Category Archives: Dating & relationships

Dating in China [part 5]

Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. Women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.

Naked couple sitting on couch, woman knitting, portraitCreativ
image from: metro


It took a couple of lonely months in Beijing, only knowing my colleagues, before I looked to Tinder as a remedy for my tiny social circle. It felt like a last resort. After a disastrously embarrassing first date, and a three-week fling that took me nowhere, I made up my mind to be pickier. I needed to be really into the guy to go out on a date. So I began my search.

On Christmas Eve I got chatting to a handsome man who claimed he’d arrived in Beijing that week. Encouraged by our lively conversation, my generosity warmed by his apparent loneliness in a new place, so I invited him to a Christmas party I was throwing. I figured it would be a safe place to scope him out. He accepted the offer; I got very excited.

He never showed, cancelling at the last minute. I was disappointed but forgave him. He was new here, and it was Christmas. That can be tough. Plus, he said he would make it up to me.

Six weeks later, I was still waiting for that first date. We’d chatted every day, bantering and joking, back and forth. Several times, we set up a date and then he cancelled last minute. I was getting irritated, not sure he was worth it, but I kept hanging on. Friends at parties asked me, “do you understand how Tinder works?” They were shocked anyone would wait six weeks for a Tinder date.

In some way, I was proud of the long courtship. I hoped that this would make “us” different. The waiting had certainly worked. He’d got me hooked. I’d made up my mind to like him before I had even met him.

In the winter holiday, just days before Valentine’s, he finally found time for little old me. On a cold, windy night we had dinner, drinks, and more drinks. He was taller and more handsome in person than I had imagined. He was funny and attentive. The reality was better than his online personality, which rarely happens. We were both super talkative. He complimented my appearance. I could hardly believe how well we were getting on. We moved on to a bar where he smoked and shared the odd cigarette with me. I wasn’t sure whether I was lightheaded because of the smoke or his smile.

Very, very late, after all the bars had closed, he invited me to his place. There was no way I was saying no after the time I’d waited. I’d already decided it would be worth it. To be honest, it was disappointing. He certainly enjoyed it. He was selfish both that night and the next morning, but I barely noticed, so awestruck was I by his body.

In the morning he made me breakfast, told me stories about an old friend he said he wanted me to meet, and walked me to the subway. I drifted home on a cloud and wrote down all the wonderful moments that had made our night special.

We continued to talk day after day. Throughout my short winter vacation I kept wishing myself back in Beijing, imagining spending every night of his lonely week-long break with him. I’d even offered to turn around and go back before my train left the station. I was hopelessly devoted.

Six weeks later, I was back at work and still hadn’t seen him again. We’d set up several more dates and he’d cancelled every time. I was angry and frustrated; worried I’d scared him off by being too keen. It gradually became clear he wasn’t interested in a relationship, or even casual sex. I asked him for an honest reason, and was astounded by his response. I finally felt the sting of that dreaded situation: he thought I was more attractive with my clothes on than nude! He found my body hair so repulsive that he didn’t enjoy sex:

“I found your leg hair distracting. I really had to concentrate to finish.”

My immediate impulse was to fight my corner, argue that women make choices about their appearance for themselves, not for men, and tell him that his opinion didn’t matter.

But I didn’t rant at him. Instead I left him alone in his small-mindedness and got on with my life. I’d blown my chance with him, which bothered me because it was over such a small thing. But what really stung was I’d been on the brink of falling for someone who allowed something so minor to affect our entire relationship. I will never make that mistake again.

– United Kingdom, 26


image from: sheknows


Dating is hard, especially if you aren’t really dating. Let me explain.

One fall, I met a guy the day after my birthday. He was my coworker, and younger than me by a couple of years. After spending a little time together we ended up making out one night.

The next day as he asked, “what exactly are you looking for?” I was honest, I didn’t see him as a long term thing. Both of us were planning on leaving Beijing that summer. I just wanted fun, with stipulations on privacy. “Ah ok,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know, before we went any further, that I have a girlfriend. Not all girls are cool with that.”

That knocked the breath out of me. At first I was too stunned to reply, curse words forming in my head. But I reacted calmly: “does your girlfriend know?”

“Oh yeah, it was actually her idea. Do you want to talk to her?”

So I took the risk of being in an open relationship. It was weird. Having a guy over two to three times a week cooking, watching movies, having sex, all while knowing I couldn’t f**k it up. My plan was impenetrable. Or so I thought.

Six months in, we went on our first outside date. While out at a fun bar party a cute British girl approached him. After flirting with him, and letting him know she was interested, she asked if we were together. “No” we both responded. She continued to flirt, and I found a way to extract myself. I had a drink by myself at a table in other room but could see them talking at the bar. I played with my phone for a bit.

“Hey,” he was standing next to me, looking down, a little concerned. “Do you want to come hang out with us?”

“Nah,” I told him. “I think she’s pretty interested in you though.”

He brightens. “Yeah! I think she is. You don’t mind, do you?”

OF COURSE I MIND! WE CAME HERE ON A— I caught myself before I yelled.

What were we on? Was it a date? Does it count as a date if you obviously aren’t planning a future together? Did him agreeing to accompany me out contractually bind him to me for the night? I wanted to be cool. Chill. He didn’t owe me anything.

“Nah. Go for it. I’m going to go meet up with some other friends. Have fun, be safe,” I said as lightheartedly as possible. Then, without meeting his eyes, I left.

A long walk on a chilly night is terribly symbolic when you feel alone. I wish I could say I went home and composed this balanced rational story. That would be a lie. I got drunk. I cried. Not because I was in love. But because I just wanted a real date, at which I was the center of a guy’s attention. Through much contemplation (and water) for the next two days, I decided to stop my destructive behavior. Maybe it works for others, but while I could handle and open relationship, I couldn’t handle an open date.

– United States of America, 20s


image from: independent


Thanks to the ever-popular Tinder app, I met a number of guys online. With some, we moved discussions over to WeChat – a platform not stymied by VPN restrictions. We would chat, occasionally meet up, and often that was it. My schedule left a lot to be desired, and made meeting for dates a large commitment on my part. Unless I was particularly interested in our conversation, it was rare I put in the effort.

But I was starting to realize how little I was actually getting out there, with dating or even just engagements with friends. So I started to say, “yes,” to a few dates. To drinks or a quick bite to eat – something to get a better feel for these fellas.

One such man had been quick with the wit and as engaging as anyone can be over WeChat. I was enjoying myself, and figured odds were high that that would translate to an in-person meeting. We picked a subway station, and I took off after work looking forward to a night out.

As it were, it actually took me a moment to find him. Unsurprisingly, it’s common for folks to use vague photos on dating app profiles, leaving the one you’re meeting unaware of what you *actually* look like.

In this case, there was little to no resemblance.

Already off to a poor start, we walked around, making our way through the typical chit-chat. He presented me with a kitschy gift – something he thought I’d like – in the form of a children’s toy. Unsure what to think, I smiled and accepted it, sliding it into my purse. Thrilled, he launched into a story about himself – one of many that evening. Though we didn’t have any plan, it soon became clear he had an idea what we’d be doing. Soon we were inside a bookstore. “You like books, right?”

“Well, yes, of course, but …”

“Yes, I thought so! See how much I already know about you?”

And off he went, directing me to section after section of all those topics he was oh-so-knowledgable about. Art, art history, architecture, Chinese culture – was there anything he didn’t know? Was there any book that his great and glorious mind hadn’t absorbed?

After nearly two hours of this, it was off to a bar nearby, where his friend was hosting her farewell party. I was soon sidled next to a few of his friends, and he was absorbed in a conversation with the other end of the table. I did my best to keep up, but their in-depth discussions on Japanese art and complex photography techniques weren’t easy topics to engage in. So I sipped my drink and listened politely.

“Want to split some food?” my date asked, remembering I was there. “Uh, no I’m OK. I’ll just stick with this drink.” “Well OK. Don’t worry, by the way. Drink’s on me.”

None of my protests and insistence that I pick up my own drink worked, so I finally accepted and thanked him profusely. Another hour passed, and I made my way to the subway. He hugged me goodbye. I told him it was nice to meet him. For me, well, it wasn’t a great evening, but he was nice and had been kind in treating me to a drink. I appreciated it, and went home happy to have given it a go.

Days passed and we didn’t say much. Then suddenly, there was his name. “Long time no chat, pretty lady!” We exchanged the pleasantries, and there it was. The inquiry for a second date, but in a way I’d never been asked before.

“So since I picked up your drink the other night, it looks like you owe me!”

“Uh, yea… lol Thanks again for that.”

“No. Really. You owe me a drink. I’ll be free this weekend, we can meet up and you can get that for me.”

As it turns out, he wasn’t playing a bit. I owed him 35 kuai, and he was calling to collect. A few more messages later – “So, about that drink …” – and my subsequent silence, he abandoned the chase. Seems he didn’t think the money was well spent. Needless to say, it took me a few dates before I’d accept a drink again.

– United States of America, 27


Previous instalments:

Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. [part 1]

Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. [part 2]

A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. [part 3]

Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. [part 4]

These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.

May Thant on gender roles in sex and marriage in contemporary Burma (interview: part 2)

Social taboos restrict essential elements of healthcare. Sex education, contraception, and abortion are not available from official institutions like schools and hospitals. Most families are unable to discuss such things, assuming such knowledge is unnecessary until learnt within a marriage. Young people must teach themselves about sex, turning to simple pamphlets for education and unofficial clinics for healthcare. Misconceptions about contraception and diseases prevail, and young women lie to doctors about medical issues resulting from botched back-street abortions. This is sex and marriage in contemporary Burma (Myanmar) from May Thant’s perspective.

Is sex education available before marriage? 

Yes. Not at school but outside, from medical centres. Some girls don’t know about sex exactly, and some girls read a lot and they know about it. These girls find the information in books we have about it in our language [Burmese], published by medical centres. We can buy them easily, at the bookshop. But most Myanmar girls are too shy to talk about sex.

Do parents talk about sex with their daughters or sons?

Here that would be very strange. That’s like an open type of relationship between parents and their children. But most Myanmar children don’t talk about this with their parents. They would never ask them about it. The thing is [there is no need to learn about sex before marriage because] we will know after we are married.

Is there pressure to get married?

Here, people usually get married under thirty. Some girls over thirty don’t get married, they just live with their parents and they don’t get married. There are women who never get married, who never know about sex, never have children.

They will live with their parents or family until old age.

In other countries, you can live alone when you are over 18. But here, we cannot live alone before we are married. After we are married, it is okay if we live by ourselves. But if we never get married, we have to live with our parents.

It is the same for boys and girls. Right now, I live with my aunt. My parents are in my hometown. If I didn’t have any family in Yangon I would have to live in a hostel, or rent an apartment with friends. Many people rent an apartment with friends, but only if there is no family to stay with.

Rural woman and child in Shan State, Burma (Myanmar), August 2015 © ZhendeGender

What kind of relationships do people have before marriage? 

Right now, the cities have many [young] couples, and many couples have sex before they are married. We are facing a problem because young adults don’t know how to use condoms, so they don’t use [protection] and the girls get pregnant. They [usually] don’t want to have children before they are married.

For example, in our society, if I got pregnant [or had] children before I got married, then I would get shame. How can I say it? I would get shame, and my parents wouldn’t call me their daughter. I would be cut off from everyone, everything, and it could affect my job too. Maybe I would get fired from my job. But most of the girls [in this situation] don’t want to have the baby, so they have an abortion.

Is it easy to get an abortion?

Yes, very easy. You don’t have to go to the hospital for it. In most of the hospitals here, they don’t perform abortions. At the hospital you have to register and things like that. But there are some places you don’t have to register and it is easy to have an abortion. Some [of these] places are not safe for your health.

The places are not like clinics. It is just… how can I say? Just a house, just a nurse doing abortions for money. [They go to] a nurse’s house, with a nurse who is not working anymore – like a retired nurse, or the nurse’s daughter [who] the nurse is teaching how to make an abortion. Something like this. They don’t always know what they’re doing.

But girls get an abortion from [these places] outside, and if it is not good for their health, like there is too much bleeding, and they go to the hospital. The doctors will scold them and ask: “why did you do this?” but they don’t perform abortions [at the hospital].

The patient won’t tell the doctor she had an abortion. The patient will just say, “I have this problem.”

Do women tell anyone if they have an abortion? 

They don’t find out. She doesn’t tell anyone. It can be very dangerous. But mostly, her mother will know. [Young women] are scared of their father, and they talk about everything with their mother. Most girls talk to their mother every day; they talk about everything together. Some mothers help their daughters to have an abortion because it affects your reputation [if people find out about the pregnancy or abortion] and the mother worries that the daughter could be poor if it affects her reputation.

Women can talk about an abortion with their mother, but they won’t talk about sex.

Yes. [laughter]

When do married couples usually have children? 

They don’t have to. [Usually] they don’t want children for one or two years after marriage. After two years, they start to have babies. Some marriages [happen] to have a baby. For example, if a girl had sex with her boyfriend and got pregnant, then her house[hold] know she got pregnant, and they talk to her boyfriend’s house[hold] or mother, like this. They get married so they [can] have the baby after the marriage. About thirty to forty percent of marriages start like this in our country.

[May laughs when I explain the phrase ‘shotgun wedding’.]

Is contraception available for couples who don’t want to have a baby?

Condoms and pills are easy to buy and easy to get. But I think some boys don’t like to use condoms, and some girls won’t take the pills after sex, because they forget or they don’t want to.

Traditionally, the wife’s role is to make the husband’s life easy. Is that true?

Men are taught that women are for sex and cooking and children. Women think they cannot find money for their family, and they obey their husband like a king for finding money to support the family.

Men always want to be higher than their wives or their children. But women are more intelligent than men or boys. Women always treat their husband like a king, and men are proud to be themselves.

For example, my grandmother treated my grandfather like a king. For breakfast, she will ask what time he wants it, and she will make sure it is ready for him when he wants. At lunchtime, it will be ready for him when he asked for it. It is the same for many other things. They make sure everything is ready for the man.

Now, some educated women don’t think like this. They can do anything like a man and it is the same for them as a woman.

Some men will not allow their wives to use contraception because they believe contraceptives have dangerous side effects.

Yes. In our country we don’t have enough knowledge about sex. Here we’re a cultural country. Many religious people don’t know about [contraception]. Some educated people will give them knowledge of sex, but they won’t accept it. They say, “it’s a very personal problem and you don’t need to talk about it in public.” Even now, it is like this.

But times are changing. In a big town like Yangon, Mandalay, and places like this, most teenagers have enough knowledge of sex and they can accept [education]. But in a small place they don’t have enough knowledge of sex. There they look down on people who have HIV and AIDS, and [doctors] will not treat these patients. They don’t have enough knowledge of the disease to know it can be contracted by other’s blood. Most people think it is only about sex, so they look down upon it.

Read on:

May Thant on Facebook trolls, gender inequality and Burma’s first woman President (interview: part 1)

May Thant works as a receptionist at a popular backpacker’s hostel in downtown Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). She spoke to me in February 2016.

Dating in China [Part 4]

Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. Women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.

image from: universia


Back in high school they tell us, “you cannot date anyone, because you have to focus on school.” The moment you get admitted to undergrad they’re like, “clock’s ticking! You have to get married or at least start dating as soon as possible before you become too old.”

During my sophomore year, my parents started to introduce all these random guys to me, saying, “my friend has a son who also studies in Nanjing”, or “my co-worker’s cousin’s nephew is from Nanjing and he’s studying to be a doctor, do you want to meet him?” I kept saying “no thanks,” and “not interested.”

But in the end, I think it was junior year, my parents set me up with a guy who was like 29 years old, and I was only 22. This guy was doing a PhD in Australia and he was also from my town. The thing is, he was 29 but he had never dated anyone. For me, that was a huge signal. But my parents liked that about him. My mom said, “Oh my god, he’s never dated any girl before, that’s really good!” I thought there must be something wrong with him but my mom loved it. He’d been living in Australia for a couple of years, so it just didn’t make any sense to me. I thought maybe he was gay and couldn’t tell anyone.

In high school, and in university, I was always a top student. And typically, Chinese guys like girls who are top students, so a lot of guys would hit on me. But the way they did it! They would just tell others they like me, and tell people to ask me out. Only after graduation would they actually talk to me, telling me how much they liked me. I told them to shut up. This guy was exactly like that.

I went out with him on one blind date and I didn’t dislike him, so we went on two or three more dates and my mom loved him. I teased my mom saying, “why don’t you go marry him?” His whole family liked me too. But the thing is, he was such a mommy’s boy. He would tell every single detail of our date to his mom, even what I said, every single sentence, he would tell his mom.

On my end, whenever my mom asked how the date went, I would only say, “it was fine.” “What did you guys do?” mom asked, “talk” I replied. “What did you talk about?” “I don’t remember,” I told her. But on his end, he told his mom every single thing.

There was another problem. Whenever this guy wanted to ask me out, he could have wechatted me, messaged me, or called me. But he didn’t. He would first tell his mom, who told her sister, who told her cousin, who knows my cousin, who told my aunt, who told my mom, who would tell me. The families are distantly connected, and that’s how he asked me out on a date. This happened twice or three times. I hated it. I hate guys who can’t take the initiative. I stopped seeing him.

After that my aunt kept trying to set me up. I only ever said no. Whenever I said no, she would say, “you’re so picky, and you’re already 25 years old. If you keep saying ‘no’ like that, you will be single forever.” Actually it was not just my aunt; it was my mother, and my grandparents on both sides, and my cousins, my parents’ cousins, even my parents’ friends, and their coworkers, people I barely know. Every time, they would say, “When are you going to start dating? You don’t want to be leftover forever!”

I really hate that phrase, ‘leftover woman’. But I’d rather be single and stay happy.

– People’s Republic of China, 25

A participant introduces herself during the recording of an episode of
image from: HuffPost


When I was studying in Beijing, I planned to spend a few days at Harbin ice festival with a guy I was dating. We weren’t even officially dating, but we didn’t know how to say, ‘we’re just sleeping together’ in Chinese. We went just before Chinese New Year, we were in our early twenties and having fun discovering China one day at a time.

When I told my boss my holiday plans, she told me there were rules: I must not let moonlight touch my skin. I had to wear red underwear on the night of the spring festival. “Do you have red underwear?” she asked. “Do you know where to buy some? Do you need my help?”

Once we’d made it to the northern city of Harbin for the ice festival, wrapped up in thick clothing and prepared for temperatures of -11 °F, we spent time chatting to locals. One day we met a group of local men, who praised our Chinese ability and asked a lot of questions about us. They asked the guy I was dating whether I was his girlfriend. He said “yes”, telling a little white lie in an attempt to avoid further clarification. This led to a bunch more questions: “why aren’t you married? How old are you? When are you getting married? You should get married this year.”

When we finally got a word in edgeways, we said “we’re both 24.” This demanded intervention: “when exactly did we turn 24?” We were both currently 23 and would turn 24 in the coming year. This was our zodiac year, the year of the Yang.

This launched a tirade of angry warnings: “you cannot get married this year!” Suddenly, we found ourselves in dangerous territory: your zodiac year is supposed to be unlucky, and you have to do as much as you can to counter your fate and appease the ancestors. Hence wearing red underwear on the night of spring festival. One man shouted at us: “curse on both your families!” Apparently, if we got married and had a child that year, our family would be cursed.

My date turned to me, taking my mittened hand gently in his own. “If I can make one promise to you this year, it’s that I will ask you to marry me.” Under the circumstances, it was the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to me.

– United States of America, 27

Previous instalments:

Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. [part 1]

Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. [part 2]

A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. [part 3]

Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. [part 5]

These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.

Dating in China [part 3]

A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. Women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.


This guy pressured me into giving him head. He guilt-tripped me for not wanting to until I gave in. At first it was very stressful for me, but I gradually became comfortable with it. The very first time that I actually wanted to go down on him we were interrupted by his friend, who’d come over to play video games. I thought he’d tell his friend to go away so we could finish what we were doing. He didn’t. I was flabbergasted, and super unhappy about it.

image from: chinesepod

I am half Chinese, half American, and my identity was always a huge source of conflict as I was growing up. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, yet it seemed as if I should fit seamlessly into both cultures.

When I started college, I thought to myself ‘now that I’m finally out of that tiny rural (white) town, I really want to befriend more Chinese people and really get in touch with my heritage’. A few months in, I found myself with this Chinese boy who had just arrived in the States. He was my first everything. Everything about physical intimacy was absolutely paralyzingly terrifying. I was half-asleep for the start of my first sexual encounter, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized it was rapey. A decent guy would have waited until I could handle being fully conscious for it.

He was incredibly selfish in so many ways. He totally ruined Chinese men and dating for me. I began to avoid any sort of intimacy like the plague. I wanted to have a positive sexual experience, but I just wasn’t able to handle dating.

Fast forwarding a few years, I was working in China. When a bunch of my Beijing friends were leaving China, a few of my guy friends bequeathed me with a Tantan (Chinese Tinder) profile as a parting gift. It’s such a hoot!

Tantan was my first foray into this mythical land of online dating. I was very apprehensive because it has such a reputation. But long story short, I found that all the creepers were surprisingly easy to weed out. Most of the guys I ended up meeting were actually pretty decent and laid back.

I eventually met a Chilean. Our first date was a 12-hour trip hiking on the Great Wall. He turned out to be super laid back and straightforward about everything in the sweetest, most charming way, which has really helped to soothe a lot of my frazzled nerves. Of all the things that could help, I never thought it would be Tantan, the Chinese Tinder.

– United States of America, 27

image from: global times


I haven’t been dating for a while because I was in a relationship that ended recently. Then one night I met this guy who was super sweet and really fun. We had a lot of fun going from one bar to another and I ended up at his place. I never do that usually. Everything was really nice. But when he fell asleep, I realised he has some kind of breathing problem. It meant that I couldn’t sleep at all, but he could sleep. At some point in the night, I woke up because he was holding me. He was almost choking me. He must have been dreaming about something really intense. I woke up in the morning and I asked, “are you okay?” and he told me “oh, yeah, I have sleep apnea, it’s fine.” We went for breakfast together and then we didn’t talk for a couple of days.

I don’t know what dating is like, so I didn’t think it was weird when I didn’t hear from him for a while. A few days later, he sent me a message asking me out. So we had another date, and it was really nice, we had good conversation, I had a good feeling about him so I was like ‘let’s do this.’ We watched a movie, went to his place again, but then, the same thing, sleep apnea!

I couldn’t sleep, and he could. He woke up in the morning in a really bad mood, swearing, so I decided to leave. I thought ‘I don’t understand what he wants,’ so I just went home. I had to go out of town that day for a workshop and I was so tired that I missed two of my trains!

I thought to myself, ‘damn it, I shouldn’t be not sleeping with that guy. F**k that. I won’t see him again.’

Then he called me at midnight on a weekday, super drunk, and I thought he was joking because who would call someone at midnight? Who would do that? I realised that he was just really drunk when he asked,“what are you doing now?” I told him:“I’m in my bed and I am going to stay in my bed, and that’s going to be it.”

On Friday he called me and asked what I was doing that night. I told him I had plans to see a show and he said: “why didn’t you tell me about the show before?” I was thinking, ‘who are you? I don’t owe you anything!’ I didn’t understand this guy, but he was probably drunk or whatever. I didn’t want to attack him, I’m really into non-violent communication, so whenever there’s something, I just do my own thing. So I told him my plans for the next day.

As planned, I went to a bar to hang out, and he showed up so completely wasted that he couldn’t speak! He was so drunk! He didn’t even realise that he was drunk, so he kind of mumbled at me trying to be cool. I felt super bad, because he was trying to hit on me but it doesn’t work like that. I just said, “I’m tired” and left. He texted me an hour later saying “I’m hungry, you wanna eat?” I didn’t reply to him.

He sent me a message the next day, and I felt momentarily hopeful for his self-reflection skills, but no. He was just like “I felt a bit uncomfortable at that event because I arrived too late.” He didn’t even realise his mistake.

– North America, 30

To go with AFP story by Dan Martin: LIFE
image from: thenextweb


I was thinking: ‘this is crazy, I have never heard of anything like this’. I told my friends what had just happened and one friend was like, “that’s crazy.” Another said, “I don’t know, that’s a lot of money, maybe you should do it.” I couldn’t decide whether this was the most insulting thing ever or just sketchy.

I was bartending an event, and there was a guy there who was very well dressed and quite good-looking. Whenever he got a drink he would come flirt with me and hit on me a little bit.

Towards the end of the night, sometime after 2am, he came over and asked if I would like to go on a date with him, and asked for my wechat. I agreed, thinking that he seemed very nice.

About twenty minutes later, I was talking with some friends and cleaning up the bar. He came back over to me and said, “I have a room in this hotel and I’d really like it if you came upstairs with me.” I told him I did not want to do that, saying “I’m going to go home once I finish up at the bar.” I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.

He replied, “I’m really, really interested in you, you seem like a beautiful person”, and kept saying all these very flattering things. He was the owner of a very well established restaurant chain and a very well dressed, good-looking guy, so I was a little bit confused why he was so persistent with me. I said, “I’m not like that, I’m not trying to go up to your room, I don’t really know you.” So he said, “I’ll make it worth your while. How about I give you 30,000 rmb?”

I said: “I’m not a prostitute and that’s completely insulting.”

He told me, “no, it’s just that I really want to spend time with you and money is no obstacle. So how about 35,000?”

At this point I was completely flabbergasted, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I excused myself and went to find my friends who were cleaning up in the lobby. I told them what had just happened and my friend was like, “that’s crazy.” Another friend was like, “I don’t know, that’s a lot of money, maybe you should do it.”

I was like, ‘oh my gosh this is crazy, I have never heard of anything like this. I don’t know if this is the most insulting thing ever or just sketchy.’

As he walked toward the elevator, which is right by the lobby, he grabbed me by the wrist and pushed me into an alcove. He shoved me against the elevator and started making out with me. I pushed him off me and said, “you’re being really forward, I don’t understand why a good-looking guy like you is being so pushy.”

He replied: “I just wanna get what I want.”

So he got into the elevator and said, “come up to my room,” and I said “no, I’m not going to do that.” Again, he said, “come up to my room,” and he grabbed my hand and tried to get me to go with him. I said, “no, no, no, I’m going to go home,” so he told me which room he was in and left.

I went with my friends and went home, and I felt completely stunned by this whole situation. But then I was stunned because my friends had all these different opinions about what I should have done. Not everybody agreed that I did the right thing, because I could’ve made a lot of money.

So I was left questioning my decision, and he kept texting me throughout the night and I just kept ignoring him. It was one of those situations where you wonder: ‘Is this because of me? Or is this because of him?’

You know what? I’m worth way more than 35,000* so he can suck it!

– United States of America, 28 

*35,000 rmb is about £4,000 or $5,000

Other instalments:

Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. [part 1]

Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. [part 2]

Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. [part 4]

Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. [part 5]

These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.

Dating in China [part 2]

Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. Women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.


I met an Asian American guy on Tinder, and he said he wanted to take me to a comedy show. I agreed, even though he hadn’t answered my question about whether or not we’d have to join in. I arrived at our meeting place on time; he didn’t look up from the espresso he was sketching until I was close enough to see it over his shoulder. He wasn’t as charismatic in person as on Tinder, and he was shorter than I’d expected. He was an amateur magician with a nervous habit of shuffling cards. He appeared to have three packs of cards in different pockets.

We talked over beers at a hutong bar, in an area I wasn’t very familiar with, and he kept reaching across the table to hold my hand. My reaction to this was to gesture wildly, which kept him at bay without saying ‘no’ outright. He kept fishing for compliments that I wasn’t willing to give him.

We’d been at the comedy club about ten minutes, which was just enough time for him to chug a bottle of beer, when his name was called and he walked up onto the stage. The room went silent and I realised people knew him. He was a regular, and not a popular one.

“Is anyone else here on a Tinder date?”

Deathly silence.

“If you guys pretend I’m funny, maybe I’ll get laid tonight.”

Deathly silence.

I wish I had walked out, but I was frozen to the spot. If I’d left, and even one person had noticed, I’d have got more laughs than he did for his entire set.

– United Kingdom, 26


image from: thenanfang


I’m from the most conservative family you can ever imagine. They still have a curfew for me, and I’m 25. Whenever I go back home, they give me all these rules!

There are so many things my parents don’t want me to do, but they definitely want me to marry a Chinese guy, preferably from my town. They have ten or twenty different requirements like: ‘he must be smarter than you, have a better education, his salary must be this much, and he should be from a teacher’s family or doctor’s family, he shouldn’t be too rich but shouldn’t be too poor, and it is better he is one or two years older, he cannot be younger than you’. There’s like one hundred requirements.

So when I told them that I’d been seeing a French guy, who is two years younger than me, they were so angry.

Before I went to study in the states, my mother gave me rules to follow. First: “you can’t go partying with Americans”. Second: “you can never find an American boyfriend”. Third: “you have to return to China right after graduation”. I didn’t obey any of these. Well, I didn’t find an American boyfriend, I found a French boy.

I actually lied to my parents. Even today, they still don’t know the details. I met my boyfriend in April last year and we started dating in May. Of the nine months we were together, I think we were both in Houston for less than six months. I didn’t tell my parents about him until after he moved home to Paris because I knew if they knew we were living in the same city, they would think that we were… you know. Which is not allowed because, you know, no premarital sex.

They were super angry when they found out and stopped talking to me. My dad was like “shut up, I don’t want to know,” and didn’t talk to me for three months. My mom cried and she got sick. She told me, “sometimes when I think about your boyfriend with blond hair and grey eyes it makes me think of an alien or a wolf.” I was like, “come on mom, he’s a human being, a real person just like me, like you! He’s super nice and smart and good.” My mom said, “no, but he is not Chinese.”

My parents would never even consider meeting him. My mom asked me not to tell her about him. She told me to “go break up with him,” when we made it long distance. We broke up about a month after I moved to Beijing because he was in Paris and we didn’t plan on a future together. We broke up in a peaceful way; we stayed friends. That was back in January. I didn’t tell my parents we had broken up because I knew that they’d be so happy about it, and start setting me up on dates with Chinese guys as they had done before.

I told my parents about two or three weeks ago and they were like “yes, finally!” My mom was so happy she bought me three dresses. That’s why I didn’t tell her back in January, when I was heartbroken.

– People’s Republic of China, 25


Other instalments:

Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. [part 1]

A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. [part 3]

Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. [part 4]

Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. [part 5]

These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.

Marriage Market Takeover: SK-II’s brand of ’empowertising’

Japanese beauty brand SK-II’s video, “Marriage Market Takeover”, was released in April this year and went viral. The video follows a number of single Chinese women who have reached or surpassed the age at which they are expected to get married, and must bear the brunt of social stigma about unmarried women.

image from: youtube

The video sheds light on a major social issue; that of the Sheng Nu or ‘leftover woman’. Interviews with these women and their parents highlight the criticism and pressure faced by unmarried young women across China. SK-II created an exhibition of these women’s profiles near the regular Marriage Market in Shanghai’s People’s Square, clearly stating that marital status does not define them. Later we see their parents’ reactions to this display, in a deliberately public attempt by SK-II to bridge the generational gap:

Find out what these women courageously say to reconstruct the mutual respect between generations and increase society’s understanding to finally change their destiny in the film.

At a time when feminism is growing in China and yet the movement remains largely underground, the need for women’s empowerment is routinely ignored in China. As stated by one of these women: ‘not getting married is like the biggest sign of disrespect’ to her parents, and society as a whole. The film taps into that need directly. It now has over 2 million views on Youtube and almost 3 million on Youku (the Chinese alternative to Youtube, which is not accessible in China) and became a major talking point on social media across the country in the Spring.

Reading this in China? Watch SK-II’s Marriage Market Takeover on youku.

The short film really seems to be pushing for personal change for the featured women, and social change for China in general. What isn’t fully clear from this short, emotive, and quite informative, film is that it is, in reality, an advertisement. In some ways this seems subtle: the company aren’t selling a product, just enhancing the brand. However, this is a major contemporary marketing technique: sell the story and the ideology, then the product will sell itself. You just have to find their mission statement to see how this double-sell works:

We at SK-II believe that your destiny isn’t set at birth – it’s defined by the decisions you make, the chances you take, and whether or not you follow your dreams.

We also believe that everyone can have beautiful, crystal clear skin, and that feeling beautiful gives you the confidence to challenge the “little dictators” that hold you back.

The prestige beauty brand are using the tagline ‘change your destiny’ to sell beauty products. SK-II are using women’s empowerment as a marketing tool. They took advantage of a group of women trapped by their social situation in order to increase the visibility of their brand, which was an incredibly successful marketing ploy. As feminist author Andi Zeisler states: ‘modern feminism was co-opted by the market almost as soon as it was born.’

Almost since the suffrage movement began, years before the invention and advertisement of a ‘ladies cigarettes’ in the USA, companies have been using the language of empowerment to sell products. There is a ‘history of drawing on feminist language and theory to sell products […] driven by the idea that female consumers are empowered by their personal consumer choices’ (Ziesler).

More recent – and perhaps more obvious – examples of feminist ideals being used to advertise products include the Always “Like a Girl” campaign, which was dubbed a ‘social experiment’ all in the name of empowering women through feminine hygiene products.

Another is FCKH8’s controversial video entitled ‘Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism’, which was designed to offend a huge demographic and sell everyone else a T-shirt, while possibly exploiting child actors.

The language of empowerment is ever more prevalent in advertisements aimed at women. But it is not the chosen product, but the choice itself that matters in this particular brand of “empowertising” as Ziesler calls it. Looking over the history of advertising for women’s products, the company will normally target their female audience in one of two ways:

  1. make women feel bad about themselves, then offer a product that will solve the problem created by the advertisement, and explain exactly how it will improve life;
  2. make women believe that buying or using the product will make a difference to the lives of others, or to the women’s empowerment movement in general.

It seems to me that SK-II’s brand of ’empowertising’ does both of these things at once. However in an age of ‘marketplace feminism’, where a lot of brands are doing this, perhaps the Japanese brand is doing something subtly different, offering a little more. They are a company, not a non-profit. Their aim is to make money, not put the world to rights. So, while they are using empowerment as an advertising tool, as a friend put it: “at least they’re advocating these ideas.” In other words, at least their advertisements empower women, rather than diminish women.

What is truly striking about this short film is that these are real women (and their real parents) sharing the truth about their real lives. While other brands are using actors and shooting in studios, this genuinely occurs in the outside world and – we are led to believe – actually has an affect on the women featured in the film. If all beauty advertisements created positive social change in even a handful of women’s lives, the industry would be a different place.

Read on:

Empowertise me! an excerpt from Andi Zeisler’s book We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl©, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

Dating in China [part 1]

Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. These women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.


I was dating this guy from the States for a month or so, and long story short, he ditched me out of his fear of commitment. One year later I found out that about ten months after breaking up with me, he got married to a Chinese girl. Apparently she’d tried to commit suicide, so he “had” to marry her. The best part is that only two months into their marriage, when I heard this story from common friends, they were in the process of getting a divorce. I’m not sure why, but she attacked him and went to the police, said it was in self-defense, I think he spent a few days in jail. I don’t know what happened afterwards.

– Spain, 32

image from: Vanity Fair


This was my very first Tinder date. I was expecting to go out with a 26-year-old guy, who had said he was outdoorsy, was a teacher in Beijing, and seemed very fun loving. His pictures were not the best pictures on Tinder; I couldn’t see him very well in some of them. But I thought I had a general idea of what he looked like. He looked, you know, cute enough. So our plan was to meet at the subway and walk over to get some food in the hutongs.

I arrived at the subway and couldn’t find him anywhere, I couldn’t see him, so I sent him a message. He replied right away, with, “I think I see you, I’m coming up behind you.” I turned around and I looked and I looked, and didn’t see anyone who looked at all close to what I thought. All of a sudden this guy is right there, he’s waving at me and he’s like, “Hi, it’s me.”

I was completely caught off guard because this guy was about ten or eleven years older than his profile said he was. I was very shocked by his appearance. I mean if he had told me that he was older, that would be one thing. But I was very caught off guard and kind of had to calm myself down to be polite, and we ended up walking over to dinner. Just the entire time I felt like, “wow, the very first thing that I see is that you’ve lied to me about your age very, very blatantly.” Ten plus years is a pretty significant gap.

The other thing was that he was significantly shorter than I was. Which for me… I’m a tall person, I’ve always been tall and I’ve just kind of embraced it. I don’t want my height to at all take away from the fact that there could be a great person out there who is a different size than me. That doesn’t discount them or make them unworthy of conversation or a date in my mind. I’ll really go on a date with a lot of people.

Beijing’s hutongs © ZhendeGender

It was my first time on a Tinder date, and I was just like, okay you know, he’s just a person and I’ll have dinner with him and that will be it. He insisted that I walk back with him, and I said “oh, you know, after dinner I think am going to go home, I’m pretty tired.” He said, “no, no, come for another drink with me”, and I was like, “oh, you know, I think I’m going to go,” so he insisted on walking with me.

But he kept commenting about it, and how awkward I must feel that he was so short in comparison to me. I felt that he was putting words in my mouth. I didn’t like that, so I said, “well if you feel uncomfortable that’s up to you, but I don’t feel uncomfortable. I’m going to feel the way that I feel.” But he kept poking and prodding about the fact that I was really tall and he was so insignificant in comparison to me and that I would crush him. It just made me feel really self-conscious and really bad, and he just kind of continued to do this throughout the night.

At that point, I was like, you know what? I should just ask him: “why did you lie about your age on Tinder? Why didn’t you say how old you were?” He said “oh, I didn’t lie.” I said, “well, yeah, you did.” He’d blatantly lied. All of a sudden he just started yelling at me, and he was like: ”Who do you think you are saying that I lied to you? That’s a bunch of ridiculousness and it’s just horrible. I can’t believe you would say that!” He just kept yelling so I just kept walking and I walked home.

That was such a horrible event. Not a nice person, did not say anything nice, didn’t try to get to know me at all, just put words in my mouth, said really rude things. I wasn’t really having it. I thought: if I go on another Tinder date, I really need to vet better before I do.

-United States of America, 28

image from: pinterest


A couple of years ago I dated a Chinese guy for a few months. I met him on a dating app, which he told me he used specifically to find foreign girls. He frequently made comments about how he preferred Western girls because they were more “open” and he thought Chinese girls were too conservative and traditional. All of his exes were also Westerners.

We’d started sleeping together and had been going on more and more dates. One night my boyfriend invited me over to his place saying he wanted to introduce me to a friend of his. I went, thinking this was an indication that things were getting more serious between us, because I hadn’t met any of his friends or family before. When I arrived, I noticed that there were several unopened bottles of liquor on the table, which was strange because I had never seen my boyfriend drink anything more than a can of beer with dinner.

He introduced me to his friend, and immediately they asked if I wanted to take a shot. We had a few drinks before my boyfriend held up his phone dramatically, saying he had to leave immediately because a friend of his was sick and needed his help going to the hospital. I stood up to leave but he insisted we should both stay without him as long as we wanted, and told us to have fun.

After he left, his friend started plying me with whiskey, asking about my past sexual experiences and what I thought about Chinese boys. When I wouldn’t drink more he asked me what was my favourite kind of alcohol then said he was going to go downstairs to buy it. It was getting uncomfortable so I left, and he escorted me to the door with a disappointed look. “I really hoped you would spend the night with me,” he said, and I laughed awkwardly and hurried away.

The next day my boyfriend texted me as if nothing was wrong. I ignored him. Several days later he asked me if I was angry at him for some reason.

“Did you make up an excuse to leave me with your friend last weekend so we would sleep together?” I texted him.

“Yeah he saw ur picture and thought u were cute and asked me to help him spend the night with u,” my boyfriend replied.

I told him: “I’m not a prostitute you can share with your friends.”

“I’m sorry u feel that way,” he replied. “That’s not what I meant at all. I thought western girls were open about this kind of thing. Didn’t u like him?”

I didn’t dignify that with a response. He tried again, messaging me a few more times before finally to ask me if I had any pretty friends to set him up with. After that I blocked him.

-United States of America, 23

Further instalments:

Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. [part 2]

A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. [part 3]

Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. [part 4]

Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. [part 5]

These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.