- Language Tips
Men advertising "fake boyfriend" services on Taobao.com, one of China's leading e-commerce providers, has prompted fierce debate online.
For an hourly fee, a boyfriend-for-hire will accompany the customer to visit friends or family, go shopping, have meals, and even kiss.
More than 260 fake boyfriends are available on Taobao.com, with more popping up after news of the service spread across the Internet. Some advertisements are targeted at those anxious to bring a boyfriend home to meet their parents, while some are for those who only want to spend time with the opposite sex.
"I don't have many opportunities to meet girls. The business is not for money. It's just bored people meeting each other," said Xue Shuai, 22, from Qingdao, Shandong province, who rents himself out as a boyfriend.
Xue's rented himself out for two years, but has only had about six customers, with their ages ranging from 19 to 26. He accompanies them to meals, movies, or the seaside, charging 20 yuan ($3.22) per hour.
An anonymous female buyer commented on his online store, "It's good. I enjoyed the movie with this funny guy."
Because he is still single, Xue is looking forward to a romantic encounter in his business.
"I think others may also share my fantasies," he said.
"Some girls were not in a good mood, so I chatted with them. We only go to public places, for my own safety," he said.
Gao Jianbing, 31, from Chengdu, Sichuan province, echoed Xue's comments.
He opened a store on taobao.com, offering similar services, with about eight men available for "rent".
He said it is just a part-time job and his main online store is a flower delivery service. A few females ask for sexual services these requests are turned down.
"Customers just want to relax. It's a bit like psychological consultation and they like to pour out their hearts to strangers," Gao says.
Beijing Normal University associate professor of psychology Lin Xiuyun said people use these services because they are lonely. Lin said people should have a positive attitude about being single and said the upcoming Spring Festival can be an opportunity to reflect on what one wants from a relationship.