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Campus Sex -- Forbidden Fruit
In January 2003, students Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma made an ignominious departure from Chongqing Institute of Posts and Telecommunications. The reason? Their ongoing relationship had resulted in Xiao Ma's pregnancy. Consequently they were expelled.

The relevant school rule reads: In cases of immoral behavior, offenders will either receive a warning or an entry in their personal dossier. In extreme cases of sexual misconduct, offenders will be suspended or expelled.

The latter more stringent ruling applied to Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma. They were instructed to admit their immoral behavior and sexual misconduct and write self-criticisms. Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma refused, insisting their love was not immoral, and that what had occurred as a natural course of passion was not sexual misconduct.

Xiao Ma is regarded by those that know her as conscientious and hardworking. One teacher described her as a pleasant, lively student of broad interests. Her boyfriend Xiao Lin considers her kind and considerate.

Xiao Ma wrote in her self-criticism: "I cannot reconcile myself to being charged with immoral behavior and sexual misconduct. I gave myself to the man I love, and have no regrets, no matter what consequences await me."

Said Xiao Lin: "I admit to her (Xiao Ma) and her parents that I am to blame, and acknowledge that it is I that should be punished. But I cannot accede to the school's order that we admit to immoral conduct and sexual misconduct. I believe college students are entitled to the same rights and considerations as all Chinese citizens, including the right to have sex. She (Xiao Ma) and I are genuinely in love. What happened between us was a failure to control our passions, but it did no harm to society, the school, nor anyone else."

Xiao Ma's father is a government employee. Although shocked at his daughter's behavior, he is nonetheless furious at the school's treatment of his daughter and Xiao Lin. He argues that the school should bear in mind how fierce competition makes it extremely hard for two such young people to get into college, particularly Xiao Lin, who comes from rural Fujian Province and on whom rest the hopes of his whole family. He went on to say that the school has a responsibility to educate, and that it should not castigate these two as immoral and depraved, as this denies them their right to an education and so seriously prejudices their future.

The school is, however, adamant. President Nie Neng says, "Moral cultivation is an integral aspect of the school code. Those failing to observe it must be punished. Sex outside marriage is morally reprehensible. If in this instance it is excused on the basis of being true love, there will be severe repercussions. As an educator, I cannot overlook this misdemeanor." A teacher at the school commented: "If these two are not punished, other students will interpret it as the school's acquiescence of such occurrences."

In late 2002, Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma filed a lawsuit against the school for encroaching upon their rights to privacy and education. In January 2003, the court overruled their lawsuit, but the case is now a topic of media interest.


Sexual relationships among university students have increased in recent years. In a place between Hunan's Changsha Normal University, Hunan University and Zhongnan University, there is a cohabitants' village where students in de facto relationships that regard themselves as representatives of the contemporary lifestyle live.

"The 1980s was a watershed," says Zhu Qi, vice chairman of the China Sexology Society. "During the first 30 years of the People's Republic, pre-marital sex was a social taboo. Since 1978, however, and most particularly since the 1990s, traditional Chinese attitudes towards sex have been challenged and influenced by the West." Says Pan Suiming, president of the Sexology Research Institute attached to the People's University of China, "For the first time in China's thousands of years of history, it is now being declared legally and overwhelmingly that sex is not purely for purposes of procreation. People now claim their right to sex as an aspect of love and happiness."

According to Mr. Pan's study, 72.2 percent of men between the ages 25 and 29 have pre-marital sex, as do 46.2 percent of women in that age group. Among men and women over the age of 40, 45.7 percent of men and 24.1 percent of women have pre-marital sex.

A survey was recently conducted among university students on their attitudes to sex. Forty percent said they were understanding of and agreeable to the concept of cohabitation, and 30 percent said they had not formed a clear idea. Few would have supported such behavior ten years ago, when the majority of university students were against cohabitation, as it signified moral depravity and immaturity.

It is evident that today's young people are more open-minded about sex, and that they are engaging in pre-marital sex at a far younger age. Miss Zhou, a student at a Beijing foreign languages university, says, "Pre-marital sex is no longer a no-go zone for students. There are those that rent apartments off campus specifically to cohabitate. Such cases are open secrets." Miss Zhou's boyfriend Li Feng expresses enormous sympathy for Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma, saying, "Cases like this occur on other campuses too, but no one thinks of those concerned as immoral. These students are adults and so have a right to their own private life."

A large number of parents were also of the opinion that university students are adults away from parental control, and that if they fall in love it is likely that they will, at some time or other, have sex.

Sociologists point out that the number of university students indulging in pre-marital sex is relatively small, and that their behavior may be attributed to early sexual maturity and late marriage. Taking into consideration the long lapse of time between nubility and legal sexual union, it is unreasonable to expect them to live in unquestioning chastity.

Old Rules vs. New Situation

Never before have there been so many in accord with those overstepping social sexual mores. "I did not expect such a reaction from other students," admitted President Nie of the Chonqing Institute of Posts and Telecommunications. "But as a school leader, I cannot permit such behavior. We give an orthodox education, and will continue to do so in order to maintain an acceptably moral ethos on campus."

Nie's supporters are heads of other universities. It is reported that Shenzhen University is to issue a rule forbidding intimate gestures such as holding hands and hugging and kissing between girls and boys on campus. Offenders get black marks, and those accumulating 30 points will be expelled. A famous university in Shanghai also defines kissing in public as an immoral act meriting a negative entry in the dossier of the student concerned. Serious violators also face the threat of expulsion. Almost all universities expressly forbid cohabitation. In the students' regulations is stated that on a case of cohabitation being discovered, it will be entered in the students' dossiers, or they will be expelled.

Li Yinhe, a noted sociologist and sexologist, disagrees with such harsh measures. "In an era of sexual open-mindedness, such measures do not inhibit campus sex," says Li. "Problematic students should be given guidance. The government and educational department must provide timely, practical, relevant and effective sex education, particularly to university students, who do not necessarily know all there is to know about sex. Current sex education is angled more from the medical perspective of avoiding venereal disease and HIV AIDS."

As the case of Xiao Lin and Xiao Ma was being debated earlier this year, Chinese media carried a British report published around the same time on an expelled pregnant student who had won an out-of-court settlement of a sex discrimination lawsuit against her former school. Margaret McCluskey, now a 21-year-old Cambridge student, has a four-year-old daughter. When she was 16, she fell pregnant at the Mount Lourdes Convent Grammar School, Enniskillen and was forbidden to attend class. The humiliation and psychological pain she was forced to endure made her file a lawsuit against her former school. The school admitted its sex discrimination, agreed to review its pastoral care program and to pay Margaret McCluskey compensation in the amount of GBP 6,250.

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