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    Greater China
     Mar 9, 2007
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China sex mag: They read it for the articles
By Sunny Lee

BEIJING - Beijinger Wang Yixun regrets that he didn't buy a magazine that he saw the other day at a newsstand. When he returned a few days later, it was all sold out. Initially, that didn't bother him much because there were two other newsstands nearby. However, he soon found out that there were none left at the other places, either.

Wang, 28, an engineer working at China's Silicon Valley, Zhongguancun, wasn't ready to give up. The next day after work, he deliberately walked past the bus station where he usually takes his home-bound bus hoping to spot a copy of the magazine at a kiosk there, but to no avail.

The buttoned-down, soft-spoken Wang bashfully and regretfully says the reason he didn't buy the magazine the first time was because he "didn't have enough courage to carry the racy magazine in a public bus where it would be seen by other people".
The magazine Wang was referring to is Nanren Zhuang, whose Chinese name literally means "men's attire". But for its English title, it uses For Him Magazine (FHM), the same name of a British publication with which it cooperates and from which it borrows some content.

The magazine targets young white-collar metrosexuals like Wang, who are well educated and economically fit enough to buy "a fairly expensive magazine" that deals with mobile gadgets, cars and girls, says Jacky Jin, 41, the editor-in-chief.

FHM is a commercial success in China. It sells nearly half a million copies each month, which outstrips most other magazines sold in China. This is also an impressive commercial achievement in that it is priced at the equivalent of US$2.60, expensive in a country where a daily newspaper sells for only one-20th of that.

The magazine is credited as having blazed a trail for the men's-magazine market in China, which had long been neglected. "It turned out to be huge," said Jin.

However, some critics say what it proved most successfully was that sex and sexuality sell in China just as they do in other countries. In fact, the magazine puts pictures of scantily clad models on the cover and, of course, a lot more inside.

"We offer content that will interest men," said Wang Xiaofeng, the executive editor. "Most of the staff are men. And they know too well what content they want."

To a Westerner's eye, the magazine looks very much like a toned-down version of Playboy. One clear difference is that the models pose with at least some clothes on or their private parts covered with carefully placed objects. This is important in China, where outright porn magazines are banned.

The magazine also tries things that are "novel" in China. For example, a recent special edition became a smash hit when it carried pictures of "100 urban single girls". To make the event look more real, the magazine also listed the girls' e-mail addresses next to their pictures.

It seems to have been a big success for the magazine and for the girls as well, who apparently volunteered to send revealing pictures of themselves in, for example, swimsuits or sexy nightgowns. Wang Di, a personal trainer at a fitness center, was one of the three girls to appear on the cover. She says she doesn't even remember how many e-mails she has since received. Obviously, a lot.

Leading the sexual revolution in China?
With pictures that are considered quite "bold" by Chinese standards and with such topics as "having sex while standing up", the magazine's editors know too well that they ought to be careful.
"We censor ourselves in terms of how far we can go," said Jin.

Added Wang: "We made something of a breakthrough in China's environment. But we keep it at a level that can be accepted by society so that it doesn't become a porn magazine."

But apparently, the self-censorship wasn't enough to avoid the real censors. The magazine has already had two encounters with the government. One of the occasions was when it ran pictures of Playboy Playmate Pamela Anderson.

"We were criticized by the authorities," Jin said. But he quickly added, "They didn't issue any written notice. We were just warned that we should be careful."

Like other publications in China, the magazine has to abide by the rules set by the General Administration of Press and Publications, the state's censorship body. It also has to be careful

Continued 1 2 

Indonesia: The politics of bare flesh (Mar 18, '06)


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