Announcing Behind the Red Door: Sex in China by…Richard Burger

For the past several months I’ve made allusions to being too busy to blog due to a “big project” I was working on. Now, after about ten months, I can tell you all about it.

Behind the Red Door: Sex in China is the title of my new book that will be published by Earnshaw Books on September 1. It’s the first book I’ve written and was undoubtedly the most arduous, enlightening, demanding, enjoyable, challenging and exhilarating experience of my life to date.

To my knowledge, there is no comparable book on the market — a book that tells the story of sex in China in a format designed for the general reader. After I agreed to write the book, I immersed myself in every piece of information I could find. I tracked down both out-of-print and contemporary textbooks, the most recent studies written for scholars by scholars, white papers, graduate theses, newspaper articles, online resources, anything that I felt could give me fresh insights into this immense subject. For months, I simply sifted through my materials, taking notes and trying to break down complex issues into a cohesive narrative that would be accessible to all.

I didn’t limit myself to written sources, of course. I did interviews by phone, Skype and email with people who had knowledge about specific areas I was trying to cover. Researchers at Earnshaw Books provided many invaluable interviews with the translations so I could humanize the story. In particular, their interviews with prostitutes, pimps, sex shop owners, sex therapists and “sex detectives” hired by suspicious spouses — all of these along with my own interviews provided me with a deep well of resources to draw on.

Topics include prostitution, sexual habits and attitudes through China’s long history and how they impact on sexuality in China today, same-sex love, the Internet’s deep impact on Chinese perceptions of sex, the mushrooming sex shop industry, and that strange phenomenon, “yellow fever.”

John Pomfret, author of Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, said of the book, “In telling a great story of the history of sex in China, Richard Burger peels back the curtain on the private lives of the world’s most populous nation.”

Much is covered, but it’s impossible to tell the complete and absolute story of sex in China. As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, there is more than one China, rich China and poor China, the China of Shanghai/Beijing and that of the lower-tier cities and the countryside, the China of those who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and those who are entering college today. As I say in the Introduction:

Drawing together China’s past and present attitudes toward this most basic human necessity and arriving at a neat conclusion is difficult. Any discussion of sex in China can only be suggestive. Every point an observer makes can be argued and contradicted. The best we can do is pull together the various conversations on what sex and sexuality in today’s China means, and hope to offer as balanced a picture as possible.

The book goes into considerable detail and is not safe for work (the section on Daoist sex manuals is particularly graphic), but I strived to keep it informative without crossing into the vulgar.

Obviously, I would like all of you to pre-order the book, which you can do over here. The more pre-orders there are, the more resources Amazon will allocate to promote the book.

My sincere thanks to all of my friends — and especially my publisher — who helped me to write and promote this book. It’s been a wonderful experience, and difficult as it often was, I’m almost sorry the writing part is over. There is always more to learn about China, and every day I see a piece of news or read a new blog post that I think would be perfect addition to my book. Thus no book on this subject can ever be truly complete or definitive, though it can certainly be informative and a lot of fun as it tries.

More about the book as the publication date approaches. In the meantime, please “Like” the Behind the Red Door: Sex in China Facebook page and feel free to post there anytime. I’ll be putting up news related to sex in China in general, and my book in particular, on a regular basis. (The FB page is a work in progress for now, but please Like it anyway; I’ll be filling it in soon.)

It is thrilling to finally announce this. I do hope you get hold of a copy of the book; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, prejudiced though I may be.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 38 Comments

Perfect timing in the wake of Liu Zhijun’s case and graphic detail while busted. Good luck…

August 14, 2012 @ 11:01 am | Comment

Thanks Michael.

August 14, 2012 @ 11:17 am | Comment

pretty sure sex in china is the same as sex anywhere …. what some may do just a bit of, there are others who do that thing a lot … wild and conservative are everywhere …

August 14, 2012 @ 11:33 am | Comment

True enough, but the story of sex in China, from millennia ago to today, is quite unlike the story of any other nation/culture. This book, hopefully, explains why that’s so.

August 14, 2012 @ 11:35 am | Comment

I had the pleasure of reading the book in advance of publication. What’s especially cool is that Richard’s book is not prurient in the slightest (even that NSFW Daoist chapter) but is still a really entertaining read. It would be perfect for college courses in Chinese culture.

August 14, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Comment

Thanks Lisa.

August 14, 2012 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Awesome–will check it out. Good luck with getting traction!

August 14, 2012 @ 11:49 am | Comment

Someone thinks this story is hao-tastic…

This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

August 14, 2012 @ 11:52 am | Trackback

Congratulations on this ambitious project on an underreported topic, Richard! I went straight to amazon to pre-order but there is no digital (kindle/ebook) edition available, and it’s not available on Chinese Amazon. Any ebook in the works from another source? I’d prefer to get it straight from amazon because I have some gift vouchers there still…

August 14, 2012 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

Strophy, there will be a Kindle version after the book is released in September. (I doubt you’ll see it at Amazon’s Chinese site.)

August 14, 2012 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

Great news, I’ll wish list it and order when it comes out. Congrats again!

August 14, 2012 @ 1:46 pm | Comment

Where will your book be available? I’m living in China right now, will I be able to get it here?

August 14, 2012 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

Congratulations, Richard. Sounds like a great book. Good luck with the sales!

August 14, 2012 @ 2:50 pm | Comment

That’s exactly what I want to know: will it be available in China? And/or in Chinese? (Frankly there might already be a bootleg copy in Chinese :) :) ….)

August 14, 2012 @ 4:20 pm | Comment

pretty sure sex in china is the same as sex anywhere

Monks and nuns live without this most basic human necessity (or at least claim they do), but I doubt that sex in China is just like sex anywhere else. Chinese kitchen (surely a necessity) isn’t just like kitchen elsewhere, either. The way people are having sex will depend on class, on urban or rural residence, etc., and so will peoples’ openness in interviews about their do’s and don’t's. But either way, I guess there’s a lot one can read from surveys and history, as fragmentary as they may be.

August 14, 2012 @ 4:28 pm | Comment

By the way, Richard – why is it that the ad-bot is convinced, every time I come to your site, that I must be looking for “Muslim Matrimonials”? This was even before you mentioned your book.

August 14, 2012 @ 4:30 pm | Comment

@gregorylent

Attitudes towards sex are, in fact, not as universal as you would think. Try watching a sample of AVs from a number of different regions. You could, for example, try Japan, China, America, Germany and Kenya.

Pornography is just one part of sexual culture. Its diversity results from a range of attitudes towards sex, which in turn are intertwined with cultural values.

@Richard

Congratulations. I look forward to reading your book.

August 14, 2012 @ 4:59 pm | Comment

Richard, I’m delighted. What a great topic to cover. It goes to the heart of the people of this great and growing nation. I’m sure you present the topic in your usual thorough, balanced, respectful and highly readable way. I’ve pre-ordered a copy. If it’s got your name on it, it’s definitely good.

August 14, 2012 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

Congratulations and I hope all the hard work pays off but I have to say I will be hard pressed to spend another dollar on yet another China book.

Wish you the best!

August 14, 2012 @ 5:23 pm | Comment

Hey Richard,

Congrats on your debut!

August 14, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Comment

Looking forward to receiving my copy, Richard.

August 14, 2012 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

Congratulations!

“After about ten months” avoids some of the humor of “after about nine months,” but marks just as prodigious an achievement.

August 14, 2012 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

“Much is covered, but it’s impossible to tell the complete and absolute story of sex in China. As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, there is more than one China, rich China and poor China, the China of Shanghai/Beijing and that of the lower-tier cities and the countryside, the China of those who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and those who are entering college today. ”

What a fantastic quote and so very true as well!!! That to me is one of the biggest issues I when talking with people who have never lived in China. They think that China is just Shanghai or Beijing, but don’t see the smaller towns or villages and all the in-between people. I’ve always described China like a waterfall.

Thank-you so much for writing this book. Now the question remains, how do I get a copy so I can read it and review it and post that review on my blog!

If you could email me and let me know how I can buy a copy. Thank-you.

August 14, 2012 @ 8:44 pm | Comment

WOW!!!! Congrats Richard!!!!!! Cant wait to read! Diane

August 14, 2012 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

Thanks to everyone for the congratulations. The book will be distributed in the West, not in China, though I am hoping it will show up on the bookshelves of the Bookworm and the like. It will be available only in English, at least for now. The publication date is September 1, and if you pre-ordered that’s when it should ship. “Woman,” you can order it from Amazon or Barnes and Nobles’ web sites, or you can buy the Kindle version when it comes out on Amazon. Thanks again.

August 15, 2012 @ 12:50 am | Comment

@Richard. I hope the book search included The History of Sex – Reay Tannahil (sic?) which contains some very interesting points on that subject in China.

August 15, 2012 @ 7:55 am | Comment

Oh, I’m allowed to talk about this at last?! Great!

…dammit, I’ve got nothing to say…

August 15, 2012 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Funny, narsf. I’m sure you’ll think of something. :)

August 15, 2012 @ 11:08 am | Comment

Sounds like it’s going to be a good book. I look forward to it as it has some crossover appeal with some of my book readers.

The history of sex in China is the real story. So much has been brushed under the carpet since the communist revolution, that many Chinese believe they have always been conservative. Historical evidence proves otherwise though.

Look forward to it.

Sam

August 16, 2012 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

Richard,

Congratulations! I wish you much success and many residuals! Have you signed a movie deal yet?

August 17, 2012 @ 3:25 am | Comment

That’s coming (so to speak).

August 17, 2012 @ 3:26 am | Comment

@ chosunking. Look, I read your link, and RB was totalled by a milk truck.
Crikey, a bus trip with Sollers and Kristeva. I think I would opt for a dozen staff meetings at the China Daily as the lesser of two evils. Foucault quite wisely would not have had a bar of these semiotic structuralist prats. In fact, I think he would have shipped them off to the Gulag, and thrown in Derrida for good measure.

Little wonder the French govt soon saw thru the 68 youth rebellion as a bit of a joke. A bit of shove to the students push and the whole youthful edifice collapsed in a matter of weeks. The Haigh Ashbury hippies were a far more serious proposition, and they at least had a few bands and copious quantities of drugs to lighten up the revolutionary moment.

August 18, 2012 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Apologies to finish. A far more useful theorist for analysing Chinese media would be Vladimir Propp with his folktale morphologies. Apply his 31 functions and 8 character types to the whole Bogu gig, and you will have authored an incomprehensible but highly acclaimed academic Sino study. I will say nice things on your dust cover.

August 18, 2012 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

[...] and sometimes contradictory affair. A new book by American journalist Richard Burger — of the popular Peking Duck blog — seeks to address those changes by studying China’s sexual history over the past [...]

September 1, 2012 @ 3:23 am | Pingback

[...] and sometimes contradictory affair. A new book by American journalist Richard Burger — of the popular Peking Duck blog — seeks to address those changes by studying China’s sexual history over the past [...]

September 1, 2012 @ 4:22 am | Pingback

[...] and sometimes contradictory affair. A new book by American journalist Richard Burger — of the popular Peking Duck blog — seeks to address those changes by studying China’s sexual history over the past 5,000 [...]

September 1, 2012 @ 9:02 am | Pingback

[...] and sometimes contradictory affair. A new book by American journalist Richard Burger — of the popular Peking Duck blog — seeks to address those changes by studying China’s sexual history over the past 5,000 [...]

September 1, 2012 @ 10:57 am | Pingback

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.