Welcome to the first in a series of articles looking at sex in China. And today as it’s still Chinese New Year, I’d like to kick off with a piece that contains no sex whatsoever. China is the fastest changing country in the world, in a scant 30 years a billion people have been lifted out of poverty, and nearly half the population has ditched the farm for city life.
What hasn’t changed though is the culture that underpins the thinking of the older generations. In a country with no social security system and no healthcare to speak of, it has become traditional for a son to look after his parents when they are too old to work and for the son’s wife to contribute to their care as well. So marriage is important, because if your offspring aren’t married they can’t have children to look after them in their old age.
For modern Chinese the world is different, theirs is a world of opportunity they are educating themselves about not just a raging economy and business opportunities but the wider world and how relationships are conducted elsewhere.
Throw in a massive gender imbalance, there’s a severe shortage of women in the country (we’ll get to why in another post), and a modern attitude of “I’ll leave marriage until later”. Finally you get a situation which is embarrassing to the younger generation, who want to please their parents but also want to be free to be single and live their own lives before committing to anything as rash as settling down.
So for most of the year these young singles are content with telling their parents that they are in a relationship but they’re not sure if it’s going anywhere. But then Spring Festival rolls round and they have to go back to the home town and visit, and like any caring parents would – their parents want to meet the partner they don’t actually have.
But this is China, and for every problem there is a solution. So now it’s becoming increasingly popular for well-educated Chinese who don’t have a need to return home for the New Year to rent themselves out as pretend partners for the holiday period. They turn up to the hometown, stay a couple of days and rush back off to work. And Chinese sensibilities mean that they will be required to show no affection to their supposed partner during the time they are there, nor will they be allowed or expected to share a room. Thus unwittingly the parents’ cultural mores enable them to participate in their own deception.
So our first foray into Chinese sexuality ends without a bang, for which all the participants are eternally grateful.
Note: To Westerners thinking; “I see an opportunity here for some cheap travel, to earn some extra bucks and possibly meet an attractive potential Chinese mate in the future.” No self-respecting Chinese person would turn up with a fake Western girlfriend/boyfriend, it’s hard enough for many to turn up with a real Western partner. Westerners are considered flighty and risky partners by Chinese parents, who worry that as they get older – the evil foreigners will drag their children off to their own countries and thus deny them the very care they’ve been hoping for in their old age. So you can stop rubbing your hands in anticipation now.