Taiwan woman labeled ‘slut’ for locking lips with 100 guys fights back

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-19 5:03:01

Yang Yaqing has become famous in Taiwan for her "100 kisses in Paris" project. Photo: Courtesy of Lai Guanming

Yang Yaqing kisses a woman tied with rope to demonstrate a different kind of lust. Photo: Courtesy of Chen Liwei

Yang Yaqing kisses her father. Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Xuanqi

Yang Yaqing kisses a man in Paris. Photo: Courtesy of Baptiste Vignol

 Yang Yaqing remembers  that when she first thought up her "100 kisses in Paris" project, her friends didn't approve. They thought the very idea of going around the city and kissing strangers was ridiculous.

Back then, Yang was a musician in Taiwan. The idea had just suddenly occurred to her, she thought it would be cute to ask strangers whether they want to kiss her. But she was unable to do it until 2009, when she was studying in Paris. But little did she know, it would change her life.

100 kisses in Paris

From July 2009, Yang started asking strangers on the street to take kissing photos with her.

The first man she kissed was a worker changing the advertisement canvas in front of the Orsay Museum in Paris. She told him she was conducting a photo project with 100 guys and asked him whether he'd be interested in kissing her.

She wasn't nervous, but felt excited, because she didn't know what was going to happen. But he agreed to kiss her, even though he was a bit shy about it.

Yang later described this kiss as "a fallen leaf that had drifted into my pocket." In the whole process, she's encountered many interesting people. She met someone who teaches in Africa and invited her to travel there. One man bit her on the lip while kissing. She has also kissed a model, which made netizens jealous.

She asked professional photographers to help her in the project. In these photos, she and different guys stood in beautiful settings, in a teahouse, in front of a palace, or out on a park bench surrounded by flowers. She began uploading the photos to her blog.

Slut shaming

But she didn't expect her blog to be filled up with messages that include all sorts of insults. People called her a "slut," said she's "easy," that her lady parts are "rotten." Her blog was visited about 100,000 times per day and she received more than 1,500 insulting messages.

The worst reaction came from her grandmother, who she was close with. After she finished her studies and returned to Taiwan, the grandmother started criticizing her to her face.

Her grandmother would say, "Please don't tell others you are my granddaughter," "You are so dirty for kissing all these men," and "No man would want you now, there's no way you can marry, just no way!"

Yang found this difficult to deal with. When she was in Paris, she could just close her laptop and not see the abusive comments. But when she was sitting at home, she still had to constantly face insults, and it was too much to bear.

Some people came to Yang's defense, but their defense seemed to be a little off point to her as well.

"They would say, 'She's doing a project. Artists are always kissing people, it's nothing!' But I wanted to say, it's not an art project, I was attracted to these men, I intentionally picked out these people," Yang said.

For a long time, she struggled to understand why people aggressively demeaned her. She wanted to find a reason but she couldn't, and she felt genuinely depressed.

Feminist awakening

In 2014, Yang read an article by a Taiwan writer, who used the backlash against her project to demonstrate the point that the society is still largely male-dominated and men like to control "their women," whether it's women in their households, regions, or countries.

Whenever a woman with an Asian face is seen together with foreign men, Asian men get angry, and they can say anything. But they usually only attack the woman, throwing all kinds of insults at her, Yang said.

"My photographer was okay with me going around kissing guys because we were work partners," she said. "But he said if his sister had done something like this, he would've broken her legs."

The article made her realize she had been called "slut" and "bitch" because the society hates it when women express their sexual desires, and this is all related to the patriarchal nature of Chinese society. She's decided to make her own voice heard. 

Sounding clear

At that time, she was already doing a new project, "100 kisses in Taipei." At the beginning, she didn't intentionally want to make it themed around gender, but after she read a lot of studies in this area, she intentionally sought out people to demonstrate a point.

She asked a female friend to take a kissing photo with her. The friend was nude and hung from the ceiling, skillfully tied up with a rope. Yang said kissing that woman demonstrates a different kind of lust.

She also took a photo kissing her father. When her lips brushed against her father's, she clearly felt her father tense up, because they had never done something so intimate.

Furthermore, she started sounding more certain on blog and when faced with her grandmother.

When her grandmother accused her of being a disgrace, she would straight say back to her, "Yeah, that's right, but you can't cure me, just give up."

She started discussing sex more on blogs and telling people that there's nothing wrong with a woman's sexual desires. A few months ago she did a Taipei Tedx talk and published her 100 Kisses in Paris book.

This all didn't affect her life in the way her critics said it would. A few months ago she got married to a man who doesn't mind her history and often discusses sex and other topics with her.

"I wanted to be a 'slut,' to make the negative connotations attached with the word disappear," Yang said. "And I encourage young women everywhere to try and be a 'slut.'"

Newspaper headline: Kiss and tell

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