of economic and social transformation. Despite the Party-State rhetoric of equality, I consider how essentialist notions of femininity and masculinity are present in the reform period and contribute to the definition of womanhood. I also explore how sex continues to remain a sensitive topic, with young women positioned as sexual gatekeepers, responsible for negotiating and reconciling individual desires against wider societal sanctions. I examine the limited discourse of desire and sexual autonomy available to women and how this translates into a pragmatic approach in partner selection. My findings also reveal how marriage remains an expectation of all women (and men) and is the only legitimate context for sexual expression for women in the reform period. I contend that the norm of marriage is further reinforced through the stigmatization of unmarried women as shengnü. As a result of this changing economic and social environment and the pull of tradition, I argue that reform China offers young women a series of contradictory expectations when it comes to sex, sexuality and intimate relationships.
Supervisor: Jackson, Stevi Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available