Communism and Sex: China, Khmer Rouge, and Genocide in Cambodia

“We are a people known for honoring old laws, and customs from ancient times.  The French laws would deprive us of customs and of history,” said the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk.  In 1953 he declared that Cambodia was no longer a French Protectorate.  This desire to rid Cambodia of foreign presence appeared in anti-foreign rhetoric usually spoken by aspiring political leaders to rally the nation’s “patriots.”  Eerily, Pol Pot would make a speech of the same nature twenty years later.  In the 1970s Cambodia’s civilian population encountered a violent and ruthless upheaval of life.  Fear and exhaustion became the life norm as the Khmer Rouge reigned over the countryside, determined to sweep away every last bit of imperial crumb – including Sihanouk.  Pol Pot considered foreign influence an offense to the purity of the Khmer “race” and wanted a national cleansing.

How “pure” the Khmer Rouge revolution was from foreign influence, though, remain unexplored. With this paper, I delve into Pol Pot’s interpretation of communism and explore the obscure details of Khmer Rouge gender culture.  Pol Pot was a Mao fanatic; drawing connections to communism and sexuality in China I challenge the notion of an “untainted” Khmer Rouge sexuality.  With this paper I explore the ways in which Chinese communism was woven into the intimate fabric of Khmer Rouge gender politics and how it affected the conduct of genocide.

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