Women Sex-spies: Chastity, National Dignity, Legitimate Government and Ding Ling
By Louise Edwards, The China Quarterly, Vol. 212 (December 2012), pp 1059-1078 (subscription required)
Abstract: This article examines 70 years of debate about Ding Ling's 1941 influential short story about a woman spy, “When I was in Xia Village.” In the article I show that the re-absorption of “our” female spies into post-conflict solidarity narratives is a fraught process. For national governments, the difficulty lies in asserting the moral legitimacy of their rule in the face of evidence about their deployment of women as sex spies. For national populations, the difficulty lies in the desire to construct reassuring victory stories within which peacetime normalcy can be restored. The diverse exegeses around Ding Ling's “Xia Village” reveal that even decades after the hostilities cease, “our” women sex spies still require an explanation to communities seeking to consolidate or “remember” their national virtue. The evolution of this process of “explaining” reveals the on-going importance of sexual morality to governance in current-day China. Specifically, through the analysis of the critiques of “Xia Village” the article demonstrates that female chastity has been and continues to be an important commodity in establishing and sustaining popular perceptions of the moral virtue of the PRC as a nation, and the CCP as its legitimate government.