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China sex mag: They read it for the
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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