The Impotence Epidemic: Men’s Medicine and Sexual Desire in Contemporary China
Everett Yuehong Zhang is Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies and Anthropology at Princeton University. He is the co-editor of Governance of Life in Chinese Moral Experience: The Quest for an Adequate Life, and co-author of Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person.
This chapter begins with the discussion of a popular thesis that sexual repression resulted in impotence in the Maoist period. Leaving aside the relationship between impotence and sexual repression, this thesis leads to the discussion of whether and why sexual desire was repressed under the socialist state. The structural limitations of Maoist collectivism—the impact of the danwei and hukou systems—led to sexual repression, a point no previous study has made. This point is critical for understanding the rise of the impotence epidemic (the rise of desire) in post-Mao China.