Seeking Pleasure in Peril: Male Same-Sex Relations during the Cultural Revolution
This article is part of a larger research project that traces the history of male same-sex relations in China during the Mao era, a topic on which virtually no scholarship is currently available. The Chinese government named the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) “ten years of turmoil” in its aftermath. Stories circulate widely about men who were labeled as sodomites, humiliated and tortured in public, and sentenced to hard labor; some reportedly were beaten to death or committed suicide during this period. Using oral history and archival cases collected by the author, this article complicates this narrative about the Cultural Revolution by documenting different experiences of sexual awakening, ingenuity, and resilience of those men as well as their fear, misfortune, and tribulations. Despite all the risks of being arrested, interrogated, and disciplined by the authorities, clandestine sex between men persisted in both private and public spaces throughout this tumultuous period.