This book examines the history of sexuality in Mongolia over the last 800 years. As a culture-specific and time-specific system of values, practices and identities, sexuality in Mongolia, as elsewhere, has been subject to change as Mongolian society transformed from an empire to a post-imperial regional power to a Qing colony to a socialist country, before embracing liberal democracy in the 1990s. Since every social change tends to become reflected in sexuality, this study takes into account a range of intertwined topics, including religious ideologies, political ideologies, law, gender and relationships between individuals and the state, all of which have evolved throughout Mongolia’s history and require rethinking if one is to describe such a complex social phenomenon as human sexuality.
Baasanjav Terbish is affiliated researcher at the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit of the University of Cambridge.
Chapter 1 The Imperial Period
Chapter 2 From the Post-Imperial Period to Independence from the Qing
Chapter 3 State Socialism
Chapter 4 Post-Socialist Mongolia
Chapter 5 Five Live Stories
Baasanjav Terbish has produced a much-needed overview and thorough analysis of the most secret chapter in the long history of the Mongols from the empire of Genghis Khan through the eras of Buddhism and Socialism into the twenty-first century of globalization. The author offers a political history of Mongolia through sexuality. With a careful examination of the textual evidence of nine centuries combined with an astute insider’s knowledge of Mongolian language and culture, Sex in the Land of Genghis Khan: From the Times of the Great Conqueror to Today is an excellent anthropological and historic work of tremendous importance that only a Mongolian scholar could produce. The book is well written, interesting, and above all, very important.
In his newest book, Baasanjav Terbish offers an excellent survey of sexual issues throughout Mongol history. He covers a variety of subjects, including the roles and status of women in society, homosexuality, prostitution, sexual repression, and the views of Buddhism, Shamanism, and Islam toward sex. The work will inspire others to pursue research on additional details of such often neglected topics.
As mirrors of social life, Baasanjav Terbish argues, ideas of sexuality and sexual practices continually shift through time. Embedded within religious, political, and gender ideologies, sexuality provides us with a unique vantage point from which to understand a given society. Tracing Mongolian sexual practices through a vast compendium of material ranging from the 13th century to the present, this book fills an important gap in both Mongolian studies and sexuality studies. In challenging contemporary ideologies of ethnicity and cultural purity, Sex in the Land of Genghis Khan also makes a crucial contribution to modern imaginaries of national belonging.
Baasanjav Terbish shatters essentialist notions of what is ‘traditional’ regarding the practices, values, and identities surrounding sex among Mongolians. This provocative book chronicles the institutions and ideologies that have shaped sex and sexuality in Mongolia since the time of Genghis Khan, revealing a dynamic history seldom explored by academics. Writing with humor and insight and tackling difficult subjects with refreshing candor and sensitivity, Terbish has opened up fascinating avenues of research about intimate life in Mongolia’s past, present, and future.
Sex in the Land of Genghis Khan is a title and subject guaranteed to elicit curiosity. Mongols have not had the kind of study lavished on medieval, premodern, and modern European sex lives. This is the first sustained look at Mongol and Mongolian sexuality through history: a short, accessible but serious book, with a strong throughline and a sense of historical movement—in directions people might not expect….Sex in the Land of Genghis Khan does not shy from present-day ills, and ends in a grim place. But it is its own antidote: knowledge of history must be the way forward. Sexual harassment is no more innate to Mongols than the hyper-masculinity advocated by today’s nationalists—rather, like other aspects of sexuality and gender, these have been constructed through historical time. Baasanjav Terbish’s book traces cause and effect. It reminds us that people in the past lived more differently than we imagine when left to ourselves. History always complicates our narratives. History gives options.
The results in this book… are utterly fascinating, offering a compelling perspective on the political economy of the region made famous by Genghis Khan… Terbish’s story starts — like most accounts of the region — with the era just before the rise of the 13th-century ruler Genghis Khan… The most interesting — and tragic — twist in this tale, however, is the arrival of the post-Soviet era: Terbish explains that when the communist state collapsed, many social norms crumbled as well. That has emancipated some people. But Mongolian nationalists are increasingly espousing a vision of pre-communist nationhood based on a mythical (and historically inaccurate) sense of puritanism, coupled with xenophobia… Sexuality, in other words, provides a good metaphor for the chaos of regime change, as in many other post-Soviet countries.