The predicament of bare branches' sexuality.

Author:Jiang, Quanbao


China's strong preferences for boys and low social status of a woman have led to discrimination against girls, gender imbalance and relative shortage of females. Currently and in the future, there are and will be a large number of males unable to find a spouse. They are forced to be single and become "guanggun", or literately bare branches. The definition of bare branch refers to a male in a countryside area who is not married or remains single involuntarily. They have neither set up their own family nor have any offspring like a bare branch, creating a dismal impression of loneliness. Though bare branches have been a problem in China, research shows that from 2010, the number and proportion of males in China will increase much more quickly (Jiang et al., 2011). China will experience serious male marriage pressures, the phenomenon of which will start from 2010. The number of excess males will continue to rise within a certain period. The excess population of 20 to 49 year olds will exceed 20 million in 2015, 30 million in 2025, 40 million in 2035 and 44 million in approximately 2040. Between 2020 and 2050, about 15% of males will not be able to find a spouse (Chen, 2004). In China, it is traditional for females to change their fate through marriages. Generally speaking, they tend to choose a man with a higher social status than themselves for marriage. The majority of males who fail to get married belong to the lowest class in the social ladder. The lowest social stratum in China will have a bare branch class of approximately 40 to 50 million people.

Presently, the gender imbalance and relative shortage of females, due to women getting married and leaving areas where they live, causes the population of unmarried males to be usually concentrated in the countryside, especially in poverty stricken rural areas. A pattern is emerging, in which the phenomenon of bare branches being located in scattered areas is being replaced by them being found in concentrated areas. Many bare branch villages have now appeared. Those villages with relatively more bare branches tend to be poorer and have a lower per capita income with harsher economic and living conditions. The environment is such that it cannot provide powerful economic support for youth marriages. The heavy concentration of a very sizable number of bare branches has caused problems in people finding partners and getting married. This also leads to sexual deprivation. As sexual desire is a basic human drive a person will seek other means to satisfy such a desire if it is not met. In Chinese contexts, though there are many means of sexual outlets, marriage is still the dominant and generally acceptable way for satisfying one's sexual desire (Jiang and Li, 2009). With an increase in excess males, there is increasing competition for those seeking marriages, which results in an increase of marriages such as child bride, mercenary marriage, marriage by exchange, or even levirate marriage, a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother. Furthermore, extramarital activities, such as adultery and prostitution, have also arisen. What is striking is that a market for rural prostitution has appeared. All this has accelerated the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which also seems to provide a reason for the existence and legalization of the sex industry.

Although the impact which excess males have on social and economic development has drawn some attention (Hudson and den Boer, 2004; Edlund et al., 2007; Ebenstein and Sharygin, 2009; Das Gupta et al., 2010; Wei and Zhang, 2011), not enough research into the effect they have on sexually transmitted diseases and on the sex industry has been carried out. This article studies sexual channels for bare branches and their impact on sexually transmitted diseases and the sex industry. The article is divided into four parts. It begins by analysing overall characteristics associated with bare branches, which include traits relating to sexual poverty followed by an introduction of sexual channels for bare branches. These include various types of active marriage efforts, masturbation, homosexual activities and prostitution. The article then examines the impact bare branches have on sexually transmitted diseases in the country and analyses their effects on China's sex industry before presenting a discussion and conclusions.

Traits of bare branches

In rural areas, the bare branch problem, by and large, accompanies poverty, economic instability and low social status.

In China's 2010 census, amongst the male population with no education (illiteracy), 49.42 % for the age group 30 to 34, 43.58% for the 35-39 age group, 39.00% for the 40-44 age group, and 35.67 % for the 45-49 age group remained single, whereas for people with high school education, the percentages are 12.12 percent, 4.90 percent, 2.44 percent and 1.41 percent for corresponding age groups respectively (PCO, 2012). A survey into single men conducted in 2008 in the countryside in Anhui province discovered that 9.6% of unmarried males were illiterates. However, such a percentage deceased to only 1.2% amongst married men (Zhang, 2012). In China's highly competitive marriage market, those who with little education, and thus usually at the bottom of social strata, are at disadvantage to get married (Jiang and Sanchez-Barricarte, 2012)

A research carried out in 2004 in Shanxi and Jilin provinces found that interviewed bare branches, who have lost the hope to get married, rarely did any work and enjoyed drinking and fishing all day long (Mo, 2005). The data from the research carried out in Anhui province in 2008 shows that the proportion of single men who are migrant workers is far less than married men. At present, most of the income in rural areas comes from migrant workers. As such, it is very easy for them to fall into poverty. They become the new poverty class. As a result of their own poverty and weak status, single men are unable to get married. In addition, once they join the ranks of bare branches, due to a lack of female care in their lives, they become psychologically depressed and suffer from prejudices of other people. They do not have much savings. The result of all this is that single men lack personal goals or pursuits. Even if they are engaged in production work, their only goal is to keep their body and soul together. Very often, they fall into a vicious cycle of being poor, being single and being poorer (Jiang and Sachez-Barricarte, 2012).

With regard to physical health, a study of single men carried out in 2007 in Henan province indicated that 20% of bare branches were either physically or mentally disabled. Furthermore, approximately 20% of them have various kinds of chronic diseases (Wei et al., 2008). It is expected that being disabled may increase the probability of failing to get married, and without an event history, we can not tell the causality between being unhealthy and being unmarried, but an analysis into marriage and health situations of rural males over the age of 30 years old shows that unmarried groups have markedly poorer health than married groups (Das Gupta et al., 2010).

Problems caused by trying to get married mean that bare branches usually have psychological gaps and are influenced by psychological suggestions. A study of bare branches carried out in 2008 in Anhui province shows that single men, on the one hand, are faced with different kinds of pressure. Firstly, they are unable to enjoy a normal married family life, though they long for it. Secondly, attention and efforts given by parents with regard to their children's marriage problems impose heavy psychological burden on bare branches. Finally, unintentional or intentional laughter, inappropriate comments and behaviour, or even compassion by others in the community can make them feel deeply hurt, discriminated or excluded (Wei et al., 2008). On the other hand, a lack of family warmth and comfort from the most...

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