A Chinese platform that makes space for discussions on women’s sexualityhttps://indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/china-same-sex-relationships-yummy-women-sexuality-lesbian-5968934/

A Chinese platform that makes space for discussions on women’s sexuality

Zhao Jing says it is “definitely good” that there is at least talk about the LGBT community publicly. Her passion project Yummy, however, is broader in its focus.

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Yummy was launched at the end of 2015, after Zhao Jing returned from a two-year Master’s degree at New York University.

The first thing that Zhao Jing, 36, hands me in a busy coffee shop in Beijing’s Wangjing district, is a Women’s Pleasure Handbook. “Dare to Desire,” it reads in English, in an otherwise Chinese-heavy text. “Here is something for you,” she says from across the table. Zhao or “Sam” introduces herself as “queer” and a “feminist”. She is the founder of Yummy, a Chinese platform that provides women an opportunity to discuss sexuality and intimacy.

In late August, China reiterated its legal position on limiting marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman, thereby signalling it wouldn’t follow Taiwan, which in May passed a bill endorsing same-sex marriage, after years of debate. Yet, 10 days earlier, there had been good news: Beijing joined Shanghai, Hubei and some other provincial-level regions in approving same-sex guardianship, a historic step for the city, which was even reported by state media.

Simply put, “guardianship agreements grant some of the same benefits conferred by marriage, including power of attorney and inheritance rights,” a piece in the Shanghai-based independent online publication, Sixth Tone, says. State-run China Daily said the move has “triggered discussions in the LGBT community as a rising number of such individual cases have been reported by the local media.”

Zhao says it is “definitely good” that there is at least talk about the LGBT community publicly. Her passion project Yummy, however, is broader in its focus.

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“Sexual orientation is not the main thing here,” says Zhao. “The main point is that women should own their own bodies. No matter whether you are a lesbian, bisexual or a straight woman, the key point is we should be able to control and design what happens with our body.”

Yummy was launched at the end of 2015, after Zhao returned from a two-year Master’s degree at New York University. Since then, it has been a platform for women to discuss all things sexual. It began as an app which was pathbreaking in a country in which, much like India, schools gloss over sex education and discussions around sex, if at all, remain superficial in mainstream media. “When I was in school, teachers felt so much shame in discussing sex, they asked us to read the chapter on the reproductive system by ourselves,” she says.

Zhao went to an all-girls school in the prefecture level city of Yueyang, in China’s Hunan province. Her small town put her in an uncomfortable situation early on, about coming out to her parents. “In the beginning, I did not come out to my parents, but I came out to my friends. I wanted to create a small community around me of lesbian and bi-sexual women,” she says. “At the time, women in the community would often talk about how their girlfriends would get married. I was so sad about this kind of story, I wanted to create another voice for the community, to make us feel proud of who we are.”

In 2005, Zhao launched a lesbian magazine Les+ after graduating from a college in Beijing. “I felt like it was very important for us to have our own voice, not borrowed from experts,” she says. The magazine ran for eight years. “In Chinese, there is no name for sexual orientation, only references for same-sex behaviour.” Women carried the burden of shame and silence around sex, which in China, she says, has traditionally been about “reproduction” or for “male pleasure.”

After two years at NYU, she made a documentary We Are Here about the first lesbian to come out in China in 1995, which, she says, was crucial to document. After the then American First Lady Hillary Clinton addressed the UN fourth world conference on women held in Beijing, Zhao came up with the idea to create Yummy.

Zhao says she was particularly inspired by Clinton’s famous line at the conference, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Today, Yummy, which has 2 million subscribers, hosts discussions on various social media platforms on casual sex, BDSM, open relationships and reviews of latest sex toys.

“Yummy is not a lesbian community, most people are straight women, maybe 10 per cent are lesbian and bisexual,” she says. The platform offers a range of online and offline courses on sex skills, reviews of sex toys, and workshops on how to satisfy women sexually. “There are a lot of questions from young people, 18-25-year-olds, who are curious about one-night stands, casual sex and freedom that dating apps allow them,” says Zhao. “The other popular topic is the absence of sex amongst married couples.”

Despite all she might have done for amplifying women’s voices, Zhao’s parents may not have fully warmed up to her work. “I came out to my parents before I went to study abroad, now they feel I am independent, they can’t control my thinking,” she says. Are they proud of her? “Kind of.”