Male Singlehood, Poverty and Sexuality in Rural China: An Exploratory Survey

Short papers
By Li Shuzhuo, Zhang Qunlin, Yang Xueyan, Isabelle Attané


In China, marriage is still a highly valued social norm, and until the 1990s, practically everyone was able to marry. The situation has changed, however, and a rising proportion of men, in rural areas especially, will experience prolonged and even permanent singlehood due to the growing shortage of women on the marriage market. In the cultural context of China, singlehood is a state of frustration, and even of deprivation, for which it is difficult to find socially acceptable compensations. The lives of single men may thus be severely affected by this situation. How, and to what extent, does unwanted singlehood shape their existence? Do they find alternative means to access a satisfactory sexual life? Are their socioeconomic characteristics different from those of married men?
The data analysed in this short paper are drawn from a survey conducted in 2008 in a rural county of Anhui province. Its dual objective was to achieve a better understanding of sexual behaviours in rural China in a context of strong social and political control. This study explores the link, well documented elsewhere, between singlehood and poverty, and shows that poverty is a dual factor of exclusion in this region of rural China. Not only does it exclude men from marriage, it also excludes the poorest single men from all sexual activity.


  • China
  • sexuality
  • male celibacy
  • poverty
  • rural area
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