Singles listings at the Shanghai Marriage Market, a symbol of the enduring pressure on the young to marry in China.

Social expectations regarding love and marriage in China have changed drastically over the past 30 years; however, as Daniel Holmes explores in his short documentary for Aljazeera, societal and parental pressure to find a husband before age 27 still pervades the lives of Chinese women today. Labeled “sheng nu,” which translates to “leftover women,” those unmarried who are 27 or over face stigma that can have major consequences for social, work, and family life due to their perceived transgression.

Such relatively sudden social change in the country has created a generational gap between parent and daughter, facing the country with a wide moralistic schism. With more and more women staying single into their late twenties and early thirties, while older generations remain fervent about traditional marital ideals, the boyfriend rental industry has taken off in China. Those burdened by the pressure of the “sheng nu” stigma now have access to websites dedicated to these fake partners that can be rented for days at a time. Such an endeavor, however, can be costly, with prices for individuals reaching over 2,000 kuai a day, which is the equivalent of $300 USD.

In the following video, Holmes investigates China’s boyfriend rental services and the social forces around it through Li Chenxi, a single, working, 27 year-old woman in Beijing. Returning home to Harbin for the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year, Chenxi decides to rent a boyfriend in order to face her family in good standing and to keep her mom from worrying about her future without a potential husband in sight.




Image via Flickr/spezz

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Let's talk about queerness, comics, and shutting down systems of oppression. Carbs enthusiast with a lot to say about living femme in this world and staying positive. Contributor to the zine Clitorally and founder of Static zine. Catch me looking for dogs to pet around town.

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