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The moral police have struck in China. Recently, a group of middleaged men and women threw eggs at two Japanese pornstars, who appeared on stage at one of those sex exhibitions that have become routine here. They also shouted slogans, threatening to expose the officials behind the exhibition.

This was not the first such protest. Just last month, 10 women put up an organized protest against a sex exhibition in another city. Dressed in specially-designed shirts, they unfolded long banners decrying pornography outside the venue. One of them shouted through a megaphone, urging visitors not to attend even as the exhibition organizers tried to make them go away. There didn’t seem to be too many visitors at that time, but of the few present, one woman burst into tears, saying that the things she had seen at the exhibition had made her fearful for the future of her children. Interestingly, many sex exhibitions have had child-visitors, tagging along with a parent.

After the latest protest, the exhibition’s organizer dismissed the egg-throwers as the same group that went from one sex exhibition to the other to protest, with not much support from the public. Yet, a poll on Weibo, the popular social media platform, showed that 48 per cent of the more than 2,000 persons polled supported the protesters. At the same time, across the country, there were shocking examples of exhibitionism. One blogger announced a ‘most beautiful bosom’ competition on Weibo. Contestants were required to send in photographs of their bare breasts with the blogger’s name preceded by the word “happy” written across them. He received 3,200 responses. A month ago, someone had announced an ‘armpit hair selfie’ campaign for women — ostensibly intended to make women confident of their bodies in their natural state. Bizarre as that was, it attracted enthusiastic response.

Bold move

Then there was the jaw-dropping action of a woman in a store that evaluates the genuineness of branded products. Annoyed at an evaluator’s rejection of her handbag as genuine, the woman questioned his professional ability. Standing across the counter from the evaluator, she lifted her dress, and as onlookers in the store gasped, took off her bra and handed it over to him, challenging him to say whether it was indeed a luxury brand. The embarrassed evaluator pronounced it genuine after which the woman took it back and walked away. One would expect such boldness from a model, but the woman in question looked ordinary, and wasn’t too young either.

It’s not just individuals who suddenly seem to have shed all inhibitions. Urban authorities have, over the last two years, been putting up nude statues in public spaces. These aren’t celebrations of the human body — one shows a piglet supposedly giving his mother a back massage, but viewers feel that’s not what’s going on. Another shows a giant nude male facing the bust of the ancient philosopher, Laozi, in Peking University; yet another has two fat nude women holding up a nude man. The statues make no sense — one of them in front of a Beijing mall is of a grinning nude boy. Not one of them is aesthetically pleasing, nor do they convey any ‘message’. So why have they been put up?

One of the statues shows two teenagers in school uniform seated on a bench, the girl on the boy’s lap, kissing. Yet, schools keep warning students not to get involved with each other! And every now and then comes the revelation that teenagers know dangerously little about sex. Some weeks ago, about a dozen university students in Beijing, most of them female, staged a demonstration demanding sex education. One of them told China Daily that her boyfriend had thought menstrual blood was blue, as shown in ads for sanitary pads.