The Global Times ran a piece recently about how Chinese officials have expressed concerned for the rural wives of migrant workers. That’s Magazine, a popular group of English magazines ran a crass piece regurgitating the original article with the title “Official Concerned that Rural Women Aren’t Getting Laid Enough.” I’m not going to link it because they don’t deserve the hits, but I’m bringing it up because it is hugely worrisome that anyone would belittle such a serious issue. Rural left-behind women in China are a problem for women, children, families, and men, and it isn’t a laughing matter. When real problems are so easily dismissed as a funny joke, people are less likely to get help. Hopefully the Chinese government won’t find this problem so hilarious and will listen to the officials who are bringing up legitimate concerns.
In China, people are expected to give up everything they have for their jobs. As much as Chinese people like to claim that family is the most important thing in a person’s life, that really isn’t true for people who have jobs. People (traditionally men, but an increasing number of women) are expected to work long hours, overtime, holidays, and weekends for their companies. And many, millions of people, are expected to move to a new city at the drop of a hat and leave their spouses, children, and parents behind if the company tells them to. Many wives will go 11 months a year without seeing their husbands and children without seeing their father. This is not just a problem because it causes a sexual “dry spell.” Married people need to be together. Togetherness is what creates a strong bond. And, of course, children need their parents. Also, in a country with a one-child policy, as parents get older, they need their child to help them. The entire family structure is at risk when one member of the family is forced to stay away for long periods.
There are as many as 50 million wives left behind in the countryside when their husbands go off to work (while more women are entering the workforce, they aren’t going to usually leave husbands and children behind; that simply wouldn’t be culturally acceptable). There are many reasons why this is a bad thing. The women are left with an entire household to take care of. She must raise the children, care for and manage the house, most likely work outside the home herself, and care for all four parents. She has to do all of this without her life partner by her side. This leads to much depression and loneliness. It also strains the marriage as the partners can grow apart. It does mean no sex for the women (as an extramarital affairs could ruin a woman’s life) which can cause more stress. After all, sex is a part of a healthy relationship. But the scary part is that it doesn’t mean a period of no sex for the man. It is generally accepted in China that most men have mistresses or visit prostitutes on a regular basis. This can cause even more stress for the women back home, making them distrustful of their partners, and could expose them to STDs.
What is even more frightening, though, are the dangers women in the countryside face when living alone. People can take advantage of the women, abusing them and extorting them, and even raping them. Rape is still seen as something to be ashamed of in China and few women who are raped report the crime.
So, sorry that I don’t find your article funny That’s, but this issue isn’t about “getting laid,” it’s about protecting women and children and building healthy family units.