China / Hot Issues

Group-sex conviction provokes moral debate

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-17 01:56

A man who was sentenced to five months in jail by a Shanghai court for organizing a gay group-sex party for eight has renewed the nationwide debate on whether group sex should be viewed as a moral or criminal matter.

Shanghai’s Xuhui District People’s Court handed down the sentence on Tuesday after convicting the man of group licentiousness for organizing the sex party in a hotel room.

Seven other participants were ordered to be detained for 10 days.

The court withheld the man’s name, but said he was in his 30s and married. He earned a doctorate from a prestigious university in Shanghai, the name of which was also withheld.

The man began publishing information about gay sex parties on several Internet message groups on QQ, a popular messaging tool, in early September.

He then held video chats with various individual applicants and chose seven men to join the party.

He and the participants arrived at the hotel room on the afternoon of Sept 7. They watched gay sex movies and had group sex themselves, playing different roles.

Each of the participants paid the man 50 yuan ($8.26) for the hotel room charge and for organizing the party.

The police raided the hotel room and found all of the men naked.

Most of the men, who ranged in age from 20 to 40, have good jobs and are married. Two of them traveled from other cities to Shanghai for the sex party, and some admitted it was not the first time they had participated in such activities, the court said.

The case has renewed debate among legal experts, with some saying the charge of group licentiousness — defined as three or more people having sex together — is inappropriate.

"There is no victim in such a case. Voluntary sex in private, which does not disturb social order or hurt public sentiment, should not be seen as a crime, regardless of whether the participants are of both genders or the same gender," said Li Yunlong, chairman of the Criminology Research Council in Jiangxi province.

Li Yinhe, a sociologist and sexologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, agreed that such sexual behavior should not be seen as a crime because it constitutes a free choice by adults — as long as such behavior occurs in private and is consensual.

"Actually, it’s not unheard of for three people to have sex together," she said. "It’s kind of unusual because it goes against the custom of two people having sex. But we shouldn’t punish them as criminals because their conduct breaks with the norm."

Other legal experts considered the punishment appropriate.

"Sex involving more than two people is not in keeping with virtuous social conventions or with China’s marriage law. It’s reasonable to fight such behavior," said Yi Shenghua, a lawyer at Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.

Yi said the general public might disapprove if the crime is written off.

"There’s no sign that this is going to be changed or abolished soon, so people have to obey the law," he said.

In May 2010, a college professor in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for organizing group-sex parties.

The 53-year-old professor, Ma Yaohai, and 21 others, including 14 men and eight women, were the first people in two decades to be convicted of group licentiousness.

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