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July 9, 2013

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Home » Opinion » Opinion Columns

Sale of wet nurses' milk to adults a sign of market-driven depravity

CHINA'S ostentatious new rich, probably tiring of unending shopping splurges in overseas travel, have acquired a taste for less conspicuous consumption: drinking human milk.

According to media reports, a domestic service provider in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, allegedly provides wet nurses for needy adults - including constitutionally weak adults who believe they can be strengthened by the bracing tonic.

According to reports, as long as clients can afford the service charge, the wet nurses will not object to clients directly suckling their breasts.

Fees are worked out between wet nurses and customers.

A doctor, who did not seem to oppose the practice, cautioned that nurses should be in good health so there is no transmission of infection through milk.

I do not disapprove of the health benefits of human milk - we all know that breastfeeding is important for development of an infant's immune system. But I am surprised that so many adults could report this wet nurse development in such a businesslike and detached way.

In a commentary titled "Human milk business tramples legal and moral bottom line," (Xinmin Evening News, July 5) Xinhua News Agency pointed out that providing human milk as a business is against regulations governing the sales of human milk as commodities, and is deplorable in any civilized society.


The whole idea smacks of pornography but for various reasons some adult choose to be very stupid about this. That some journalists can regard this dirty, corrupt and obscene business with so much detachment is suggestive of a paradigm shift.

Thanks to decades of ravaging superstition about the benefit of market forces, some people are becoming comfortable with anything discussed within the confines of business.

In other words, a sound business model justifies anything.

As a result, it is perfectly acceptable for skimpily clad model to strut on a catwalk, or for young women to strike seductive poses at an auto show, because these lures are all part of the business.

Some journalists and editors have a stake in the business because they can boost sales by cashing in on the voyeuristic tendencies of the readership.

When economic development is deemed the top priority for officials, a good official is one who is capable of fueling local economic growth. Similarly, a good reporter is one who can boost sales, and if that means lurid reports, so be it.

The moral implications can be totally ignored.

Since we cannot find any specific legal provisions, then it must be morally acceptable.

Similarly, as there are no legal provisions against giving clients "manual relief," the practice is not deemed illegal by prosecutors ("Loopholes in prostitution laws spark controversy, June 28, Shanghai Daily), and this created room for a lucrative business.

Legal limitations

Thanks to this lack of clarification, some foot massages parlors are racing against time, offering crash courses on helping masseuses to deliver sexual pleasure for their clients.

In Confucian's Analects, it is said that if people are governed solely by the fear of law, they will try to avoid legal punishment, but lose their sense of shame.

Legal provisions are always limited. If you look around, most rogues or villains can prosper without having any brushes with the law.

When law is invoked to deter immoral behavior, that itself is a sign of moral depravity.

That's why it should be cause for alarm, rather than celebration, when adult children are compelled by law to pay regular visits to their parents, or/and that parents are forbidden to abuse their children.

Similarly, when employees are wary of providing sex for their superiors in exchange of official favors - for fear of legal prohibitions - our society is in great trouble.

Legal provisions have some limited value in regulating explicit violence, but their value is highly suspect in dealing with hidden, more harmful sins such as ingratitude, betrayal, cheating, lying, or recklessness.

The Chinese moral system centers on humility, frugality, and simplicity, but the market credo is dictating a moral code based on consumption as the highest ideal of this life. The confusion we find ourself in is only part of the consequence of this unqualified admiration of the market.


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