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).

Websites and Sources: USA Today piece ; Sex Incidents in China ; Sex Industry ; Chinese sex toy maker lacyshaki.en ; Books: “Sexual Life of Ancient China”, written by Robert van Gulik in the 1920s; “The Illustrated Handbook of Chinese Sex History” by Professor Liu Dalin and “Sex China Studies in Sexology in Chinese Culture” by Fang-ju Juan, The Sexology Research Institute of China is at People's University in Beijing. Sex History and Literature Ancient Sex Culture ; Chinese Sex Literature ; Sex in Ancient China Book Review Prostitution in China : Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Shanghaiist blog ; Homosexuality in China History of Gay life in China

Sexual Socialization in China

According to “Growing Up Sexually: “DeMause wrote: Reliable research on childhood sexuality is limited. Although parents traditionally sleep with their children until they are adolescents, exactly what happens in Chinese family beds has not yet been much investigated, although some observers have reported that Chinese girls have no trace of a hymen, supposedly because caretakers “clean the sexual organs of the little children during daily scrupulously. During adolescence, youths were instructed to have intercourse with young girls who have “undeveloped breasts”, but to practice “moderation” by withholding their semen”. [Source: “Growing Up Sexually, Volume” I by D. F. Janssen, World Reference Atlas, 2004]

Mitchell and Lo (1968) reported that mothers in Hong Kong would punish their children or tell them that such behaviour was “dirty” if they found them “playing with themselves”. Ho (1986) reviewed that sex training was among the most severe of all child-rearing areas. However, Muensterberger (1951) observed that genital play was “not forbidden” in southern China. Scofield and Sun (1960) found that oral, sex, dependence and aggression training are all more severe for Chinese generally than for Americans, the exception being toilet training. According to the table, infants are never naked, sexual exploration/interest in bodies and sex play are punished, and nudity is shamed; training is continuous from birth. Compared to immigrant Chinese, Euro-Americans are more accepting of nudity. “Playing with oneself” is seen as very indecent behaviour damaging health, and children are taught this attitude from a young age.

In urban Hong Kong, Mitchell and Lo (1968) found that sex differences were marginal in sex and modesty training. “Nine of the 10 mothers of the dependent [as a character trait] children say they would use physical punishment if they found their children playing with themselves. Only 2 of the other 10 mothers report they would do this. In their response to questions on this topic, the latter mothers said that they would explain to their children that playing with themselves is bad for their health and that they should not do it again; some of these mothers also would tell their children that such behavior is “dirty”. However, what is important is that they would verbally explain to their children- thereby bringing the children into an adult conversation- rather than physically punish them”. Hu and Wu (1997) presented survey data on the sexual development of Chinese youth and how it compares with youth in other countries.

History of Adolescent Sex in China

According to “Growing Up Sexually: “Despite extensive writing on Chinese sexology, little insight is gained from ancient Chinese concepts of sexual development, at least in English language writings. In the novel “Ko-lien-hua-ying” (“Flower Shadows on a Window Blind”), two girls explore and imitate sexual activities. Linck-Kesting (1985) writes that during the Tang period, sexual intercourse with girls under age 12 was considered rape regardless of consent; the girls were pubescent at age 13, sometimes 12. During the Ming period, it was observed that 13-year-olds would not know the meaning of desire, whereas one or to years later this would be the case. The legal age of social adulthood varied considerably between dynasties, from 15 (Han) to 25 (Tang) and back to 16 (Qing). Data on age of marriage are diverse, but incidental cases of pubescent marriage for girls were noted. The most likely age for girls was in early pubescence. Adoption marriage from age six (child bride institution, tong yang xi) can be traced in all ages. Chinese women paid Buddhist priests to deflower their daughters before marriage. This was usually done when the girls were aged seven to nine years of age. [Source: “Growing Up Sexually, Volume” I by D. F. Janssen, World Reference Atlas, 2004]

S Yan wrote: “It is a fact that in ancient China some people used the sexual art of having intercourse with several young virgins at the same time in order to increase their health and keep perpetual youth and longevity. The famous traditional general-medical book, "qian jin yao fang" recommended that method to rich persons too. It is supposed that the beginning of the sexual art of having intercourse with several young virgins traces back to the times of Emperor Hanwu, but it seems to have disappeared from the historical stage in the Song period. On the other hand, the criticisms from the traditional medicine books and the secret languages of internal alchemy used for the Taoist sacred books show that the sexual art of having intercourse with several young virgins was still going on behind the scene in the Ming and Qing periods” [Source: Yan S. Nippon Ishigaku Zasshi, June 2002 Jun;48(2):205-17.A study of the sexual art of having intercourse with several young virgins in traditional Chinese medicine, in Japanese]

“Young girls of mid-Qing times may not have received any sex education from mothers or peers, but no young girl receiving these messages could be in doubt about the purpose of her marriage. In fact since girls were betrothed as early as eight, and dowry was assembled from the time of betrothal, learning about marriage through the dowry was a nearly lifelong process for some women” Miller (1995) examines the theme of adolescent sexuality in Cao Xueqin's eighteenth-century novel Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber)

.Woodside and Elman ( (1994) mark that Huang Yen-p’ei surveyed that whereas “Western education esteemed the natural and imparted a proper sex education to both male and female pupils; late imperial Chinese education based itself on coercion, segregated the sexes, and was reticient about human reproduction”.A first nation-wide survey of sexual behaviour in China (1992) observed that there is “still no national policy, curriculum, or teaching aid for sex education in China: 33.1 percent of the schools had difficulties with offering sex education because of a lack of support and materials”.

1989-1990 Chinese Sex Survey Results on High School Students

Findings of the 1989-1990 Chinese Sex Survey in regard to high school students: 1) The high school students of China are progressively reaching puberty at an earlier age. They develop an earlier sexual awareness, including the desire for physical contact with the other sex. Some students put their desire into action, in the form of early love, masturbation, petting and other forms of sexual activity. Their sexual awareness is closely related to their social environment, especially peer influence. All of these indicate that their sexual attitudes and intentions are at a crossroads.[Source: Archive for Sexology, D. Liu, M.L. Ng, L. P. Zhou and E. J. Haeberle,, Sexual Behavior in Modern China: Report on the Nation-wide Survey of 20,000 Men and Women, conducted in 1989 and 1990, New York: Continuum 1997]

2) In order to deal with adolescent sexual problems, sex education has to be strengthened. It should include the teaching of sexual ethics. Further essential topics are relationships, emotions and biological, medical, psychological, and sociological facts.

3) The results of sex education are still tentative. Our survey found that the sex education materials in China were not well balanced. They contain too much sexual physiology and hygiene, with little attention paid to sexual ethics. Sex education is also not well developed in the more outlying districts and rural regions. They also had some misunderstanding and disagreement on the planning and purpose of sex education. Adolescent sex education still has no fixed place in the Chinese school curriculum. Although many schools have set up a course, teaching hours are not fixed or secure enough to be effective.

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. ++

Results of 2020 Sex Survey of Chinese College Students

In 2020, the China Family Planning Association, Tsinghua University’s Research Center for Public Health, and China Youth Network conducted a sex survey involved 54,580 students from 1,764 universities nationwide. Zhang Wanqing wrote in Sixth Tone: A majority of the students in the survey identified as heterosexual, while 4.5 percent and 9 percent said they were gay and bisexual, respectively. More than 6 percent said they were unsure of their sexual orientation. More female students said they were unsatisfied in their relationships compared with their male counterparts. However, the report suggested that male students were more likely to suffer emotionally after breakups. Some 73 percent of the student respondents said they would only marry “the right one,” suggesting a reluctance to wed compared with previous generations, and shedding light on the country’s declining marriage rate.[Source: Zhang Wanqing, Sixth Tone, May 15, 2020]

“Over 31 percent of university students said they experienced penetrative sex, with their first such experience occurring at age 18 or 19. On average, female students said they had had 2.3 sexual partners, while men reported 3.7. Among those who had had sex in the past year, less than 20 percent said they were sexually active every week. Over 56 percent of female students said they had never masturbated, compared with 13 percent of men. More than 30 percent of women said they had never experienced an orgasm, or didn’t know what one was. A majority of women opposed one-night stands and casual hookups. According to the survey, 3.6 percent of respondents said they had had sex with a teacher.

“The survey reveals that attitudes toward sex are gendered: 83.8 percent of male students said they would “have sex in a hotel room or live with their partner,” compared with 60.9 percent of women. In addition, only 55 percent of female students said they were willing to have sex before marriage, while 75 percent of men were okay with it.

1989-1990 Chinese Sex Survey Results: College Students

Findings of the 1989-1990 Chinese Sex Survey in regard to college students: 1) College students still have inadequate sexual knowledge. Their sexual attitudes are rather conventional and, in part, immature. 2) Only 0.1 percent of the students considered their teachers to be persons to whom they could talk about intimate personal matters. 3) Sex education in the colleges, necessary as it is, might come too late for most young people. This insight should guide our strategy in sex education. [Source: Archive for Sexology, D. Liu, M.L. Ng, L. P. Zhou and E. J. Haeberle,, Sexual Behavior in Modern China: Report on the Nation-wide Survey of 20,000 Men and Women, conducted in 1989 and 1990, New York: Continuum 1997]

4) Probably due to the mixed messages received from Chinese and Western sources, college students in China show both traditional and unconventional sexual attitudes. How to help them integrate their knowledge and feelings, and how to get the best information from both sides, should be a major concern of college sex education. 5) The necessary process of integration has to take the need for family and social harmony as well as the needs of the country into account.

6) Love relationships among students are quite common. This reflects their psychological and physical need. This need has to be faced honestly by administrators. It cannot be dealt with by mere authoritarian suppression and punishment. A proper channeling of this need should be permitted together with education on healthy sexual attitudes, practices, and responsibilities.

7) It was very difficult to elicit meaningful information concerning homosexual interest by means of our relatively simple questionnaire. We could only rely on specific behaviors as somewhat objective indicators. Of all respondents, 7.5 percent reported an experience of a same-sex erotic embrace, 2.4 percent reported same-sex erotic kissing. If same-sex erotic embraces are taken as indicators of homosexual interests, then 7.5 percent of college students had such interests (i.e. 7.0 percent of the males and 8.4 percent of the females).

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. =

Image Sources: 1)Sex products,; 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 October 2021

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