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How to Be Subtle When You Mention Sex

Be in the know when your friends talk about doing it


How to Be Subtle When You Mention Sex

Be in the know when your friends talk about doing it


The Chinese don’t always say what they mean, and by that I mean that they excel at euphemisms. This can make learning Chinese both easy (with less than 3,000 commonly used characters) and extremely difficult. Chinese culture promotes politeness, subtlety and nuance. Improper topics considered not appropriate to be discussed in the open are usually talked about euphemistically, with lashings of allusion. And you can guess which one of these particular topics is often the biggest taboo of all. Yup, you got it- sex, everybody’s favorite hobby. Well, not everybody’s, but you know what I mean.

As Sinosplice points out: “If you use the words 做爱 (zuòài, make love) or 性 (xìng, sex, sexuality) or 性交 (xìngjiāo, sexual intercourse), you’re not being subtle, and dropping those words in polite company is likely to cause some embarrassment.” And nobody would want that now, would they?

Traditionally speaking, the whole sex is taboo thing is worse for women. Girls who discuss this, seemingly degrading, topic are often considered frivolous and promiscuous. Of course, today China is modernizing very quickly and the culture has become westernized as well as, that oft used and nebulous phrase, open (开放, kāifàng). The discussion of sex is no longer a no-no (though things are often still kept a bit “hush, hush”), but it is often done through the use of euphemisms. Here are some of the most common euphemisms used for “sex” and “making love”.

1. 打炮 dǎpào

Means fire the cannon, but it is in fact a euphemism for “have sex”.

Example: 我和她昨晚打了一炮 (Wǒ hé tā zuó wǎn dǎle yī pào, she and I had sex last night)

2. 滚床单 gǔn chuángdān

The literal meaning is to roll on the bed sheets. While rolling in bed in English could mean a lot of things (perhaps compare with the English idiom, roll around in the hay.), in Chinese it means to have sex.

Example: 你们滚床单了吗?(nǐmen gǔn chuángdānle ma? Have you had sex yet?)

3. 啪啪啪 pā pā pā

This is the sound of bodies slamming against each other.

Example: 隔壁昨晚啪啪啪了 (gébì zuó wǎn pā pā pā le, the next door neighbors were doing it last night)

4. XXOO chā chā quān quān (or OOXX quān quān chā chā)

Do not mistake this one for xoxo. Either is used to refer to the act of sex, “enter and exit”. After the usage was spread, OO was further extended to refer to the female, and XX to the male.

5. 那个 nàgè

This word is used to refer to anything that could be substituted with “that”.  Foreigners often pick it out when hearing it, as it sounds  similar to the highly offensive, “n-word”. In this context, 那个 means “do it”.

Example: 你们那个了吗? (nǐmen nàgè le ma? Have you guys done it yet?)

6. 造人 zào rén

Literally, this word means “human making”. But, don’t be fooled, its usage does not signify getting pregnant.

Example: 我们看完电影后造人吧 (wǒmen kàn wán diànyǐng hòu zào rén ba, let’s have sex after finishing the movie)

7. 活塞运动 huósāi yùndòng

This literally means “piston movement”, which alludes to going in and out…

Example: 我女朋友说她不喜欢活塞运动 (wǒ nǚpéngyǒu shuō tā bù xǐhuan huósāi yùndòng, my girlfriend says she doesn’t like making love)


Other euphemisms include 翻云覆雨 (fānyúnfùyǔ) and 鱼水之欢 (yúshuǐ zhī huān), which are more literal and often used in literature, as well as 嘿咻, ML, 办事, happy, 发生关系, 上床 (which can be shortened to 上, a verb similar to F).

So there you have it: a veritable orgy of clean ways, to talk about dirty things. Do read more about this love of the euphemism in the Sinosplice article.


Image courtesy of takungpao.com.