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Young alter attitude on premarital sex
( 2003-12-04 10:46) (China Daily)

Sex before marriage is no longer a problem for most young people in Shanghai, according to a recent survey.

Xu Anqi from the Shanghai Social Sciences Academy questioned a random selection of 500 single young people across 11 of the city's districts. The survey found that 34.7 per cent of the city's single young people still believe sex before marriage remains the wrong thing to do.

And men appear to have abandoned the once commonly held view that their future bride must be a virgin. Only 21 per cent of the young men in Shanghai still stuck to that view. Some 29 per cent were unsure while 50 per cent have given up the idea altogether.

Among the surveyed, those who said they had experienced kissing or hugging the opposite sex was 42 per cent, with 30 per cent moving on to sex and 7 per cent living together.

"The real figures must be higher than that, as some people might be too shy to talk about their real situation," Xu said.

A drastic change has taken place in terms of social tolerance towards pre-marital sex.

A survey conducted by Xu in 1997 showed that 40 per cent of local couples of different age groups said they hadn't even hugged or kissed their spouses-to-be before marriage. Even among those married after 1987, only 17.9 per cent said they had experienced pre-marital sex.

Interviews with local hospitals which provide surgery to mend the virginal membrane also show that the number of women coming for the operation has dropped in recent years.

Jiang Hua of Changzheng Hospital said 70 per cent of the women who now come for the operations were from outside Shanghai.

"More and more local youth care less about virginity," he said.

A lot of research has been conducted to find out what kind of people have more liberal attitudes towards pre-marital sex.

"And so far it is concluded that young people who are bad at their studies, and have low expectations about their academic future, are more likely to have a liberal attitude towards sex," Xu said.

Living conditions were also found to influence people's attitudes towards sex.

Those who have limited living space, or have friends who are open about sex, turns out to be more liberal about sex.

Family attitudes also play an important role. According to Xu's survey, about 54 per cent of the young people, whose parents were opposed to sex before marriage, agreed with this point of view, compared with 34 per cent among those whose parents did not make a big deal out of this.

"The overall social environment, the media's attitude towards pre-marital sex, and relevant policies also have an influence on sexual behaviour," Xu added.

Although this open attitude is still not a mainstream one in China, increasing numbers of people believe that sex before marriage is alright, accompanying a greater sexual knowledge and up-to-date information about contraception.

"Rarely would people of my age be concerned so much about whether we should first marry and then have sex," said Jason Li, a 26-year-old man working with an advertisement company.

"Time shouldn't be the barrier to sex so long as both sides agree that."

More and more experts have reached an understanding that people have the right to control their own body given that they don't violate other's rights.

"The traditional view on sex no longer fits in with the current situation," Xu said.

"More practical sexual education should be conducted in schools, which is sorely lacking now in China."

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