Sexuality in China: A review and new findings

Publication Year


Journal Article

In the past four decades, sexuality research in China has made considerable advancements. From historical and sociological perspectives, our study reviews the literature and provides a comprehensive overview of sexuality in contemporary China by drawing on recent survey data that we collected. First, we introduce sexuality in ancient and modern China and discuss the social contexts that gave rise to a sexual revolution in China. Second, we briefly review empirical research on sexuality in China. Finally, we present results on recent changes and socioeconomic patterns of sexual attitudes and behaviors based on our survey—the 2020 Chinese Private Life Survey. A cohort analysis reveals that sexual attitudes have become more liberal in China, with an earlier sex debut and more diverse sexual activities. Surprisingly, however, we find that sexuality seems to have diminished in its appeal among young cohorts, who have lower rates of sexual frequency than preceding cohorts. In addition, we find a reversal in educational gradient in relation to sexual activeness and diversity. Among those born before 1980, highly educated Chinese are more sexually active, while among those born after 1980 the lower educated are more sexually active—in terms of their sexual activity with their partners, seeking out sexual partners online, and engaging in commercial sex. Compared with women, men have higher levels of sexual well-being.

Chinese Journal of Sociology
Date Published