Every time when I tell my friends in U.S. that China does not have a pornography industry–not legally at least–they appear to be shocked. It seems that the fact that Chinese does not have universal healthcare is more acceptable than that. China has banned the production, distribution, or purchase of pornography since 1949, and offenders can face criminal charges.
What do all the horny Chinese do without pornography? (And yes, Chinese do get horny despite what the rumor says.) The fact is, although we do not have a porn industry, people in China consume plenty of porn on pirated DVDs and the Internet, usually illegally. Chinese porn consumers have geographical and cultural advantages too. One of our neighbors, Japan, happens to boast the world’s biggest porn industry, which supplies Chinese abundant porn, all for free (although involuntarily).
So, it is not that surprising that Sola Aoi (Sora Aoi), one of the most popular Japanese porn idols, has taken China like a storm since she launched her acting and modeling career in China in 2010. Aoi launched her Sina Weibo page on November 11, 2010, the “Singles’ Day” as Chinese jokingly call it, and within 24 hours, she had 130 thousand followers, a record-breaking number in Sina Weibo’s history. As of today, she has more than 10.6 million followers on Weibo and literally every one of her posts are reposted and commented for thousands of times. This popularity would have been impossible without her Chinese fan base nurtured by the semi-underground porn market.
It is fair to say that Aoi’s success in China has gone way beyond the popularity of a porn idol. She acts in big budget films, makes millions from sponsors, and appears in media events with respected celebrities such as Yang Lan, Song Zuying, and Mei Baojiu (Peking opera actor and son of the late Peking opera master Mei Lanfang). It has been reported that for a long time, Aoi’s page on Weibo was the only one that the official Weibo page of the police department of an Eastern coastal city followed.
What’s amazing is that the Chinese government haven’t given Aoi any trouble in launching a career in China, despite her porn idol status. Although Aoi already announced “retirement” from pornography before she landed on the Chinese market, considering the government’s puritanical position on sex and strict media regulation, hers is still a rare case.
Indeed, the Chinese government’s and the public’s acceptance of Aoi does pose stark contrast with their attitudes towards Chinese and Taiwanese actresses who have exposed their bodies in media. Tang Wei, the lead actress in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007), was banned in China after she made the film. The film itself was only released in China after significant editing that cut all the sex scenes and nudity. Recently, Shu Qi, a former erotic film star and nude model who’s successfully transformed to an awarding winning film actress, was forced to delete her Weibo page because of the vicious verbal attacks directed to her because of her past.
Si Yi, a freelance writer for Nanfangdushi Bao, offered a plausible interpretation (ZH) of the Chinese government’s “double standard” in treating Sola Aoi and Tang Wei: “maybe they think that actresses who grew up in Mainland China cannot strip… but when a Japanese actress strips, because she does not bring shame to China, she is fine.”
Although many Chinese regard working in the porn industry as extremely shameful and humiliating, it is acceptable if a Japanese actress uses her body for economic gains because she is not one of us Chinese women and thus does not belong to Chinese men. Her action, thus, does not bring shame to “China,” that is, the Chinese man, by violating what should belong to him. Aoi’s popularity in China, fogged by derogatory or ridiculing remarks towards her, reflects a dilemma Chinese live in as the traditional and new morals clash.