Keeping their motors running

Updated: 2013-12-31 09:54

By Yang Wanli (China Daily)

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High sex drive

On average, Chinese people have sex nine times a month, the highest frequency rate among nine countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2013 Asia-Pacific Sexual Behaviors and Satisfaction Survey published in May. Conducted by Kantar Health and commissioned by the pharmaceutical company Menarini, more than 3,500 men and women were surveyed across nine countries, including Australia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

The survey indicated that three in four people in the region desired sex more frequently and at 84 percent, the urge was higher among males than females, at 69 percent. However, the figure for Chinese women, 96 percent, was far higher than the regional averages for either men or women.

Statistics from Maple Women's Psychological Consulting Center in Beijing show that the number of calls asking for advice on sexual problems was 497 in the January to November period, a rise from the 299 calls the center received in 1996.

Na Lixin, director of the hotline department, said that most calls involve questions such as: "Why does my husband have affairs?" or "I've fallen in love with another man, what shall I do?"

"Many clients who approach me with those kinds of questions have poor sex lives with their spouses," said Ma. "To be frank, around 60 percent of Chinese couples who divorce blame the separation on 'character conflict', but what they really have is 'sexual conflict'."

Fading pleasure

Chen Song, 52, has been bothered by his wife's dour attitude toward sex for decades. "She sticks to one position - missionary - which satisfied me when I was in my 20s and new to sex, but in the 30 years we've been together she's refused to change or experiment. The pleasure has gradually faded. Now, we only have sex once a month, sometimes less," he said.

Chen said his wife's attitude is typical of Chinese women that she feels ashamed to be open and aggressive in sexual matters, Additionally, after having a baby - the most important life task for many Chinese women - her interest in sex waned dramatically.

While awareness of the importance of a good sex life is growing among many well-educated, financially independent women, there are still plenty who regard it as a matter of "opening their legs and delivering a boy", according to Ma.

In May, Tong Songzhen, a sex therapist from Taiwan, was invited to run a sexual therapy center at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province. In Tong's experience, many Chinese women are reluctant to discuss sexual matters unless circumstances force them to confront the issue.

"Women are unlikely to turn to sex therapy unless their poor sex life has resulted in other problems," she said.

Most of Tong's patients complained about functional problems, such as premature ejaculation or vaginismus, a condition that affects the ability to engage in vaginal penetration, and sought her advice because the problems had resulted in what they believed to be infertility.

"But nearly 90 percent were not physically ill; their problems were psychological," she said. "Many women feel too ashamed to learn about sex from the elder generation and there's also a lack of communication between couples," she said. "Most of those couples see sex as a 'mechanical movement', rather than a skilled, joyful experience."

Both Tong and Ma have counseled couples that had never had successful intercourse, sometimes even five or six years into their marriages. Some didn't know the basic mechanics of the act, while others had psychological blocks.

Tong once asked a woman who had been married for five years but had never had sexual intercourse to touch her husband's genitals. "Can you imagine? She threw up," she said. In Tong's experience, couples in Taiwan turn to sex therapists or consultants as a last resort before filing for divorce, "but many couples on the Chinese mainland ask doctors to solve sexual problems that have already eaten away at the emotional bond between them", she said.