SEXUAL ACTIVITY IN CHINA

HAVING SEX IN CHINA

20080226-195569~A-Man-with-Two-Women-Posters.jpg
Man and two women

Most unmarried adults still live with their parents and sexual encounters usually take place in rented apartments or when parents are at work. For one-night stands and affairs couples with enough money check into love hotels

In a survey in the 1990s, only 60 percent of the respondents said they were "often or sometimes" naked during sex, "In a society were 120 million Chinese live without electricity, even in winter," wrote Patrick Tyler of the New York Times, "the removal of clothes and foreplay does not seem to be a critical issue."

In a regular column on sex in the popular Southern Weekend newspaper the question was asked: "What do women need from sex?" The answer was a "high tide," or orgasm. According to a survey women reached high tide 40 percent of the time, but one sixth of the women questioned had never experienced it. "Husbands should understand women's feelings about sex," the article said. "Sexual high tide not only benefits women's health, but also benefits women's spirit." [Source: Patrick Tyler, the New York Times, November 26, 1994]

Students say that the age in which young people first have sex is getting lower and lower. A 26-year-old student in Shenzhen told Newsweek, "Sex is really casual these days. People have lots of boyfriends, but they don’t know what love is." The owner of a Beijing sex shop told the New York Times, "People used to think that once they had their kid, that was it, sex was over. But people’s attitudes toward sex have changed dramatically."

Premarital Sexual Activities and Public Parks in China

Because of the pervasive social pressures, reinforced by some medical messages and the lack of sexual education, sexual expression other than heterosexual marital sex, including sexual play and sex rehearsal play, both alone and with peers, are punished when discovered. Such behavior is seldom if ever reported or commented on in public. No puberty rites are observed to mark sexual maturation. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

A study in a major city in Quangdong province found that of 123 young women undergoing premarital examinations, 75 (61 percent) had already experienced intercourse. In 1991, a survey in which questionnaires were distributed to a random sample of 1,003 unmarried university students in Beijing, including equal numbers of men and women, of 559 respondents, 106 (19 percent) said they have engaged in sex. Lack of private space is a major problem for young lovers. Many young people have little choice but to meet in parks. And where, five years ago, couples were likely to sit demurely together on a bench, it is now acceptable to hug and kiss, ignoring people passing by only a few feet away. Some couples disappear into the bushes. In Dalin Liu’s 1992 survey, 18 percent of the married couples admitted to having sex with a previous partner; 86.3 percent of those sampled approved of such encounters. =

In the 1990s in every public park in China, a large billboard at every entrance warns against “offence against public decency,” just as there are notices in dance halls prohibiting anyone from “dancing with faces or cheeks touching the partner’s.” In reality, such “indecencies” are practiced by most people, and law enforcers are becoming more and more tolerant. =

An analysis of detailed observations of courtship and petting behaviors engaged in by married, unmarried, and status-unknown couples in 13 public parks in six Chinese cities, Beijing, Guangzhou, Zheng-zhou, Hohe-haote, Chong-qing, and Xian, during the summers between 1985 and 1989 provides an insight into the heterosexual courtship behavior of young Chinese couples in that era. In the five years, from 1985 to 1989, petting behavior in the public parks increased, forcing the authorities to be more tolerant of behavior that previously was unacceptable. The decreasing social control by the authorities reflected more tolerance in the society’s political direction. Attitudes toward public petting were the most diversified in Beijing. The most permissiveness was found mainly in the blue-collar parks in contrast to the parks used mostly by white-collar workers and “cadres.” Finally, in a country with a strong tradition of double standards in sexual morals for females and males, it was surprising that in Beijing, only 31 to 40 percent of the females were fully passive and at least 18 to 27 percent intiated petting to a small degree when it came to less intimate petting behavior in more private settings in the parks. “It could never be imagined in the old days that so many females would allow themselves to be petted in public, even if they were absolutely passive” (Pan 1993).

In 1987, there was the movement against “bourgeoise liberalization,” and in 1989, a “counter revolutionary rebellion” in Beijing. It is uncertain whether and how these efforts could or did affect the petting limits, but it seems that the grimmer a movement is, the more timid the petting couples are, and the less permissive the nearby people are to the pettings. It is also interesting to note that no amount of social control, be it by propaganda, moral condemnation, or daily administrative measures, is as effective as a large-scale political movement once every few years in reinstating the official petting limits (Pan 1993:192; Burton 1988).

Sexuality of Adolescent Girls in China

According to data from the “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China,” the typical female adolescent respondent is a 15.5-year-old student in an urban or suburban secondary school. She comes from a stable family of workers or cadres, and has one sibling. She reached puberty at age 13, with menarche in the summer, and development of secondary sexual characteristics. (This is a later age compared with secondary school students in Hong Kong or Japan, but earlier than that described in China twenty-five years ago). At age 14.5, she began to have sexual interests, and desired to associate with boys, mostly for socialization or mutual assistance, or because of a “crush” on a boy for his good looks, but she has been too shy or “busy” to take action. (For comparison, a Japanese peer would have begun to have such interests and desires at age 12 to 13). She acquired most of her sexual knowledge from books, magazines, and movies, and would feel excited by casual physical touches and by conversation on sexual topics. [Source:“1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

Among the secondary school girls in the survey, 7.4 percent wished for some bodily contact with a male, and 12.1 percent reported having been aroused to desire sexual intercourse. (Again, these percentages are much lower than those of Japanese peers). More than a third of secondary school girls reported having male friends since age 14, without infatuation and often in group settings. By 15.5 years of age, 11.1 percent were dating boys and 6 percent were “in love.” The legal age for a female to marry in China is 20, and most girls think marrying early is not good or “would affect study.” Only 4.7 percent of adolescent girls reported a history of masturbation, usually since age 13.5; about 50 percent said they continued the practice. (In Japan, 9 percent of secondary schoolgirls have masturbated, and most persist in the habit). While 44.3 percent of female adolescents stated masturbation is “bad,” almost 40 percent said they did not understand the question. ++

Less than 2 percent of adolescent girls have engaged in each of kissing, hugging, or sexual touching and only 1 percent reported having sexual intercourse (slightly higher in southern China). These rates are far below those in Japanese schoolgirls (up to 25.5 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively). In well-developed urban areas, adolescent sex education has been available in classrooms, but has focused on physiology and hygiene, with little information on coitus, pregnancy, childbirth, contraception, homosexuality, paraphilias, and sexually transmitted diseases. Secondary schoolgirls would like more guidance on issues of romantic love, sexual impulses, and socialization. They discuss sexual issues with their mothers, sisters, and female peers, but not with teachers or fathers. ++

Sexuality of Adolescent Boys in China

According to data from the “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China,” the typical male adolescent respondent is a 15.5-year-old secondary school boy who comes from a stable family of workers or cadres and has one sibling. He has had seminal emissions since age 14.5, and most have been spontaneous nocturnal emissions. He has started developing secondary sexual characteristics. (These maturational milestones are later than those of a similar youth in Japan, but earlier than those in China twenty-five years ago.) At age 14.5, he began to show sexual interests, and wished to associate with girls, mostly because of attraction to their appearance or “tender disposition,” but he was too shy or “busy” to act upon his feelings. (A Japanese boy would have commenced to have such interests and desires at age 12 to 13). He obtained most of his sexual knowledge from books, magazines, and movies, and has seen pictures of female nudity and experienced some casual sexual touching. [Source:“1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

About one third of adolescent males reported desire for bodily contact with females, and 42.9 percent said they had been aroused enough to crave sexual intercourse. (Again, these percentages are much lower than those of Japanese peers). Although almost half of male adolescents said that they had had female platonic friends since age 14, often in group activities, only 12.7 percent were currently dating a girl, and 7.6 percent reported being “in love.” The legal age for a male in China to marry is 22, and most boys agree that marrying early is not good or “would affect study.” ++

Only 12.5 percent of male adolescents reported a history of masturbation, usually starting at age 13.5; half reported they had continued the practice. (In Japan, 30 percent of junior high school students have masturbated, and fully 81.2 percent of those in senior high school, with most students continuing the habit). More than half of adolescent males consider masturbation “bad,” but 21.2 percent said they did not understand the question. Less than 5 percent of secondary school males have engaged in each of kissing, hugging, or sexual touching, and 0.9 percent have had sexual intercourse (slightly more in Southern China). (These rates are remarkably low compared to those in Japan, where up to 23.1 percent of high school boys have experienced sexual kissing and 11.5 percent coitus). Adolescent boys tend to discuss their needs and problems with male peers, rather than with teachers, parents, or siblings. ++

The two composite profiles of adolescents was constructed from ninety-one tables of statistics compiled during the national survey of twenty-eight secondary (or middle) schools in ten Chinese cities or suburbs. Secondary schools were not common in the countryside and the rural population was difficult to survey. In all, 6,900 questionnaires were issued and 6,092 were collected and analyzed. Each questionnaire contained forty-two multiple-choice questions with some open response categories. While the sample surveyed is not representative of all secondary schools owing to resource constraints, attempts were made to achieve as much diversity as possible. Some significant influences on sexual attitudes and practices were demonstrated, such as exposure to modernization, degree of enlightenment, and gender differences. ++

Sexuality of Female Chinese College Students

According to data from the “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China,” the typical female college student in the survey is a 20-year-old student in the faculty of arts. Her father was college-educated and holds a professional, technical, or managerial job. She had menarche at age 13.5, followed by the development of secondary sexual characteristics. She was unprepared for menarche and sought advice from her mother or peers. She received little sex education and acquired most of her sexual knowledge from books, news media, novels, peers, her mother, and her sisters. She found her teachers and parents “ignorant, busy, uncaring, conservative, and rigid.” She would feel excited by depictions of sexual matters, and has been exposed to nudity through pictures in the media. [Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

She thinks romantic love should be allowed but “properly guided,” that the main purpose of copulation is to have a family, and that the female can be an active partner during sexual intercourse. She believes that premarital sex may be acceptable if the partners are mutually in love and willing, but extramarital sex should be censured, even if consensual. She considers homosexuality to be a perversion or illness, and would offer comfort to a homosexual friend and advise him or her to seek psychiatric treatment. She feels that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of and pitied but not severely punished. ++

Fully 70 percent of college women were not content with their bodies, with concerns about being overweight, hirsute, or other features; 25 percent were not satisfied with their secondary sexual characteristics, for example, thinking that their breasts are undersized. While 15.6 percent did not like their own gender, 42.8 percent stated they would prefer to be a male if they had a choice. Among the college women surveyed, 16.5 percent had a history of masturbation, starting from age 13 to 14 and 8.2 percent still masturbated at a frequency of about once a week. Most respondents thought masturbation is “harmless” and “normal.” ++

While 63.4 percent of female college students in the sample desired a heterosexual relationship, only 6.3 percent of them had had a sexual partner. Sexual contacts (including kissing, embracing, genital touching, and coitus) were infrequent and covert and commonly began after age 17. Contraception involved the use of “safe periods,” pills, or condoms. While 5.8 percent reported an inclination towards exhibitionism and 2.8 percent were predisposed to transvestitism, interest in other paraphilias was uncommon. The majority (87.3 percent) of college women reported that on seeing a nude female in a public bathroom, they would probably feel indifferent, but 3.9 percent said they might “come to like it.” Homosexual contacts were infrequent: 8.4 percent reported having been kissed or caressed, 3.2 percent had experienced homosexual masturbation, and less than 3 percent reported genital-to-genital contacts; 0.7 percent reported they would engage in homosexual con tact if the opportunity arose.

Sexuality of Male Chinese College Students

According to data from the “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China,” the typical male college student in the survey is a 20-year-old student in the faculty of engineering, science, or medicine. His parents had post-secondary education, and his father is a professional, technical, or managerial worker. He had his first seminal emission at age 14.5, followed soon by the appearance of pubic and then facial hair. (Compared with his secondary school counterparts, his sexual development started at a slightly later age). He received little sex education and was quite unprepared when he had his first seminal emission. He did not ask anyone for an explanation. [Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

He acquired most of his sexual knowledge from books on hygiene and health, news media, novels and pornographic art, and from his male peers. He found his parents and teachers insensitive and outdated in knowledge and attitude. He holds liberal views about romantic love and is permissive about reading sexual material. He thinks that masturbation is harmless and normal. He believes that sexual intercourse would enhance love and give physical pleasure, as well as serving the purpose of building a family. He endorses the idea of a female being an active partner during sexual intercourse. ++

He thinks premarital sex would be acceptable if the partners are both willing and mutually in love, especially if they are prepared to marry each other, and extramarital sex, if consensual, may be permitted under certain circumstances. He would be quite aroused by references to sexual matters, and has seen pictures of nudes in the media, but is unlikely to have seen women in the nude. ++

One fourth of college males were not satisfied with some of their secondary sexual characteristics, such as sparsity of pubic hair or perception of the penis as undersized. A larger proportion (70 percent) were not content with other aspects of their body, such as shortness of stature, presence of pimples or freckles, and sparsity or grayness of scalp or facial hair. Gender dysphoria was uncommon, and only 8.3 percent of male college students surveyed wished to be female. ++

Almost two thirds of college males (59 percent) had a history of masturbation, starting at age 14 to 16, and 39.5 percent continued to masturbate at the rate of about once a week. Sexual contacts, including kissing, embracing, genital touching, and coitus, were reported to be infrequent and mostly covert. These activities usually began after age 17 and the male tended to take an active role. Only 12.5 percent of college males reported that they had had sexual partner(s), usually only one. Contraception involved “safe periods,” condoms, and coitus interruptus. ++

While most male college students considered homosexuality a perversion or illness, to be sympathized with and offered treatment, 11.9 percent conceived of homosexuality as normal behavior for a small group of people. Homosexual contacts were infrequent, with 7.0 percent reporting kissing or caressing, 8.6 percent homosexual masturbation, and less than 3 percent or anal touching; 1.5 percent would consider seeking someone out to engage in homosexual activity. Paraphilias were rare among male college students, with 5.6 percent feeling prone to exhibitionism, but hardly any reporting other paraphilic tendencies. On seeing a nude male in a public bathroom, most would feel indifferent, but 5.4 percent said they might come to “like it.” When asked how they would respond if they found out that their fiancee had lost her virginity to another male, 20 percent of male college students said that they would leave her, but 60 percent would find it tolerable. ++

The two composite profiles of college students were condensed from 136 tables of statistics collected during the survey of twenty-four post-secondary colleges (including universities, teachers’ colleges, academies of traditional medicine, training centers for cadres and security personnel, and an oceanography institute) in nine metropolitan areas. The institutions were selected according to practicality and diversity. Questionnaires with sixty-three items were distributed in classrooms and the purpose of the investigation explained. Confidentiality was assured. In addition to the group administration, some individual interviews were conducted. A total of 3,360 valid replies were analyzed. The mean age was 20.28 years (SD =3.13) with 56.8 percent male. ++

Sex and Living Together Among Unmarried Adults in China in the 1980s and 1990s

For several thousand years, the Chinese people have tried to adhere to the simple dictum: “Get married at a marriageable age.” And for centuries it would have been true to say that no Chinese would want to remain single for his/her entire life. But in recent years, China’s unmarried population has been growing at a steady rate. For example, in 1982, there were 11,267,000 unmarried Chinese people aged between 28 and 49 years old, or 4.36 percent of the total 28 to 49 age range, of these, 10,556,000 were male (93.67 percent) and 714,000 female (6.33 percent). [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

In recent decades, the Chinese people have started to replace the old-fashioned social concepts with ones that respect the rights of the unmarried; to remain single is now as much a personal right as the right to marry. An important factor in this shift was a greater respect for the rights of freedom, which should prove a blessing both to individuals and society. =

Beginning in the late 1970s, the increased tolerance of nonmarital cohabitation in the West began to influence China’s younger generation. College students and young intellectuals in particular were attracted to this lifestyle. Some of the younger or more open-minded sociologists also asserted the necessity of overcoming the disadvantages of traditional marriage. Actually, the act of cohabitation might be an act of defiance and courage, or simply a consequence of overcrowding and the lack of living space. These young Chinese risked being arrested. =

The definitions of unmarried cohabitation used in compiling official statistics make it difficult to estimate the popularity of this behavior in the sense it is understood in the West. The official figure of 2.69 million couples in unmarried cohabitation in 1989 seems low, considering that some areas report that as many as 50 percent of couples living together live in unmarried cohabitation. As for couples marrying under the legal age (22 for males; 20 for females), China’s State Family Planning Commission reports that 6.1 million such marriages took place in 1987 alone. According to China’s 1990 census, 5.8 percent of 15- to 21-year-old males and 15- to 19-year-old females were “married.” That means that 8.5 million Chinese “married” under the legal age. Two and a half million babies - 10 percent of all births - were born to underage couples in that year. The same news article reports an estimate by the Marriage Administration Division of the national Department of Civil Administration that 30 percent of China’s “married” couples are living together without having received an official marriage certificate, and that the number is growing. =

Marital Sex in China

A surprising 91 percent of the 8,000 married couples interviewed by Dalin Liu (1992) in cities and rural areas expressed satisfaction with their spouse. However, when Dalin looked deeper, he found that the average Chinese couple has intercourse four to seven times a month, with peasants invariably reporting 25 percent more sex than city couples. However, 34.1 percent of the rural couples and 17.2 percent of city couples admit to less than one minute of foreplay or none at all. Consequently, 44.7 percent of urban wives and 37 percent of rural wives experience pain during intercourse. Only 16.8 percent of rural couples kiss or embrace apart from lovemaking. (See also Section 14D for data on marital sex and satisfaction among married couples in the 1992 nationwide survey.) [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

Marital dissatisfaction is very common in China today. Some estimate that as many as 60 percent of the Chinese are unhappy with their marriages. A survey of 3,000 young people in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, showed that only 20 percent of respondents were satisfied with their marriage. In a survey of 600 couples, all residents of big cities, 70 percent said they were unhappy with their sex lives. A random survey of married couples in Shanghai found that 45 percent were unhappy with their sexual relationships. A survey of 6,000 divorce cases in five large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton), Wuhan, and Xi’an, by ten newspapers showed that 72 percent of divorces are caused by disharmony of sexual life. =

Sex Among Urban Married Couples in China

According to data from the “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China,” a typical urban married couple in the survey were about 36 to 37 years of age and of above-average education compared with the general national population. They reported their health status as average or above average. The husband was a professional, technical, office, or managerial worker, and had received slightly more education than his wife, being twice as likely to have attended a post-secondary institute. The wife was a professional, technical, factory, or office worker. They have been married for about eleven years. They married of their own will, after an introduction by a third person and a period of courtship. [Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

They consider mutual “love” and “understanding” more important in marriage than material comfort, political views, or evaluation by society. They believe that the purpose of marital sex is primarily to satisfy emotional and physical needs, rather than to fulfill an obligation or a “tradition” or to achieve reproduction, and there should be no prudery about it. They have sexual intercourse four to five times per month on average. The couple would like to have children because the latter “would add interest to life” and it is an aspect of “social responsibility.” They would like to have a boy and a girl. ++

Of urban couples surveyed, 60 percent considered their marriage satisfactory, with greater satisfaction reported by the male partner, those with more education, those in professional, technical, or managerial positions, and those in the earlier years of marriage. Of those surveyed, 55.5 percent indicated good or fair (25.3 percent) levels of sexual satisfaction. Husbands reported greater enjoyment of coitus and gave more importance to coital frequency, styles of intercourse, and climaxes. The duration of foreplay tended to be brief, most often less than ten minutes, and gave less pleasure to the woman. In case of sexual disharmony, 44 percent felt there should be open discussion, 13.4 percent would seek medical help, and 24 percent would just “leave it” alone. Most couples endorsed women taking initiative in sex, such an attitude being especially common among males, the better educated, and in the southern cities. As urban married women gain more freedom, independence, and self-esteem, they feel less compelled to have sex against their will, and would ask to be excused without feeling guilty. ++

Most couples experienced their first sexual intercourse on their wedding night, but prenuptial sex was admitted by 24.9 percent of urban husbands and 15.8 percent of urban wives. It should be noted that premarital coitus was most often (80 percent) consummated with a “future spouse,” and such behavior was endorsed by a majority (90 percent) of the urban couples polled. Sex before matrimony with someone who is not a “future spouse” tended to occur among urban youths in southern China, soldiers stationed in cities, and the less educated. (The number of abortions of premarital pregnancies has been on the rise, reaching 16 percent of those age 20 and over and single in a city in Jiangsu, and 90 percent of first abortions in a city in Zhejiang, both cities in the vicinity of Shanghai.) ++

Higher frequency of intercourse was associated with younger age, the earlier years in marriage, highest or lowest levels of education, being a manual or service worker, more privacy of the bedroom, temperate climate, and greater sense of obligation to perform. Sexual intercourse occurs most often just before sleep among younger and middle-aged couples, and at “no fixed time” among the young and the elderly. In terms of sexual practices, 56.5 percent of couples change positions during sex, and 65.2 percent are nude sometimes or often during sex; nudity during sex is more frequent among the young, the better educated, and in the southern cities. ++

Questions about orgasms were not asked as the investigators had found it quite difficult to elicit such information, but enjoyment of “sexual pleasure” was found to depend on the techniques, experience, and relationship; sexual pleasure had a more gradual onset in women, both physiologically and psychologically. Most couples reported they experienced Sexual pleasure frequently (especially males) or sometimes (especially females), with highest rates in southern China. In a sampling of 1,279 men and women in 41 cities, Suiming Pan found men reach orgasm 7.2 times out of every 10 attempots; this contrasts with 4.1 times for women. In Dalin Liu’s survey, one third of the urban women and one fourth of the rural women claimed to experience a feeling of pleasure (kuaigan) “very often,” while 58.2 and 76.8 percent, respectively, experienced it “sometimes.” ++

Sexual knowledge was generally quite limited and resource material not readily available, especially to women. About two thirds (62.4 percent) of urban couples had read one of the four popular basic manuals on sexual knowledge available at the time of the survey, such as the one written for the newly wed, which mostly consider anatomy and physiology. Additional sexual knowledge was obtained from books, movies, and radio (35.6 percent), through personal experience (22.7 percent), and from same-sex peers or those in counseling positions. Most couples (70.4 percent) are interested in reading or viewing media with sexual themes, but 48.9 percent have found opportunities lacking. Women would like to know more about child education and physical hygiene, while men are interested in sexual techniques and interpersonal skills. Although 61.8 percent of urban couples would explain the birth process to a child, 25.4 percent would evade the question, and the rest would express displeasure or indifference, or give a false answer. ++

The composite portraits of an urban couple was based on 6,210 married persons surveyed in fifteen cities (nine coastal and six inland urban centers), and a rural couple typical of 1,392 married residents surveyed in three villages. A mixture of random and non-random sampling methods was used, steering a fine line between what was practical (e.g., considering the difficulties of gathering data from illiterate or unsophisticated persons) and what would be theoretically desirable (e.g., relative representativeness). A total of 396 tables of actuarial data were compiled, covering a wide range of sexual, marital, and family variables. There was a preponderance of female interviewers and interviewees. Many volunteer field workers came from women’s groups, such as labor unions, family planning units, and obstetrical teams, and they were able to build good rapport with women respondents, who often appeared eager to share their intimate knowledge of family life with those whom they could trust. Overall, 68. 1 percent of urban and 78.2 percent of rural interviewees were female. ++

Sex Among Rural Married Couples in China

The typical rural married couple surveyed were about 35 years old, of average education compared with the general national population, and reported their health status as average or above average. They were engaged in farming, herding, fishing, or forestry, and were unlikely to have received post-secondary education. They have been married for about 11 years; he at age 23 and she at 22. They married of their own will (wholly or partly), although match-making was prevalent until one or two generations ago, and still occurred in a few locales.[Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

They consider “love” and “understanding” more important in their union than the opinions of society. They believe that the main aims of marital sex are to fulfill physical and emotional needs, to go along with tradition, and to accomplish reproduction, and that they need not be prudish about it. They have sexual intercourse five to six times per month on average. They would like to have children, mostly for the sake of old age security, but also to propagate their lineage. Of rural couples surveyed, 65 percent regard their marriage as satisfactory. Greater satisfaction was reported by the female partner, those better educated, and those under 25 or over 45 years of age. In case of sexual disharmony, 44 percent would engage in open discussion, 23.2 percent would seek medical help, and 21 percent would just “leave it” alone. ++

Most married rural couples experienced sexual intercourse for the first time on the wedding night, but premarital sex was admitted by 7.3 percent of rural husbands and 17.3 percent of rural wives. Premarital coitus was usually performed with a future spouse, and such behavior was endorsed by the vast majority of rural couples surveyed. Sex before marriage with someone who was not a future spouse occurred more commonly among older males and females when the feudal system allowed sexual permissiveness in certain forms of social transactions, and also among those who are younger, more educated, and liberal minded. ++

Higher frequency of intercourse was associated with more demand by the husband and greater compliance by the wife, having been married for a longer duration, and temperate climate. Sexual coitus occurred most often just before sleep, but also often “at no fixed time,” as rural couples tended to have a less structured schedule of daily life compared with their urban counterparts. About half (45 percent) of rural couples reported changing position during sex, and 57.2 percent said they were nude sometimes or often during sex; sexual nudity was more common among the young, the less educated, and in southern climates. In Shanxi province, some farmers traditionally sleep naked. ++

Among rural married couples, the level of sexual satisfaction reported was good (66.6 percent) or fair (27.6 percent), with wives more easily satisfied than husbands. The duration of foreplay tended to be brief, usually five minutes or less, but neither partner had high expectations of gratification from it. Most couples endorsed women taking initiative in sex (this attitude was more common among males, the better educated, and in south China), but they would still prefer the male partner to be more active. ++

Sexual knowledge was generally quite deficient, and resources not easily available, although 77.1 percent of rural couples had read one of the four popular basic manuals on sexual knowledge available at the time of the survey. Otherwise, the pattern was similar to that of urban couples. While 47.8 percent of rural couples would explain the birth process to a child, 33.8 percent would evade the question, and the rest would ignore or upbraid the child, or give a false answer. ++

Analysis Sex Among Rural Married Couples in China

An overview of the accounts of urban and rural married couples given in this section shows the emergence of two patterns: (1) respondents who are traditional and conservative in ideology, cautious and guarded towards novel ideas, moralistic and suppressive of self-expression, and less imbued with modern education tend to reside inland and in rural territories, are service or manual workers, and are more commonly female; and (2) respondents who are modernistic and individualistic in orientation, liberal and open in attitude, rational and objective in deliberation, and have been exposed to more contemporary and/or Western ideology tend to reside in urban areas, near sea-coasts or in southern China, are professionals or technical workers, and are more often male. [Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

Of course, there are many exceptions to these broad generalizations. Those who are not well educated may also be gullible and suggestible, and experience sexual permissiveness as a relic of feudal systems, such as variations of a master-slave relationship, indigenous forms of marital or quasi-marital arrangements or cohabitation, such as concubinage and other forms of polygamy (McGough, 1981). Other situational, subcultural, idiosyncratic, or deviant variations in sexual behavior are noted throughout the book. The investigators also present detailed analyses of factors affecting sexual satisfaction and sexual pleasure as well as data on marital cohesion, domestic conflicts, marital breakdown, and sex in old age. ++

We see in this section a spectrum of variations in sexual behavior corresponding to the different stages of adaptation and change, resistance and retrenchment in response to modern and Western ideologies. There has been a general liberalization of attitudes, which is not yet matched by comparable changes in practice. Keenly aware of the dangers of an abrupt eruption of sexual instinctual drive, and deeply ingrained in a tradition of moderation and communal responsibility, the writers of the book repeatedly urge caution, restraint, and “proper socialization.” While stressing the importance of being knowledgeable and educated, and of individual entitlement and gratification, heavy emphasis is also placed on family harmony, social stability, and the inculcation of moral values by advice and counseling, didactic education, and “propaganda.” An analysis of sexual mores and superego and their possible practical impacts can be found in the books by Ng (1990) and by Wen and colleagues (1990) and in the paper by Ng and Lau (1990). ++

Extramarital Sex in China

Sex between consenting adults is technically not illegal in China, but the police have broad powers to suppress activities that they consider antisocial. Elderly women who staff local “neighborhood committees,” the grassroots eyes and ears of the government, also try to stop activities of which they disapprove. But discreet affairs have a good chance of escaping detection and interference. Means of birth control were not always available to unmarried youths, but women knew they could get an abortion. Extramarital affairs seem to occur much more than generally believed, although they are conducted in such secrecy that little statistical information is available. Perhaps the best evidence of these affairs is divorce rates: about one third of the divorces in Beijing from 1984 to 1985 were caused by extramarital relationships. In the Third Symposium of Family Problems in 1991, an expert said that 40 percent of divorces are caused by extramarital sexual relationships. If these findings are at all typical, then the increasing divorce rate must reflect an increase in the number of extramarital relationships. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

Among urban husbands, 10.2 percent admitted to a history of extramarital sex. Extramarital sex was more common among service or manual workers, or businessmen, those less than 25 years of age or more than 56, and those espousing a liberal or hedonistic attitude towards life. Urban wives were unlikely to have risked extramarital sex, but it was more likely to occur in middle age. These rates are far below those published in the Kinsey reports (1948; 1953). Nevertheless, the impact of extramarital affairs may be considerable. During divorce proceedings in five cities in China in 1985, the occurrence of extramarital affairs was confessed in two thirds of the cases. =

A survey in Beijing found that members of at least 10 percent of the sample of 600 couples had had extramarital sex. Perhaps most significant is a nationwide survey that 69 percent of the people surveyed did not think extramarital affairs are wrong. In Dalin Liu’s 1992 survey, 69 percent condoned extramarital sexual relations. In Shenzhen, a town bordering Hong Kong, 91.8 percent of divorce cases in 1987 involved a “third person.” [Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

Among rural husbands, 9.3 percent admitted to a history of extramarital sex; higher rates were found among service or manual workers or businessmen, those under 25 or over 56 years of age, and those who gave evidence of a “pleasure-seeking predisposition” on several attitude measures. Rural wives were unlikely to have experienced extramarital sex. ++

Mistresses and Concubines in China , See Marriage, People.

Oral and Anal Sex in China

Several factors influence both attitudes towards and experience with oral and anal sex. In a 1989 survey with 1,279 respondents in 27 cities, nearly seven out of ten Chinese reported they have had anal sex with heterosexual partners. Professor Pan found that only 6 percent of the 600 heterosexual couples he surveyed in big cities had had anal intercourse at least once. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

In ancient erotic art and fiction, oral sex, including mutual “69” oral sex, is not unusual. Considering the lack of information about sexual behaviors that prevailed until recently and Dalin Liu’s finding that 34 percent of rural couples and 17 percent of urban couples engaged in less than a minute of foreplay, it is not likely that oral sex is as common as it was in ancient China. No general survey data is available. Many modern Chinese think oral sex is too “dirty.” In 1988, a survey of 140 homosexual males in Shanghai revealed that only nineteen persons, 13.6 percent, said they had had oral sex, and only four persons, 2.8 percent, had experienced anal sex. At a 1990 World Health Organization meeting on the spread of AIDS in China, Pan reported that 7.7 out of 10 Chinese have had anal sex with a heterosexual partner. Little data are available on anal sex among homosexuals because of the taboo character of that population and studies on same-sex behavior (Burton 1990). (Dalin Liu’s Sex Culture in Ancient China provides extensive information about sexual deviance in China.)

Masturbation in China

Self-pleasuring is still condemned by most of the Chinese people, included even some sex educators and sex researchers. It was widely said that frequent self-pleasuring will cause neuroses, sexual dysfunctions, and even severe diseases. Although in 1985, the author pointed out in his popular article “On Masturbation” and in his Handbook of Sex Knowledge that self-pleasuring is normal sexual behavior, neither harmful nor sinful, it will take time for people to accept this updated viewpoint on self-pleasuring. According to A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization “Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China (1992), only 39.0 percent of students of colleges and universities said that they engaged in self-pleasuring, male students (59.0 percent) much higher than female students (16.5 percent). But Dr. Lee’s survey in 1989 in Shanghai showed that 93.1 percent of male students of colleges and universities said that they engaged in this behavior. In the “Sex Civilization” Survey, 15.9 percent of married couples said that they engaged in self-pleasuring. (See also Sections 14B, 14C, and 14D for data on masturbation among adolescents, college students, and married couples in the 1992 nationwide survey by Dalin Liu.) [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

A history of masturbation was obtained from 17.1 percent of respondents - much more often from husbands than from wives, and from couples in southern cities - but nearly all of the respondents claimed it happened only occasionally. While 41.7 percent regarded masturbation as a “bad habit” and 13.1 percent considered it normal, fully 30 percent gave no clear answer. Only 0.5 percent admitted homosexual experience, but considerable denial or ignorance was suspected. A history of masturbation was obtained from 10.1 percent of rural husbands or wives, more often from those in the South; nearly all described it as episodic. Most (73.4 percent) considered masturbation a “bad habit,” but 9.6 percent deemed it “natural.” Only 2.3 percent admitted homosexual experiences, suggesting considerable ignorance about the term.[Source: “1989-1990 Survey of Sexual Behavior in Modern China: A Report of the Nationwide “Sex Civilization” Survey on 20,000 Subjects in China: by M.P. Lau’, Continuum (New York) in 1997, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review (1995, volume 32, pp. 137-156), Encyclopedia of Sexuality ++]

Masturbation is informally called “shou yin” in Chinese. Its literal English translation is hand dirty/lewd, with a negative connotation that strongly disapproves of the behavior. It had been frowned upon in China for centuries as traditional Chinese medicine believes masturbation is very harmful to men’s health whereas female masturbation carried great social stigma. Even today, many web discussions and posts are devoted to discouraging masturbation. The following photo collage of screen grabs of a popular post is one example. [Source: Ministry of Tofu, June 5, 2013]

A recent video interview of more than 50 college students on their masturbation and porn-viewing habits has become an online hit on Chinese social media sites. The project is launched by a study group called ‘Research on Masturbation’ from Guangzhou-based Zhongshan University. The study group, headed by sexology professor Pei Yuxin at the university, aims at dissemination information and knowledge about healthy sex. See Ministry of Tofu Research on Masturbation

Ceiling Collapse Exposes Chinese Panty Thief

In December 2014, Reuters reported: “A Chinese man who stole hundreds of pieces of ladies' underwear had his secret exposed after an emergency exit ceiling where he had been storing his hoard collapsed, state media reported. The man, surnamed Tang and in his 30s, admitted to having mental problems since he was young and that he did not know how long he had been obsessed with women's undergarments, reports said. Police in the city of Yulin said they found more than 2,000 pieces of panties and bras in the roof where he had stuffed his collection. Residents in the housing complex where Tang lived had complained about the mysterious vanishing of their undergarments. Tang used a master key for the apartments in the complex to sneak in and steal the underwear when residents were not there, media said this week. [Source: Reuters, December 25, 2014]

Image Sources: 1)Sex products, Alibaba.com; 2) Sexy poster, University of Washington; 3) ox peninses, BBC; 4) Old sex art All Posters. com, Search Chinese Art .

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2015


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.