Hi everyone, I’ve already written a few posts for ChinaHush but I guess I should formally introduce myself. My name is CC and I’m currently studying philosophy at Peking University. I will graduate next spring from George Washington University. You can read more about me in the “About” section or e-mail me about anything at cc.huang2 at gmail dot com. Also – other places I am on the Internet: Chinamatic, Responsible China, Twitter, Tumblr.
"Dwelling Narrowness" (蜗居) (A Romance of House) was first a novel by Liu Liu until it was made into a television series in 2008. The television series depicts a story of two sisters who want to live at ease in the city but are confronted with a variety of issues, mainly ridiculous housing prices. My Chinese friends always tell me that most Chinese people save their money primarily for three reasons: to buy a house, to pay for their children’s education, to pay for retirement. If a Chinese person can guarantee that they have these three things under control, they generally do not worry about living "the good life." However, the most important pursuit – buying a house – is becoming incredibly difficult even for people who are considered to be in the middle-class, especially in large cities. The television series "Dwelling Narrowness" has become a hot topic among the Chinese population, mainly because it raises the issue of the outrageously overpriced housing market in China, but also because it brings up issues of sexual infidelity, the difficulty of non-city dwellers to move into the city, and issues of social class. The following essay looks at "Dwelling Narrowness" and the issue it raises of "sexless classes" and how it relates to power and wealth.
By Lu Yingjiu 陆英九
In this day and age when I still have holes in my jeans, I have enthusiastically told a few of my friends that I will someday write a book entitled "The Sexless Class and the Struggle Between the Sexual Classes” (性无产阶级与性阶级斗争). However, the heavy nature of life as depicted in “Dwelling Narrowness" (蜗居) quickly made me forget about this plan.
The television series "Dwelling Narrowness" has caused critics to call it "a cruel story of sexual exploitation," and say, "in an environment with a widening gap between the rich and the poor, moral standards don’t exist, and sexual resources naturally flow toward the powerful and rich." Also, "The plundering of sexual resources has not only created a lack of social morality and justice, but has also led to a degrading sexual co-existence, few people have too many sexual resources, but instead the number of people that are relegated to sexual poverty and shortages continues to increase. This is no longer just a problem in a moral sense, but concerns the entirety of social stability."
"Sexual resources" and "sexual exploitation" are two terms that have made me think again about my previous plans and the two concepts: "sexless class" and "the struggle of the sexual classes." In a poorer day and age, when it was rather common to be property-less, most poverty-stricken men and women still had a stable family and a sexual partner to call their own. But, thirty years later, when GDP has been increasing 10% every year, and when the number of property-less are constantly decreasing − there is a rising number of men and women who are part of the "sexless class."
The reason behind the creation of a large "sexless class" is still due to an imbalance of material wealth. The most fundamental reason is also due to the most important material asset – a serious imbalance in the housing market.
Using different standards of property ownership, men can be hierarchized into four classes. The lowest ranked are men who share rent, next are men who can only rent, third are men who are merely economically competent, and the highest ranked are men with wealth and power. The first group of men have no home of their own, thus they don’t have the economic conditions to get married. They are not necessarily sexless, but their sexual partners are just like their rent – shared. Once in a while they can find women that other men have slept with before. The men who are renting a home have a home to temporarily call their own and in a protected system of monogamy they also have their own women, temporarily, but this is all provisional. A netizen says, "Dwelling Narrowness” tells us that men with wealth and power, as long as they try just a little, are invincible in chasing women." The women they are chasing are often the wives or girlfriends of the men who are renting. The men who are economically competent have their own homes, albeit modest and affordable, have their own wives, although not necessarily glamorous. These should be basic requirements for the middle class. Unfortunately, a society that is guided by power and money do not let this cautious, hard-working middle class slip away either; they still reach into their pockets and still take their women. So, the economical men become slaves to paying for their property, and the women of these property slaves are like the fruit in a fruit market to be picked through. Once they catch the eye of a rich and powerful man, few can maintain their integrity. Rich men have mansions, considerable power and a large amount of money, just like Song Siming in "Dwelling Narrowness". They can do whatever they want in this day and age that belongs to them. And as long as they like a certain woman, it is very hard for her to resist the black hole of power, wealth, and stature that they use to lure her in, especially the women of the men who can only afford to pay rent.
That is to say, the men who rent have no stable sexual resources and the men who share rent are basically of the sexless class, the men with sufficient economic means are in the sexual middle-class, and the men with wealth and power are the sexual bourgeoisie. The main struggle is between the sexless class and the sexual bourgeoisie, while the sexual middle-class sits on the fence – they want to be like the sexual bourgeoisie and steal women from the sexless class, but they are also afraid that their own women will be stolen by the sexual bourgeoisie.
The covert war of the sexual classes has been going on for years and now the war has been made public, but the fight has become one-sided. The sexual bourgeoisie use power, money, culture, property, organized crime groups, etc. to launch a comprehensive attack on many fronts. The defense of the sexless class has been completely shattered, and only the system of monogamy is giving them the ability to resist. In the meantime, the observers of the struggle, the sexual middle-class has discovered that one of the armies of the sexual bourgeoisie is attacking and closing in from behind.
The sexual bourgeoisie is not only depriving others of sexual pleasures, they are destroying the entirety of society. Zhao Xiaobo, a netizen, says, "If ‘Dwelling Narrowness’ was banned, it would not be because it contains topics relating to sex, it would be because this TV series is like a needle, it pokes at the sensitivities of the whole society, making us understand exactly what is sabotaging our values system. ‘Dwelling Narrowness’ is a vivid portrayal of society as a whole, it rips down the magnificent curtain and only leaves the tear stains to be seen."
What tactics do the men who share rent, the men who rent, and the men of the middle class have left? Don’t count on feminism, in an age controlled by men with wealth and power, women are helpless to undertake any –ism; the more rights they have, the more powerless they become. Silent Orchid Valley, another netizen, says, "’Dwelling Narrowness’ tells me that ordinary people are not fit to have love or happiness. While reality is very cruel, only those who stand proudly qualify to be happy. Happiness is only for those who do not become slaves to reality."
If the sexless class and the sexual middle-class still want love and happiness, their only way out is for the sexless class to join together with the sexual middle-class. With their backs against the wall, they must engage in drastic combat against the sexual bourgeoisie. That is, they must rupture the system created by the men with wealth and power and cut off the dirty hands that they have used to plunder society. After the rich men have lost their filthy wealth and corrupt power, they will no longer be indomitable. Then, the people who live in the Dwelling Narrowness can carry their heavy shells and step by step continue to crawl forward. It will be hard work to get the little bit of reliable happiness in their shell, to have the sexual partner that they can call their own. However, in their eyes there will be no toil, in their hearts there will be no darkness.
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“Burning Wings” by 樊凡