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Judicial system can't lightly discard traditional values
So 53-year-old computer science professor Ma Xiaohai and 21 alleged members of his wife-swapping group have been put on trial in Nanjing for "group sexual licentiousness" crimes? Good.
Group licentiousness is a crime which was written into China's law as a separate charge in 1997, based on earlier laws.
The law stipulates that a "leader" or anyone who participates in group sex with three or more people can face up to five years in jail.
Very little information is known about the case except what we have heard from the defendant.
What kind of enterprise exactly was he running? Were these parties really for his own pleasure only, or was he trying to operate some sort of commercial business? Has the group been actively recruiting new members? And what about their website?
Whatever the answers to these questions, the group's behavior is nevertheless wrong and fundamentally undermines family values.
It can lead to more family breakups, a rise in prostitution and other sex services and subsequently an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Look at what sexual liberalization has done to countries like Japan.
In Japan, college girls from middle-income families happily engage in all sorts of sex services just to earn little extra cash so that they can buy a new Luis Vuitton handbag. The result was a rise in STDs and a new moral low point.
This certainly is not where China should be going. Look at Singapore as an example.
The city-state is a high-tech powerhouse, yet according to Reporters Without Borders, it is ranked 147 of 167 countries in sexual freedom. Gay sex remains illegal in Singapore, yet society somehow accepts it. People practice it at home privately, but do not boast about it on websites publicly.
Ma is right to argue that it is nobody's business what he does in private at home, but only up to a certain degree.
He can indulge himself in sexual activities with his wife or his lover as much as he like, but when he starts recruiting and advertising for people from outside to satisfy his sexual pleasures through the Internet, it becomes the public's business and not only his own.
Even in the US, one of the most liberal countries when it comes to sexual freedoms, swingers or wife swappers do not always have it easy.
The case of a couple from Dallas is of particular importance to the case in Nanjing. The Dallas couple had been organizing swinging parties in their suburban home for years, sometimes involving up to 100 people.
Yet the parties stayed unnoticed until city officials said they had been receiving complaints from residents about the increased traffic levels in the otherwise quiet neighborhood.
Once the officials had examined the couple's website requesting donation of $50 per couple, they alleged the couple was running a sex business from their home.
The city then quickly passed a law against sex clubs, calling them a public nuisance.
This highlights the complexity of the case from the legal point of view. And, from the moral viewpoint, swinging does not benefit anyone.
Partnership is about intimacy and sharing something valuable between two people, and that is why sexual affairs committed outside such relationships often damage many couples.
It diminishes intimacy, and leads to the end of the relationship.
In addition, swinging is a highly risky activity.
There is a much bigger chance of catching diseases while having sex with strangers. Though some swingers require the use of condoms, others do not.
The danger is always there and increases with the number of partners exchanged.
Chinese society is going through a profound period of adjustment. Reform and openning-up have only been going on for 30 years, but Chinese culture is much older. The sex laws cannot discard traditional values lightly.
There are too many unanswered questions before the authorities can reach any kind of decision on the matter, yet one thing is sure: What Ma was doing is not the kind of moral signal that the Chinese public needs now.