On May 20, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported that 22 people had been convicted and sentenced to jail for taking part in "licentious activities," which it appears are criminal offenses in that happy land. At least if the whole group takes part in said activities at the same time.
Prosecutors said that Ma Yaohai, a computer-science professor at the Nanjing University of Technology, had organized and participated in "group sex activities" (those activities probably being sex) with 21 other people on as many as 18 occasions over three years. Ma admitted the licentiousness but argued that because all the defendants were voluntary adult participants, they had committed no crime. Nice try, Ma.
This free-thinking and probably CIA-influenced argument was no match for article 301 of China's criminal law, which reportedly had not been used in 20 years but which worked just fine once prosecutors dragged it out and roughed it up a bit to make sure it would cooperate. "Ringleaders and persons who repeatedly take part in licentious activities," the law reads, "shall be sentenced to fixed terms of imprisonment of no more than five years, criminal detention or public surveillance." Ma, who I guess would be the "ringleader" here, got three and a half years, while 18 others got up to two and a half years each.
Rejecting Ma's defense, the chief judge said that group licentiousness was indeed a crime because it "infringed upon public order." Xinhua quoted an expert from a different university who definitely agreed. "Swingers clubs and sex parties are unethical," said Yuan Jiuhong, described as "an expert on marriage and sex ethics" at Nanjing Southeast University. "Unethical behavior will harm the fabric of society, disrupt relationships and bring chaos to society." Good point. Wherever you see chaos in society, chances are that somewhere nearby more than two people are having sex at once. Also, you know what disrupts relationships even more? Putting people in jail for having them.
Ma might not have helped his case by holding press conferences prior to trial. "What we did, we did for our own happiness," he told reporters in April. "People chose to do it of their own free will and they knew they could stop at any time. We disturbed no one." (Seems to me if you have 22 people involved in group licentiousness and you aren't disturbing anybody, you need to try harder.) Ma also had a good simile or two ready to explain why "swinging" is okay.
"Marriage is like water," he said. "You have to drink it. Swinging is like a cup of wine. You can drink it if you like. If you don't like it, don't drink it." Well, more specifically it's like a cup of wine that 21 other people have been drinking out of, but I guess the point is still valid.