Raping a Chaste Woman is More Harmful Than Raping a Bar Girl – The Frightening Truth About China's Legal System

The baby-faced rapist, Li Tianye

On Wednesday, Yi Yanyou, a lawyer and law professor, said one of the most mysoginistic things I have heard in recent months (and that is a pretty high bar to reach). He said, via Weibo, “raping a chaste woman is more harmful than raping a bar girl, a dancing girl, a sanpeinu or a prostitute.” And, lest you misunderstand him, he explained further that “chaste women and prostitutes have different views on chasteness…so [rape has] a different impact on them.” When his univeristy, only the most prestigious law school in the country – Tsinghua, asked him to remove his comments he replied, “deletion means that I think I’m wrong.”

This is one of those “arguments” that is so basically wrong, so fundamentally stupid, that it really requires no reply. To put even a quantum of belief into statements like these would mean that you are so woefully and willfully idiotic that it would be impossible to have a reasonable conversation on the topic. To talk to such a person would be to cast your pearls before swine. It would only be an exercise in futility.

So why is everyone talking about this? Let me give some background information.

In February, Li Tianye, the 17-year old son of a famous PLA general, was arrested, along with 4 others, for gang raping a woman at a Beijing hotel. Despite his youth (or, perhaps because of it), the boy was already well-known in China for his bad reputation. But Li Tianye is nothing special or surprising when it comes to the second-generation army brats plaguing the country with their fast cars and entitlement attitude. The case has given people plenty of drama to follow after his first two lawyers quit. But the outrage exploded this week when Li’s new lawyer announced that the boy would be filing a plea of “innocent” because “the girl involved [was] a hostess at the bar” the group had been seen drinking at prior to the incident.

Yi Yanyou, the misogynist lawyer

Initially, netizens attacked Li’s mother for defending her precious baby boy and blaming the victim. But then, Yi Yanyou, who is a law professor but has no relation to the case, took to Weibo to explain why he think’s Li’s lawyers might be taking this line of defense and made the statements in the opening paragraph. Luckily for Li’s mother, the netizens quickly forgot she even existed and have made Yi Yanyao Public Enemy Number 1.

When I first read Yi’s comments, I cried. Even though he is 100% wrong and I would still be doing this post supporting the fact that all women, even prostitutes, are human beings, his comments came just after I helped my god-daughter Zoe get a job at the local expat pub. I’ve written in detail about the troubles Zoe has had trying to go to college. We still don’t know if she will be going to college in the fall. But in the meantime, as an 18-year old, she was finding it impossible to even get a job in a shop or restaurant. So, after discussing it with Zoe’s mom, I asked my friend who owns the local expat pub if he would let her waitress for him for the summer and he was more than happy to take her under his wing. So far, it has been a great situation. Zoe makes more money than her mom, gets to practice her English with people from all over the world, and she is gaining valuable work experience.

But according to Yi Yanyao, if a man decides he is going to rape someone, it will be better if he rapes Zoe than a “chaste” woman.

I am furious. I am disgusted. I am frightened. And I am profoundly sad.

For Yi to assume that all women who work in bars are not “chaste” makes me sick. Zoe is not the only bar girl I know. These women are usually from poor families who can’t afford college and need a job to help their parents. These girls have the same ambitions for love, marriage, and family as everyone else.To impugne the honor of all of them in one fell swoop is degrading and dehumanizing. For Yi to also rate women on their rapability (to designate that some women are more rapable than others) is disgusting. But the fact that some men might believe that Zoe is more rapable than another woman terrifies me. I fear it might make her a target.

I feel like the world is completely set against Zoe and other women like her. I feel like she is doomed to fail. All of China’s children are under tremendous pressure to succeed, and they all try so hard. They spend their whole lives studying for the gaokao, they do their best, but because they live in the wrong city, went to the wrong high school, or come from poor families, they are denied further education and the jobs that go with them. Then when they take jobs they do qualify for in bars, hair salons, or hotels, they are branded as people not worthy of dignity or respect. They are denied justice or compassion. I weep for Zoe. She deserves better than this place.

It would be easy to look at Yi Yanyao’s comments and write off all of China as a sexist, heartless place, but I am trying really hard not to do that. If you read the translated internet comments in the ChinaSmack article about this, 100% of the comments are in defense of women and decry the Li family’s choice of defense tactic. Some of the better replies are “Prostitutes are first women, and gang-raping a prostitute should also be punished by the law. The law can’t be lenient to criminals just because the victim is a prostitute,” and “the facts and [the victim’s] identity are unrelated. Even if the victim is a “prostitute”, should we take Li Tianyi’s action for granted? Should we consider forcing a “hostess” to have sex no longer rape? Of course not! Not to mention how shameless it is to maliciously abuse the victim, it can’t even justify oneself even according to legal principle.” Reading comments like this give me hope that most Chinese are not as backwards as Yi Yanyao.

However, Yi Yanyao is an educated man. He might not speak for or represent all Chinese men, but if he believes what he wrote, he can’t be the only one. In fact, look at his “apology: “my comment yesterday was indeed improper…I’m disturbed by the negative impact and hereby apologize to all.” He is disturbed by the negative feedback received, meaning he is shocked by it. He honestly thought (and still thinks) he is in the right and that more people would agree with him. Remember, this man teaches law. He knows Chinese law better than the average person. According to everything he knows about China and the Chinese judicial system, bar girls are more rapable than other women. People shouldn’t just be outraged by the horrible words this man said, but they should also be extremely worried about what it says about China’s legal system.

Chinese authorities love to tout the phrase that “China is a country that follows the rule of law,” but it is clear the laws only benefit the rich and oppress the poor. This is a country where rape can be ruled as a “temporary crime,” where forced abortions are commonplace, and where people are held in detention facilities for years without charges. People in China are 100% convinced that Li Tianye is going to go free because 1) his father is a famous general, 2) he is a minor, and 3) his family has a lot of money.

As horrible as Yi Yanyao’s words were, the worse thing is that he actually knows what he is talking about. In the eyes of Chinese law, “raping a chaste woman is more harmful than raping a bar girl.”