Sex, once a taboo subject in China, is quickly becoming an open, mainstream topic of discussion. Here are some interesting facts about sex in China.
Different societies around the world treat dating and sex differently. As you might expect, China is no different.
What’s interesting about China is how quickly the Chinese society is changing and adapting to growth and new cultural norms. Never is this more apparent than how the country treats dating, sex and the LGBT community.
What I’d like to present here is an explanation of how sex is viewed in China as well as a collection of facts and statistics that best illustrate this.
Dating in China Explained
As you may expect, dating is a little bit different in China than it is in most Western countries. The basics are the same, however there are still a few differences regarding culture and social cues to note.
Because of China’s rigorous college entrance exam (known as the “gao kao”), dating is rarely tolerated among high school students who have any sort of academic ambition.
There’s just too much homework. Too many tests. Too much to do.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that Chinese teens don’t have high school crushes or maybe relationships. But because of this extreme pressure to do well academically, most relationships are kept secret.
Generally speaking, Chinese students leave high school with quite a bit less romantic experience than their American counterparts. For tons of Chinese people, serious dating only starts after they’ve finished school.
More so than Westerners, many Chinese view dating as a pragmatic affair. It’s not always about finding love so much as it is about finding a potential marriage partner who fits with one’s own ideals.
For example, although many men get married without a house and a car, Chinese women will often say that they’re looking for these things because that’s the sort of person who probably has a stable career and will be able to provide for her and their future children in the long-term.
It’s not always about love.
As one contestant on China’s most popular dating show put it:
“I’d rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle.”
Those few words speak volumes about how many Chinese women today view their search for a marriage partner.
Facts About Society & Sex in China
Now that we’ve explained the basics of dating in China, a few of these facts and figures might make more sense.
Statistics of Chinese Society
- About 30% of Chinese adults live with their parents, according to a 2005 survey by a China’s Research Institute for the Elderly. [Xinhuanet News “30% Chinese adults live with parents”]
- “Wang” (王) is the most common Chinese surname…shared by about 130 million Chinese (or 9.9% of China’s population). The next most common are: Li (李), Zhang (张/張) and Liu (刘/劉).
- The top 10 surnames in China together account for about 40% of all Chinese people worldwide. Only 129 names accounted for 87% of all Chinese surnames. [Wikipedia “Chinese surname”; AP News “Bizarre names not where it’s @, China says”]
Facts about Infidelity in China
Throughout history, society in China has tended to turn a blind eye to concubines and infidelity, even within a traditional Chinese marriage. Believe it or not, divorce rates in China are quite high.
- China’s booming economy has resulted in a return of Chinese concubines, who are referred to as “er nai” (“second breast”). [The Independent UK, “Welcome back: Return of capitalism to China means a major comeback for the concubine”]
- An estimated 90% of senior Chinese officials punished on serious graft charges between 2004-2009 were found to have mistresses. [The Independent UK, “Welcome back: Return of capitalism to China means a major comeback for the concubine”]
Interesting Facts about Sex in China
- Love Land—a sex theme park in Chongqing—was quashed by local officials and ordered to be torn down before construction was completed. The park was supposedly aimed at improving sex education, however, officials called it “vulgar, ill-minded and misleading”. [New York Times “Chinese City Is Chilly to a Sex Theme Park”; BBC News “China sex theme park demolished”]
- An Obama blow-up sex doll was one of the items featured at China’s Sex Culture Festival held in Guangzhou. [The Telegraph UK “Barack Obama sex doll for sale in China”]
- Among Chinese young people aged 14 to 20, the average age of first sexual experience was 17.4, according to a survey conducted in seven major Chinese cities. Those aged 31 to 40 lost their virginity much later, at 24.1 years old. [Time Mag. “Sex and the Single Chinese”]
- One third of Chinese under the age of 26 had no problem with extramarital affairs, according to a Beijing poll by Time Magazine.
- 70% of Beijing residents say they have had sexual relations before marriage (compared to only 15.5% in 1989). [Time Mag. “Sex and the Single Chinese”]
- In 2004, 65% of urban Chinese women undergoing abortions were single (compared to only 25% in 1999), according to a survey by Shanghai medical researcher Yan Fengting.
Facts about Homosexuality in China
China’s acceptance of homosexuality has been slow. Even today, it’s not socially acceptable outside a few major cities on the east coast.
- Homosexuality was illegal in China until 1997 and classified as a mental disorder until 2001. [Wikipedia “LGBT rights by country or territory”; BBC News “Being gay in China: Your stories”]
- In 2009, China held its first-ever gay pride event—Shanghai Pride week—12 years after homosexuality was decriminalized. While there has been an “unmistakable blossoming of gay life, even if largely underground…official tolerance has its limits. Gay publications and plays are banned, gay Web sites are occasionally blocked and those who try to advocate for greater legal protections for lesbians and gay men sometimes face harassment from the police.” [Newsweek “Gays in China: Just Another Minority”; New York Times “Gay Festival in China Pushes Official Boundaries”]