Sex in Big-Character Posters from China's Cultural Revolution : Gendering the Class Enemy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


As a defining component of the Cultural Revolution, the “dictatorship of the masses” did away with constraints that had previously kept the most private of the private parts of Chinese people’s lives out of the political arena. In the years 1966–1969, in particular, discursive strands that did not shy away from the topic of sex in politics and revolution proliferated. This paper comments on some recurring common themes of gender and the male “class enemy” (his positive heroic counterpart, as it were, remained a strangely asexual creature throughout) and of sexuality and the revolutionary or counter-revolutionary woman. Found in public and highly visible so-called big-character posters, the discourse that blended politics into sex ended up giving impetus to a movement that brought down many a corrupt politician, but at the cost of traumatizing countless innocent victims who never recovered from seeing their lives’ “darkest aspects exposed openly.”


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History and Archaeology


  • sex, discourse, gender, China, Cultural Revolution
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender Politics and Mass Dictatorship: Global Perspectives
EditorsKaren Petrone, Jie-hyun Lim
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Volume#1 in book series "Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century"
ISBN (Print)9780230242043
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

Volume#1 in book series "Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century"

Related projects

Michael Schoenhals


Project: Research

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