留守妇女 [liúshǒufùnǚ]: noun. wives who stay at home in rural areas while their husbands are away in urban areas for long periods of time
Not long ago, Dr. Zhang Hongyan encountered an embarrassing moment at the hospital emergency room: a woman dressed in rags was sent to the hospital with her lower body attached to her pet dog’s genital. When the medical staff pushed the bed into the operating room, the female patient’s face was colorless. No need to explain, Zhang Hongyan has already guessed what had happened. Zhang Hongyan picked up a suction syringe filled with anesthetic and injected into the panic pet dog.
Without much of struggle, a few minutes later, the sleeping dog was successfully taken out of the room. Drops of sweat rolled down from Dr, Zhang’s forehead. The patient gradually calmed down, however Dr, Zhang felt uneasy: in this imbalanced society, how many women are doing the same thing in order to relief their sufferings?
What Dr. Zhang encountered is actually an extreme case of sexual repression among the China’s rural women.
The female patient lived in Xiaolan town, a farmer who just started working in the fields. Five years ago, her husband had an affair while working in Fuoshan, the couple was separated since then. Their young son lived with the mother. Same day in the afternoon, when she was “trapped” by her pet “lover”, she panicked and was not able to pick up the phone. Luckily her son came home early for lunch from school. He went in and saw everything when he heard her mother’s scream in the bedroom.
What does a 9 year old know, he just stood there and stared until his mother called for help, then he dialed 120.
After the awkward moment, the hospital agreed to keep a tight-lip. However, a few days later the news spread like wildfire and public opinion raged.
“Was that necessary?”
“So sick, I thought they were shooting a movie!”
“She looked decent normally, never would have thought…”
Most people criticized her behavior, calling her shameless; only a small number of people were sympathetic, and showed sympathy and understanding.
A week later, the female patient did not come back to the hospital for the follow up, mother and son already moved away. But this story never stopped in the society.
As a medical staff, Zhang has seen all kinds of strange situations. Divorced women being lonely are more understandable, but married woman is a different matter. Especially in the mountain villages, such behavior strikes more nerves.
Zhang Hongyan’s colleague, Dr. Li currently a skin disease specialist, encountered many similar cases in recent years. “Some female patients even use eggplant, cucumber, make-up bottles etc, to stuff into their lower bodies, to fulfill their sexual needs. Because these items are not sanitized, often resulting bacterial infection on their lower body, and even become inflamed.
These cases show that in the ordinary people’s eyes, these rebellious actions in the mountain village are no longer news about “Men biting dogs”. An elder doctor in Meizhou hospital also ran into a case of glass tube breaking inside of a woman. “Similar cases happen all the time in recent years.” This elder doctor who did not wish to disclose his name said. Female patients have different behaviors, but their motivations are the same: using tools other than men to seek pleasure and satisfaction. Most people think rural women are more conservative than the city women, why are there such outrage behaviors?
“In fact, this is the venting behavior caused by long-term suppression.” This elder doctor said, different from the Zhongshan case, the relationship between these patients and their husbands are not bad. “The man is working outside, asking their wives to stay in the village, to take care of the elders and the children”. Using their own words to describe, being far apart all year long, having a husband is the same as not having one.
These women in the current China rural areas formed a huge group in the society.
Since the early 90s of last century, China’s reform policy opened up domestic markets, greatly improved China’s economic and social development. Farmers going into the city in a large-scale, fully broke the traditional way of life, “men farming, women weaving”.
Nevertheless under the household registration, education and housing restrictions, it is not easy for a grass-root farmer bring his entire family into the city. Many farmers are forced to leave their family behind in the rural areas and go solo into the cities. Thus this huge group of “Women, Children and elders” formed commonly known as the “38 61 99 troop”. (Comes from China’s holiday, 3/8 is women’s day, 6/1 is children’s day …)
The husband of a rural woman named Zhang in Guangdong Province went to Guangzhou in 1998 and became a taxi driver. After that, only during Ching Ming Festival and the Spring Festival he is able to return home for couple of days. 10 years of separation, Zhang was tired of being alone. 2009, she went to surrounding cities to look for doctors, asking for prescription to help her reduce her sexual needs, and her inner pain.
Zhang’s abnormal behavior actually reflects the common sexual repressions of tens of millions rural women.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture statistics, in 2009 China has 130 million migrant workers. Accordingly, sociologist estimates about 50 million are married men and at least 20 million women’s married life are severely affected. Some analysts believe the actual number is far more than this. Thirty years of reform and opening up, China’s economy has made remarkable achievements. “To exaggerate a little, this result is exchanged with the sexual repression of the tens of millions wives who stay at home in rural areas.”
January 26, 2009, in Xinfeng County, Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province an old woman dressed scandalously showed up in front of clothing store owner Wang Daxiong’s car.
“How come you come by yourself?” Wang Daxiong rolled down his window half way and whispered.
“She is here. Over there under the tree.” The old woman pointed to the sidewalk not far away. A slender girl is standing in the tree shadows.
“So far away, who can see?” Wang Daxiong pretended to be impatient.
“Guaranteed, you will be satisfied, boss.” The old women laughed and said “this girl is not out for sale. Her husband is a driver in Shenzhen, not coming home for long time, if she wasn’t bored, she would not have come out with me!” Then she waved to her, “Xiaohong, come here.”
Lingered for a long time, the girl finally walked over in front of the car, her face was always facing away and did not look at the car. She looked a little over thirty with long hair and a slender waist.
“Is she really a local young wife?” Wang Daxiong asked.
The old woman seemed unhappy. “I am in Xinfeng for so any years, when have I ever fooled people. I would not have introduced her to you if you are not a regular customer.”
“Get in first.” Wang Daoxing coughed.
They casually chatted for a few with local dialect, Wang confirmed that the girl lives in Meikeng town, her surname is Li. She met “mommy” at her classmate’s house playing mahjong. She knew the old woman is very popular, but still hesitated for half a year before she finally asked her to be introduced to someone.
According to Li, her husband is actually very good to her; he comes home every holiday, and always brings her things when he comes home. However, the material things could not compensate the trauma caused by many years of separation. “Men can go outside to find pleasure, but I can only stay home and be alone, this society is not fair. There are so many poor girls around me having the same problem, sometimes we all feel sad. We can not live like this for the rest of our lives! Not getting a divorce is already good enough.”
This “mommy” said, she travels through Xinfeng, Wengyuan, Lianpeng and Longmeng etc. places during the years, there are quite a few sisters like Li who come looking for her. Because of their husbands not coming home over years, they had to face the elders and the kids at home and were bored out of their mind. These sisters come out not for money but to have fun.
However the public security departments reported that only a small number of women like Li would provide sexual services for men for money in order to satisfy their needs. Because the risk is too high, not only it is easy to get diseases, but also often encounter public security’s crackdowns, it is too easy to expose their identities.
In the current market which filled with female sex services, some people fantasize: as the economic status of women improves, will the women left at home become like men, purchasing male sex services in order to satisfy their physical needs?
But, this thinking seems to be ahead of its time.
On one hand, in Chinese people’s gender rules women freely expressing their physical needs are to be seen as lacking in virtue, and purchasing sex services from men will be seen as departing from the classics and rebelling against orthodoxy. The ordinary country side women are not liberal to that extend yet.
On the other hand, even ignoring all moral risks, there is still lack of channels for rural women to purchase sex services.
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Li Yinhe said, according to social statistics, in all of the sex trade activities, male sex workers only account for 1/10 of the market.
The vast majority of the women who stay home, even if they had the courage to try would not have the finical capabilities. In Wang Daxiong’s words to Li, 1,000 yuan a night, might as well get a ride to Shenzhen to find her husband.
One night stand and extra-marital affairs thus became the most realistic ways for the stay at home women.
Chen Chunxia, 28 years old, a village farmer in Linjiang town, Zijin County, Guangdong Province, her husband went to Jiangxi for furniture business three years ago with his fellow villagers. He only returns home twice a year and the couple never had a child yet. A year ago, Chen persuaded her in-laws to allow her to wait tables at a restaurant in town. Then she started to get to know some of the dinners in town, and frequently went to entertainment places with them. One night some male friends while being drunk pulled her to open hotel room. She was reluctant in the beginning, but later she actually offers to spend the night with them.
A karaoke manager in Heyuan City found that some women in the rural areas often sing with one man tonight and dance with another the next night, then they sleep with them at the hotel after.
Wives who stay at home in the rural areas are seriously damaging the moral values of the conservative rural society in a very unusual way. “For an ordinary rural family, this is a invisible crisis, also is a crisis that can pop out at any time and destroy a family. But today, these crisis are everywhere in the rural areas in Guangdong even in the entire country.” A young judge told the South Rural News reporter, before working at this place, he really could not believe the divorce rate in the rural areas is such high, more than half of the cases in court are divorce cases. Among these, many are resulted from unspeakable scandals. He also said, “Extra-marital relationship is no longer alarming news, but has become a real threat to the stability of the families in rural areas. Some extra-marital relations even result in vicious criminal acts.”
Another way out?
January 28, 2010, there was a unique speaker in the Guangdong Province CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) thirteen’s session group discussion. His name is Zhang Feng, the current President of the Sex Institute in Guangdong, the Provincial Family Planning Commission director. He said that there are 30 million migrant workers in Guangdong who left their partners for very long time. Their physical needs were never recognized by the community or by the government. If not given more attention, this is bound to jeopardize the social stability.
That day, Zhang Feng’s speech set off the hot topic across the country. After many media’s rebroadcast, a number of portal sites also hyped up this topic.
However, Dr. Zhang Hongyan felt particularly disturbing towards this kind of hype. “People who really need more attention are the women left at home, because male migrant workers’ sexual needs are already fulfilled by the overflowing sexual services.”
Zhang Hongyan’s worries are not without proves. In the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and some other developed cities, where large number of migrant workers gather are often the areas with the most active sex industries. They can find the “cheapest and most convenient” services everywhere, fulfilling the physical needs for the transient population, at the same time, intensifying the suffering of their spouses – “the horse that has weeds to feed on would never return home”
Some experts believe the sexual repression of women staying at rural areas is no less than the 50 million people’s with disabilities. Who is going to solve their problems?
February 1, 2010, at night fall, a dim lamp in front of a sex shop in Qingyuan, Guangdong had already been lit up.
Owner Zhang Zhiming lit a cigarette and began to make tea. He looked worry free .
“Ten years ago, people still looked at me with ‘colored glasses’, now they are used to it. My customers are also expanded from middle aged men into female population. Business is getting better and better.” Zhang Zhiming said in recent years, some of his customers are women in the rural areas.
In fact, adult sex products market was started a few years ago inspired by a number of officials and scholars who were concerned about the migrant workers. Last year, Zhang Feng suggested to the migrant workers to use science to solve sexual repression issue, try masturbation and use of sex toys instead of prostitution. He said no matter it is for men or women, masturbation is not shameful; masturbation can improve physical and mental health.
To tens of thousands of women staying at home, this is maybe an equally applicable approach. Experts believe many women-specific products, such as “female companion”, “sex helper” etc. can be effective in helping resolving sexual repression.
“If my patient knew about the sex shop then, maybe that embarrassing incident would not have happened a few months ago.” Dr. Zhang Hongyan said.
Chinese Sex Institution Expert Committee and executive deputy director, sexual health care products professional committee chairman Professor Zhu Qi also believes that, for various reasons if a couple is separated, the use of sexual health care products, can reduce extra-marital affair and help to keep a harmonious and stable family.
In China, sex toy market is not only an expanding market, but also a market of huge profits.
In 1993, a businessman named Wen Jingfeng opened China’s first adult sex shop in Beijing. Since then, sex shops have been opened across the country, as the foreign media interpreted as the major symbol of China’s reform.
The adult sex products wholesale market at Station Road in Guangzhou is known as the country’s largest sex toy trading market. Since it started operation in 1997, the annual turnover was more than 100 million yuan. Market Leader Li Jihong said, currently the market’s demand is still at an annual growth rate of 30%. Industry insiders estimate that, as the popularity of e-commerce technology grows, in the next two decades China’s sex products market will more than quadruple.
It is understood that 90% of the sex products in circulation are made in China. However when compared with foreign similar products, the national products in texture, variety and design, etc. are still at a low level. The health sector had the following statistics, there are more than 3,000 health-care products manufacturers, ranking first in the world, the output can be accounted for 85% of world production, accounting for 70% of the global market share, annual sales of more than 100 billion yuan.
"Any kind of business is not as easy as my business." Previously a pharmacy owner, Zhang Zhiming now a sex shop owner said “Don’t under estimate my little shop, it makes over 200,000 a year.”
What Zhang Zhiming said is true. Sex shops across the country are mostly small in size and opened in alleys where no one pays attentions to. Store owners took advantage of customers being discrete, often selling fake and harmful products. Therefore adult sex products in the market are mixtures of good and bad products.
There are a large number of adult items in circulation which have no production licenses, no manufactory, no date of producing; some don’t even have a brand. However there has not been any complaint about sex products. Nor there are any lawsuits” An industrial and commercial department staff revealed.
In March 2009, Guangzhou authorities conducted surprise checks to more than 130 stalls at the sex products wholesale market in Guangzhou. They found a serious number of fake and harmful products being disturbed through this market across the country.
Chaotic regulations and a market full of fake products, these are the reasons why stay at home women in the rural areas would not likely to get their hands on these adult sex toys.
Therefore some NPC deputies and CPPCC members in Guangdong and Shanghai have petitioned to request the State cracking down hard on fake and harmful adult products and to regulate the adult products markets to promote social harmony.
In the Second Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress, chairman of the member committee Wu Bangguo requested State Department to formulate relevant regulations, standardizing production activities, to straighten sales market and to strengthen supervision and management in order boost consumer confidence.
However, the currently market situation shows that it will still be some time until the stay at home women in the rural areas can get their hands on some safe and reliable sex products.