Li Yinhe Calls for an End to “Group Licentiousness” Laws

Every year for several years now, blogger, sociologist, and sexologist Li Yinhe gives proposals advocating the legalization of gay marriage to her representative friends during the meetings of the NPC and the CPPCC. This year is no different, but she’s added another proposal to the mix this time around, calling for an end to laws that make “group licentiousness” [聚众淫乱罪] illegal.

What is “Group Licentiousness”?

According to this piece, group licentiousness is:

…the behavior of gathering in groups and participating in licentious activities. This crime is primarily characterized by its violation of social morality. Objectively, it is (1) a group of people together (often it is men and women mixed, but it could be all men or all women) and (2) they must be in the process of doing licentious things. This crime is mainly limited to the ringleaders and frequent participants […those convicted may be sentenced to] under five years in prison, short-term detention, or surveillance.

What Does Li Yinhe Propose

Translated directly from Li Yinhe’s proposal:

Obviously [the law against “group licentiousness”] is out-of-date; I recommend it be abolished. Originally, this charge was classified under “hooliganism/indecency charges” [流氓罪] but when that charge was abolished the “group licentiousness” charge remained under another heading. It is already very rarely applicable in actual society, therefore I propose it be abolished.

Li Yinhe lists several of the biggest cases of “group licentiousness” tried over the past few decades. The following is just one example, but most of them are similar and do not involve anything happening in public:

Case 4: Defendant Wang XX, female, successively seduced many men into having sexual relations with her. The procuratorate lodged a complaint under the indecency laws, and the court used these same laws to come to a verdict of guilty.

Li Yinhe then writes:

The cases above are the most serious sex-related court convictions [under this law] in China. So-called “group licentiousness” is nothing more than the “sex orgies” common in Western society. For example, case three resembles the American “swinger” trend of the 1970s. In Western personal ads, one can often see advertisements by swingers looking for lovers […] at present, there is much of this sort of activity in China as well.

As long as all the participants in these activities are consenting, the law should definitely not regard this as criminal. Citizens have the rights to do what they want with their own bodies […] If a person wants to play poker in private while wearing clothes, he has this right. If a person wants to play poker in private while naked, he has this right, regardless of how many people are involved. National law interfering in this kind of private activity makes it seem as though people’s bodies belong not to themselves but to the state […] this kind of legislative thought is, in and of itself, wrong, it is a mistake about who a person’s body belongs to.

Some reporters have raised questions about the proposal, and Li Yinhe has drafted a thorough response to the most common among them. In defending her proposal, she makes five main points (which I am rephrasing slightly in some cases):

  1. Decriminalizing “group licentiousness” does not mean [the government will be] advocating it.
  2. The law should not be used to resolve issues of morality.
  3. You cannot assume one group of people’s way of living to be normal and thus deem and punish another group’s way of living as illegal.
  4. The decriminalization of “group licentiousness” will not have a negative affect on people’s social conduct.
  5. Abolishing this law may have an upside no one has thought of in that it guards against the kind of violent trampling of people’s rights that occurred during the Cultural Revolution.

I expect this proposal will be ignored, just as Li’s yearly proposal to legalize gay marriage is. But Mrs. Li is correct in thinking this issue is of vital importance, and that the law should be abolished for the sake of protecting people’s right to do what they please with their own body (assuming all involved parties are consenting adults, and the activity is behind closed doors, of course!).

Do you think the “group licentiousness” laws should be repealed? Why or why not?

For more on sex in China see my recent post on china/divide, “Pornography should be Legal in China”.

0 thoughts on “Li Yinhe Calls for an End to “Group Licentiousness” Laws”

  1. “So-called “group licentiousness” is nothing more than the “sex orgies” common in Western society. ”

    And as we all know, Western societies, however they may develop, permanently represent the pinnacle of human achievement.



  2. Group licentio-what?

    Wow, all those common sex orgies going on in Western society and I never knew it until today. Why was I never invited??? Damn my luck.


  3. Any progressive society would have not only repealed these “group licentiousness” laws but also legalized gay marriage. But of course, the CCP would never allow either one of these to happen, at least not in the near future. One of Li’s arguments is that legislation which implies that the state, rather than the individual, has the ownership over people’s bodies is wrong. And that really is the crux of the argument. In a nation where the official state religion is atheism, the CCP is upholding social conservatism to give itself some semblance of moral authority. Actually, by being so uptight about individual rights, especially when it pertains to one’s right over his body, the government is only betraying a lingering sense of insecurity toward the legitimacy of its rule. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to enforce laws concerning what goes on in the privacy of people’s homes. To do so is a huge waste of law enforcers’ time and taxpayers’ money, not to mention an intrusion on civil rights. Li is right to argue that whether the law exists won’t make any difference in people’s everyday lives. But it’s the principle of the matter. The kind of laws/policies that a government upholds is a reflection of that administration. And so far, it’s clear that the CCP still feels it needs an iron grip on social freedoms.


  4. @ hz7502,

    First of all, let me express my amazement at your ability to link just about ANYTHING to politics and the supposed evilness of the CCP. It’s kind of like that joke about the eggs:

    A: I don’t like these eggs.
    B: Well these are eggs were laid by hens raised in a democratic and free country, whose people elect their leaders. So you damn well better like them.

    Second, have you ever realized that American coservatives mostly hold identical views toward social matters? Even many countries of Europe, which is typically perceived as more liberal than the US, had “sodomy law”s that made non-vaginal sexual acts legally punishable. What are they being insecure about? That’s not to mention the relatively conservative Chinese populace, many of whom voluntarily refrain from sex until marriage.

    Third, you’re making the ridiculous assumption that liberalism, in its modern form, is inherently superior to anything the more conservative Chinese society has. So what if there are less individual rights? So what if the state maintains more power over what some Western leftists consider to be “personal matters”? Who are you to assume the universal moral high ground and criticize, from your own perspective, anyone who holds different opinions?

    Oh, and for your information, the “official state religion” of the government of China is secularism. As for the CCP, its official nature is just an NGO, like say the US Republican party or the Freemasons. The amount of power it holds does not change its official nature. To quote from the PRC constitution:

    Article 36 [Religion]
    (1) Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
    (2) No state organ, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.
    (3) The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.
    (4) Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.


  5. It’s funny that someone use a ‘western tradition’ to prove that the same thing should be reformed in China too, and turns out ‘west’ doesn’t have such old habit. ‘The West’ must be the biggest opposition political party in China LOL


  6. @chaji
    1st, laws are upheld by the government. Why wouldn’t it be linked to politics? Particularly in a one-party state, if the CCP didn’t care about the law, they could easily repeal it. But I’m arguing that by keeping it, it reveals a deeper position of the state on matters of social conservatism and individual freedoms.
    2nd, of course I know about American conservatism and the so-called “family values” of the Religious Right. I never mentioned that what they were doing is right. Personally I think they are the biggest hindrance to American social progress. I never implied that the West is superior in any way. Besides, this blog isn’t really the place to discuss that.
    3rd, and yes I am making the assumption that liberalism, although not perfect, is superior to whatever China’s social situation is called, in terms of individual freedoms. And did you seriously say, “So what if there are less individual rights?” If you honestly believe that….then I guess I can see how people can acquiesce to authoritarian rule. Ok, so it IS my personal opinion that having a society where people have the freedom to be themselves, to carry out their goals, to live their lives the way they want (of course as long as they don’t hurt anyone else), regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, religion, creed, ethnicity, etc. is the highest form of social progress that a state can achieve for its people. And China certainly doesn’t have that. The problem with social conservatism is that while, say, 70% are ok with the status quo, the other 30% gets jipped for not wanting to live the same kind of life as everyone else. (And I’m not saying that Western societies have achieved that either so don’t go off on some rant about moral high ground. I’m not taking any high ground. I’m just saying that this is how I wish Chinese society, or any society, would be.) I just don’t know what China is letting itself sacrifice personal freedoms for: economic prosperity? social stability? The CCP always goes with the majority opinion, so if more people pushed for this, it would eventually happen. (of course, if people are saying, so what, to individual freedoms, then probably not anytime soon)

    I’m in admiration of Li Yinhe for trying to push the same futile reforms year after year. These licentiousness laws may not really matter in of themselves, but repealing them would represent a step toward social progress, that the CCP is secure enough to stray away from the status quo and give more personal freedoms, etc. In 1997, homosexuality was decriminalized, and that was a huge step toward social progress. China now is alot more liberal than 30years ago. So overall, I’m optimistic….I think the CCP is realizing that if it wants to stay in power a good long time, it will need to gradually recede its grip on social issues.


  7. @ hz7502,

    Your speech clearly defines exactly what’s wrong with Western urban liberals – blindly convinced that your way is the only way, and refuse to accept that others may see a different picture than you. But I suppose this is why the liberal circles in North America are so frequently characterized as circle jerks – constantly reminding each other of how correct they are, infatuated of their myth of universal correctness.

    True liberalism should bring the classical economics laissez-faire attitude to political evolution, in that the indigenous development of cultural value systems should be tolerated and encouraged. So what if the Americans chose hedonism? So what if the Chinese chose conservatism? Your society, built around the concept of individual freedom that you’re so proud of, is just as morally degenerate in the eyes of the Chinese as China is socially backwards in the eyes of an American.

    What your opinions show is that you’re not a true liberal, at least in the above sense. In fact, I’d say tou’re more of a religious zealot that most Christians I know.

    @ C. Custer:

    Doesn’t this prove my comment on one of your earlier articles about Americans being democracy (or in this case, liberal) crazies?


  8. @chaji,
    Generalizing American society as hedonistic is not so much insulting as just ignorant. There are certainly hedonistic individuals as well as socially conservative individuals in any and every society. I feel that one can still follow cultural traditions while having socially progressive views. Social progress has nothing to do with traditional culture. Like I said before, China today is much more socially progressive than say, during the Qing Dynasty, but much of the cultural traditions have stayed the same. Modernity inevitably brings social progress – gender equality, labor laws, just to name a few. And again, to generalize and say, you western liberals are all blah blah blah…., well that’s not really an efficient argument. I mean, you’re really oversimplifying the situation; plus by playing the blame game, you’re diverting the attention away from the real issue. I never suggested that China should become just like the West, if that’s what you’re implying. Are you suggesting that socially, Chinese society is perfect as is? Because I think Chinese society has a long way to go, especially when the government won’t repeal something as silly as a group licentiousness law. Thats what, basically no threesomes? no S&M parties? I guarantee that most people, in any society, don’t engage in these activities and will not care if it’s legal or illegal. The whole topic almost seems too silly to debate. But its the principle of the matter – trying to enforce the societal standards of morality on every person by making it into law is a violation of individual rights.

    And also, you don’t know anything about me, only a sliver of an opinion on a narrow topic, so don’t make assumptions about my political beliefs. Besides, to pass judgement on if I’m a “true” liberal or not is ridiculous; the term liberal encompasses many social, political, and economic philosophies (as do any other ideology). There are aspects of liberalism I like; there are aspects of conservatism I like – just like any rationale person. If I sound overzealous, it’s because I’m passionate about the right to personal freedom, to be able to express myself as an individual and be able to choose to follow the status quo on some issues and not on others. If I hope others in this world have that same luxury, that’s hardly crazy. It’s not like I’m advocating my ideas on how society should run to be forced upon a society. I’ll leave that up to the CCP.


  9. Your problem is that you, as most liberals I know, defined a direction you believe to be intrinsically “good” – while refusing to acknowledge the fact that it’s nothing more than your personal opinion.

    Your definition of “traditional culture” consists of nothing more than the parts of traditional cultures compatible with the dominant western liberalist value system. For example, would you be willing to tolerate ritual killings? Cannibalism? Loss of women’s rights? Honor killing? Formation of theocracies? Those are just as culturally significant as a culture’s cuisine, yet while you accept the latter and regard it as nothing more than “exotic”, the former, you condemn as “barbaric” and “backwards”.

    You should recognize that everyone has a different idea as to what “progressive” means – an increase of individual rights is not necessarily the only way societies think they should go.


  10. “you’re making the ridiculous assumption that liberalism, in its modern form, is inherently superior to anything the more conservative Chinese society has. So what if there are less individual rights? So what if the state maintains more power over what some Western leftists consider to be “personal matters”? Who are you to assume the universal moral high ground and criticize, from your own perspective, anyone who holds different opinions?”

    Chaji- what people are criticising the government for here is ‘assuming the universal high ground’ by punshing (not just criticising) those who hold different opinions.

    But what are the advantages of having less individual rights?


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