China Girls Abroad


Grumpy Bride

We want to know if China is going through its own version of the "swinging sixties". This was the period in which western culture exploded with new fashion, new styles, new music and the sexual revolution. We asked 30 Chinese girls abroad about their attituteds to sex before marriage. We found that 22 out of 30 chinagirlsabroad agreed with it. This result is very close to Sociologist Yinhe Li’s latest report, which claimed that “71.4% of Chinese have sex before they get married. It was only 15% in 1989 and 41% in 1994. This dramatic increase usually takes one or two hundred years in other countries.” (Central government’s official magazine: “Xiao Kang”, April 2012). So why is it happening now in China?


A fundamental reason is that the Opening and Reform policy exposed China to a world which is dominated by western culture. The films we watch are from Hollywood, the songs we sing include English ones, and the most popular soap operas among the young Chinese include “Gossip Girl”, “Sex and the City”, “Desperate Housewives” or “Friends”. The “models” from these TV dramas have influenced Chinese youngsters’ minds and behaviours. There is a cultural penetration which is about fashion, lifestyle and attitudes, and the sex revolution is definitely an important part of it.



Second, the new China is about movement. People move in huge numbers. There are a hundred and ten million migrant workers, young women and men go away to study and work. Women in factories, girls in university dormitories are all away from home. This is what makes China so different from a country such as India where young women mostly have to live at home until they are married. But in China women can live and work everywhere. So the possibilities of meeting for romantic reasons out of sight of your family are suddenly available. 


Grumpy BrideEducation is another big part of it. University is the most vibrant place for new ideas and movements. Young Chinese leave home and live with each other, they can discuss everything and anything, and do whatever they want. So university life has become a crucial period for young Chinese to free their body and mind. Girls chat in dormitories about boys, films, western lifestyles, fashion and gossip. They make a new culture for themselves away from their parents.


And then of course lots of students go abroad to study. Western culture and experience abroad affect beliefs, and may influence the individuals’ sense of self and identity. For example, after seeing their female western friends’ independent, free lifestyle, Chinagirlsabroad would be more likely to enjoy their life by having their own ideals and pursuits, their own space and world, and be less likely to spin their hope on the success of their husbands or children. Therefore they are braver about breaking external restrictions and do whatever they want, including sex. Once these chinagirlsabroad accept some parts of western culture, they can bring it back to China, either through social networking, or conversations with friends, families or colleagues. 


And China has also seen a great increase in the status of women. There is still some way to go, but two policies have made a big impact so far.


First one is the One-Child policy. This means that parents have a 50% chance that their only child is a girl. Some people try to cheat in this still, and to test the sex of children to get a boy, which caused a sex imbalance in some areas, especially in the countryside. But these actions are illegal and generally people just get on and love the child they have. So overall the policy has increased the status of girl children. They are inheriting their parents businesses and they get all the money that the family have saved for education (including from both sets of grandparents). In China we believe, being a “vase” is not enough, you have to be intelligent, beautiful and useful! That’s why you can see so many Chinese girls walking on the western campus, and this trend is continuing upwards. A majority of Chinese post-graduates in the UK are female. One consequence is that more and more Chinese women are becoming highly educated, and this makes it possible for women to get at least some of those high-salary jobs which traditionally belonged to the men. Once the women get financial independence, they can decide whatever they want to do.


Second, in China there are no official limits on women, and there is very little religion. Women are allowed to go out, to work or do whatever they like. This is a great advantage for women comparing to those in some other countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive, or to work if their husbands don't agree. Also, they are not allowed to expose their body, the first two female athletes from Saudi Arabia in London 2012 were called “Prostitutes of the Olympics”. By comparison women in China have a lot more freedom in their daily lives.


All the factors mentioned above would give Chinese women more opportunities to live the life they really want. Sexual liberation is a natural consequence.  However, in China, some women break the rule physically, their mind still haven’t changed. For example, they feel guilty or ashamed. I want to tell Chinese women that you have the right to have sex! It’s a wonderful thing to do, just enjoy your life!


Grumpy BrideStill 8 of the 30 chinagirlsabroad didn’t agree with having sex before marriage. Well, it is not surprising that some Chinese girls are very conservative, considering the traditional culture we grow up with. The education system still enhances the influence of this culture. As we know in China, a “good girl” is not supposed to have a “boyfriend” when she is in high school but study or play the piano all the time. The format of standard answers killed their creativity, independent thoughts or imagination, and the pressure of getting high marks to go to good universities further depressed their desire to have a relationship. That’s why once they got into university, they are desperate to do something exciting things and mostly that’s when they started to explore sex. Also, the extent of China’s development varies. In the west of China or poorer places, the girls are more conservative, at least as long as they stay in the village. But in the east, especially the coast cities like Shanghai or Guangzhou, the women there are seen as more open-minded and independent. In a word, sex liberation has started in China, but it still takes some time, especially in changing deep rooted attitudes.


Still, this is all a very combustible mixture. Parents and grandparents are often very traditional. Girls are under terrible pressure to get married from almost 26 years old, 30 as seen as too late. So many girls go into relationship because of what other people want them to do. But the girls are more and more educated, full of new and different ideas. They are more critical and can quickly become unhappy with stupid husbands, so the divorce rate rockets. Sexual liberation and new ideas are exploding fireworks for the new China.



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