Sex before marriage more accepted in China Published: 2012-4-9 14:15:00


  Expert's Note

"Chinese people's views toward pre-marital sex have experienced the biggest change compared with other sex-related issues...You would not see public attitudes on these issues change so dramatically in a few years in Western countries."

-- sexologist Li Yinhe, a former professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

A Pre-marital Sex Study

Chinese people are showing increasingly tolerant attitudes toward pre-marital sex with over 70 percent now having sex before tying the knot, according to a survey.

The Report on the Health of Chinese People's Sex Life, jointly released over the weekend by Media Survey Lab and Insight China magazine, showed that women are more inclined to oppose pre-marital sex than men.

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Higher rate

gender 1989:  In 1989, only 15 percent of people had sex before marriage, and most of them were in loving relationships

gender 1994: Only 40 percent of people had pre-marital sex then, while.

gender 2004Forty percent said they were understanding of and agreeable to the concept of cohabitation, and 30 percent said they had not formed a clear idea. Few would have supported such behavior ten years ago, when the majority of university students were against cohabitation, as it signified moral depravity and immaturity.

gender 2009Most of the 164 million unmarried young people on the Chinese mainland, aged 15-24, are open to premarital sex, with two thirds of them accepting the behavior or not feeling strongly about it.

gender 2012Over 70 percent now having sex before tying the knot.

 Rare education

genderDespite the high percentage of pre-marital sex, over half of those surveyed said they had never received any kind of sex education.
gender"My early sex knowledge came from the television talking about preventing AIDS by using condoms when I was in secondary school…Sex education in school is very rare. I only had one class as I can remember but I cannot remember what the teacher talked about."
-- A senior student at Tianjin Sports College.

Knowledge source

genderLess than 9 percent of people were taught about sex in school, with even fewer at 1.5 percent claiming to have been told about sex by their parents. The Internet was the primary resource for Chinese to gather sex knowledge, with others simply figuring it out as they went along.

Views Insight

 In a society of diversity, people’s choices are also diversified and we need to respect those different lifestyles.

--Li Yinhe, sexologist

 There are a large number of people who are living together and have bona fide marriages, but their rights could not be protected because they are under the legal marrying age. 
--Huang Xihua, a deputy of National People's Congress

 "We need to respect teenagers first, understand what they are thinking and find out what is the best way to inform them." 

"To provide better counseling services for young people is a tough task for all countries in the world and I suggest the government set up a specialized department to deal with youth-related issues."
--Chen Gong, a professor specializing in population and health at Peking University

  "During the first 30 years of the People's Republic, pre-marital sex was a social taboo. Since 1978, however, and most particularly since the 1990s, traditional Chinese attitudes towards sex have been challenged and influenced by the West…For the first time in China's thousands of years of history, it is now being declared legally and overwhelmingly that sex is not purely for purposes of procreation. People now claim their right to sex as an aspect of love and happiness."
--Pan Suiming, president of the Sexology Research Institute attached to the People's University of China


@旭旭仙儿:Views toward love and relationships are fundamentally important to the stability for any relationship. For young adults nowadays, there are some news trends emerging and some common views frequently heard as follows: the motivation of a relationship has diversified; the new generation weighs emotional and psychological connections much higher than older generations and the younger generation values fidelity but is more open to pre-marital sex.

@吕天召: Proper sex education is missing in China for young people. Oftentimes it’s, “parents are too embarrassed to talk about it, and schools simply skip it, forcing young people to discover it by themselves through furtive measures.” This missing piece in our education system is directly related to our traditional values and practices. However, the result is that the more mysterious the matter seems, the more attractive it seems to the kids.

@柯学兵: The pre-marital sex rate jumped from 30 percent to 71.4 percent in 2012? Should I think of this as healthy or unhealthy? Should I expect the openness of sexual conduct in China will one day overtake that in the West? Be gone our Confucius - Mencius culture!

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The Other End: Keeping Chastity

Tu Shiyou is having trouble sleeping these days after igniting a controversy about what consenting adults sometimes do in bed.

Tu told the world on her website that she always sleeps alone, and insists she's going to keep it that way until she's married.

Tu, 38, has been pilloried since her "virginity website" went viral after she posted her bona fides as a champion of chastity by uploading a medical report certifying her virginity.

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Related Special:
"virgin goddess" Tu Shiyou


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Related Issues and Studies

 For the past 10 years, condoms have been available in universities but only in un-noticed corners of the campus such as the dark stairs of the university hospitals. 

 Chinese youths are becoming more adventurous in their sexual activity, but ignorance is still a serious problem due to their insatiable demand for counseling and treatment services.

 Unprotected sex was responsible for the majority of new cases this year, with 82.5 percent of the city's newly reported HIV carriers contracting the disease from unsafe sex.


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