Bringing a Hired Love Interest Home for the Holidays

Al Jazeera’s The Stream reported today on a global trend toward women marrying later and advancing their own education and careers before creating a family. The show focuses on India and China, where, as Leta Hong Fincher has written, women who are unmarried after age 27 are known as “leftover women” and looked down on in society. Al Jazeera interviews Joy Chen, whose books “Do Not Marry Before Age 30” is a best-seller in China.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, many young people in China are heading home to visit their families. Those who are single often don’t want to confront family pressure to find a spouse, and so to avoid it they hire strangers to play the role of love interest for family visits. The New York Times blog reports:

On Taobao, this man, who didn’t give his name but supplied a photograph, said he was born in 1991, was a B.A. student, an extrovert, 170 centimeters (5 feet, 6 inches) tall and 60 kilograms (132 pounds), offered a relatively simple list of extra services.

“Boyfriend for rent, 300 yuan a day, holding hands and hugs free, appropriate kisses 50 yuan, talking to old people 30 yuan an hour, others we’ll talk about it when we meet,” his post said. Also: “accommodation and transport costs paid by the woman.”

Often, services are worked out in minute financial detail. This man, charging 800 renminbi ($128) a day, had a long list of extras: shopping (15 renminbi per hour or 150 a day, minimum two hours); chatting (10 renminbi an hour or 100 a day); watching a movie (10 renminbi an hour, double for horror films); attending parties (20 renminbi an hour, will not go to dangerous places). And he charges for drinking, based on the spirit content (drinking alcohol is de rigueur for men at festive banquets): 100 renminbi per 100 milliliters of white spirits, 50 renminbi for 100 milliliters of red wine, 20 renminbi for 500 milliliters of beer.

Just in case you’re wondering if it’s all for real, or just a cruel hoax — it’s true. My colleague Dan Levin wrote about the phenomenon a few years ago, and even, the racier, online version of the Communist Party-run People’s Daily newspaper, recently carried a report.

Meanwhile, Shanghaiist reports that marriages between women and men who later come out as gay may soon be able to be anulled in order to give the women a greater chance of remarrying. Some gay men in China who fear they will not be accepted by their families marry women to fulfill societal expectations:

The First Intermediate Court of Beijing submitted a report earlier this month recommending changing the law for women who discover their husbands are gay so that they are not branded as ‘divorced’ which would make it even harder to find a new man in a society that insists on labelling any woman unmarried after 27 a ‘left over woman’.

Reportedly, an estimated 70 percent of all gay men in China marry women, resulting in about 16 million women who are now labelled ‘tongqi’, which would loosely translate to ‘homo-wife’. Homosexuality is still very controversial in China (it was listed as a mental illness until 2001) and many people enter into heterosexual marriages just to appease their families and to have children.

The new legislation would presumably apply to anyone but does not explicitly state what happens if the couple already have children, or if the man only realises his sexuality after the marriage, or if the woman is a lesbian and her straight husband finds out.


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