CHINA / National

Chinese asexual marriage website grabs attention
Updated: 2006-07-25 09:48

Online marriage brokers are common in China, but a young Chinese Web site is thriving by turning the traditional idea of marriage on its head.

Called "Marriage for Asexuals" (, the site claims to be the first and biggest online marriage broker for "asexual" people in China. It says it has attracted 7,000 members since it was launched last year.

Its rapid success illustrates the expansion of the Internet in China, the increasingly permissive nature of Chinese society -- and the way in which small but growing minorities of people are stepping away from traditions that have dominated culture for thousands of years.

"I came up with the idea to help a friend, who lost his sexual abilities after an accident," said the 33-year-old founder of the Web site, who works full-time for an information technology company in the remote southern province of Guangxi.

A Communist Party member and a volunteer social worker, the founder was willing to identify himself only by his Internet name Lin Hai, as he chose not to tell his parents and co-workers about the site because he worried about their reactions.

"At the beginning I couldn't believe so many people from all over China were drawn to my Web site," said Lin.

Sixty percent of the site's customers are people who cannot have sex, Lin said. The rest are "comrades," the Chinese nickname for homosexuals, who sign on in search of an opposite-sex spouse, often to relieve social and family pressure.

New Forms of Marriage

The site is particularly daring in a Chinese context because of the culture's strong emphasis on heterosexual marriage and child-bearing. Confucius taught that not having children was the height of filial impiety. A Chinese "work unit" or employer often acted as matchmaker.

But "Marriage for Asexuals" is an example of the way in which the institution of marriage is being modified and adapted, mostly in China's cities, by breakneck economic and social development.

So-called "DINK" marriages, standing for "double income and no kids" -- it is fashionable to use the English acronym -- have become popular among young urban professionals. Such arrangements wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the West, but in China they are still viewed as something of a radical lifestyle choice.

"I have no time to raise kids, or even to go through pregnancy," said a manager in her late 30s at a Japanese company in Shanghai. "I'd rather save the money and time to live more happily with my husband."

Underlining the still-controversial nature of her choice, the manager was willing to give her name only as "Ms. Liu."

Another innovation is "marriage on weekends," where couples deliberately live apart on weekdays to maintain their independence.

"There is much more space for unconventional marriages, as the society gradually withdrew from people's private lives," said sociologist Sun Zhongxin of Fudan University.

Lin said he had not received any official criticism or warnings over "Marriage for Asexuals."

Mixed Tones

The Web site is tastefully designed in a pastel shade of green, featuring traditional Chinese music and a romantic picture of a Western man and woman at the top of the home page.

It includes discussions of asexual marriage as well as a contacts section through which people can meet each other. It is free of charge, but accepts donations.

"I want a Beijing boy who is outspoken, upright and who treats my parents well," wrote "Beijing Girl" in a typical posting. "I am a translator, tall and slim, and I earn 2,000 ($250) to 3,500 yuan per month."

The tone of some other postings is more tragic in a country where homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder until 2001, and where it remains stigmatized in many places.

"My parents threatened to never see me again or even to commit double-suicide if I do not have a baby soon," said a Mr. Wu in a posting.

"Many co-workers look at me like a jerk, an impotent, or a sick person, just because I've been married for 10 years and have no kids yet."