Beijing: Jailing of a professor for hosting group sex parties and orgies has sparked off a heated debate in China with large number of participants in online opinion poll backing the "swinger professor" for his defiant stand that he committed no wrong as it was all voluntary.
A survey on ifeng.com, a major news portal, showed that 70.7 percent of the 15,871 respondents said the associate professor Ma Yaohai should not have been brought to trial, state-run China Daily said in its report on the sentence given to Ma and 21 others.
Ma told media before his trial that "I didn`t do anything wrong. And there was no forcing or organising. Why is the whole country picking on me?".
The sentence touched off a debate in China, which has undergone remarkable social changes since early 1980s where attitudes toward sex have changed dramatically, another official daily Global Times said.
In the early 1980s, Chinese couples would feel embarrassed holding hands and kissing in public. However, multiple surveys suggest that youths now seem more open toward premarital sex than their parents were.
Ma has received both support and criticism, with some believing it was Ma`s freedom to be engaged in group sex, and others decrying the activity as morally corrupted.
Both newspapers which displayed the story prominently quoted sociologists and legal experts to spark a debate whether the conviction is fair and whether "group licentiousness" should exist in modern Chinese society.
Yesterday, a court in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, handed down three-and-half-year jail terms to Ma and Wo and a-half-years to 18 others, while three who were convicted exempted from criminal penalties because they turned themselves in.
Ma was the only one of the accused to plead not guilty and will appeal his sentence, his lawyer Xue Huogen said. The sentence came after court heard how 14 men and eight women met through an online chat room and engaged in group sex activities from 2007 to 2009.
The twice-divorced Ma became interested in the activities, also known as swinging, after his marriages failed. He had organised and participated in 18 orgies, 14 of which took place at his home, where his mother was also living.
"Ma is innocent because the activity is private and based on mutual agreement among the people involved. It did not disrupt public order. At worst, they could have gotten administrative punishment like those given for prostitution. There was no need to give a criminal verdict," Xue said.
Sociologist and sex expert Li Yinhe said the crime itself should be abolished because it is outdated and the practice only challenges morality.
"Swinging is very private. In this case, public authorities have interfered with people`s private lives," Li said.