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Premarital sex: sinful or sacred in China?

By Anita Wilde Source:Global Times Published: 2012-4-12 19:43:36

China's "sex-o-meter" hit record-high levels online this week following results from a survey that showed 70 percent of Chinese people have had premarital sex. Some 71.4 percent of respondents said they had their first sexual experience before marriage, while 20 percent said they disapprove of premarital sex. The report found that the ratio of Chinese people engaged in premarital sexual activity is increasing, with the Internet pinpointed as a primary channel for people to learn about sex. The study was aptly titled Chinese Sexual Health Survey by Insight China magazine.

Although news about sex always fuels the flames of passion among the public, it comes as a bit of surprise that the survey caused such a stir online for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, China is officially an atheist country without the religious pressures that condemn sex before marriage as a sin. Statistics reflecting rising premarital sex mostly worry traditional Christians and Muslims, who hold onto views of sex as a form of procreation rather than a human need or activity of pleasure. Within religious frameworks, abstinence is the way to go until one is ready to make a commitment to marriage. Compatibility in bed, so they believe, doesn't have to be experimented with before walking down the aisle.

Secondly, the survey merely reflects worldwide statistics. Everywhere, fewer people are getting married while spiking divorce rates are challenging traditional family models. China is merely catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to dismissing the patriarchal unit. The traditional family is an endangered social model. Young people are no longer following in their parents' footsteps when it comes to pursuing relationships.

Many Chinese children nowadays also divide their weeks between two households after their parents' divorce. The number of single parents is on the rise. As more and more women favor their careers and delay marriage, the average age of couples who decide to tie the knot is also rising. China's gender imbalance and social issues, such as unemployment and rapid urbanization, make it harder for couples to marry.

Overseas, more countries are legalizing civil unions among people who live together but never get married. More countries are also legally recognizing marriage between same-sex couples, while some already permit the adoption of children by these couples. American comedy TV series Modern Family proves that the "modern family" can be defined as a husband and wife with three kids, a grandfather married to a foreign woman half his age with a son from a previous relationship, and even two gay men living together with an adopted daughter from Vietnam.

An enlightened Web user hit the nail on the head by posting of the latest statistics that "as long as it is healthy sexual activity, then there's nothing wrong." The figures became news not so much because sex is scandalous, but rather because it is still oddly taboo in a country where half the population is venturing into a sex shop in their neighborhood and the other half is dying to do so. Despite this behavior, people still view it better to not talk about sex publicly. Given that sex education in China is weak, premarital sex is the least of problems in a country where people mostly learn about sexual intercourse online and outdated social conventions push people into unwanted marriages.

Also this week, a funny photo of an American college entry form including the option of "Chinese" for sexual orientation shook up microblogs and social networking websites. Although unrelated, this odd case of nationality-turned-sexuality could more clearly illustrate how confused people are.

Who knows? Maybe more couples getting to know each other better between the sheets can boost China's happiness index.

Posted in: Viewpoint, Twocents-Opinion