When logging online became possible in China in 1995, the authorities cannot have imagined that a decade later millions of people would crash an internet provider in their efforts to access a website where they could listen to a 27-year-old female blogger having sex.
But that is what happened when the publicity-hungry Muzi Mei released a 25-minute recording of an encounter with her latest lover. The former sex columnist, who shot to fame in 2003 after she started publishing graphic accounts of her many one-night stands on her blog, symbolises the sexual revolution in China. Political freedom may be unattainable, but the bedroom is the one place the government cannot monitor and young people are taking advantage. Not only are they having more sex than their parents ever did, they are doing it far earlier.
A survey by Li Yinhe, China's only female sexologist, shows that 70 per cent of Beijingers have had pre-marital sex, compared with 15.5 per cent in 1989. In the major cities, the average age at which people in the 14- to-20 age group first have sex is 17, as opposed to 24 for those aged between 31 and 40.
The new permissiveness means that being faithful to one's partner is no longer obligatory; a March 2005 survey revealed that a third of young people in urban areas believe extra-marital affairs should be tolerated.
Professor Li, who teaches at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has spent 10 years researching the sex lives of the Chinese, and she believes China will 'catch up' with the West in terms of sexual practices within 20 years.
But judging by the 50,000 people who flocked to last month's Sex and Culture festival in Guangzhou city in southern Guangdong Province to browse the latest in sex toys " 70 per cent of the world's total are made in the province " it may be sooner than that. …