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Two Gay Men Seeking Two Lesbians: An Analysis of Xinghun (Formality Marriage) Ads on China’s Tianya.cn

Abstract

China has an estimated 30 million gay population, many of whom marry unknowing heterosexual partners due to family and societal pressure. Some pursue an alternative by entering Xinghun, also known as formality marriage or fake marriage, between a gay man and a lesbian. Such relationships are asexual and formulated solely for familial, social, and reproductive purposes. Analyzing 150 Xinghun ads posted on Tianya.cn, this is an exploratory study of an unique relationship behavior, to shed light on the lived experiences of this traditionally voiceless minority group. The qualitative theme analysis found that the ads emphasized some traits that are consistent with traditional Chinese values such as filial piety, compatibility, and traditional gender roles. The ads also showed the advertisers negotiating ways for their private sexual identity and public social identity to coexist. On the one hand, clarity in one’s sexual orientation and the commitment to one’s same-sex relationship was offered and sought after as a desirable trait; on the other hand, the advertisers emphasized that they did not live the stereotypical gay lifestyle and that they were private about their sexual preference. The ads illustrate the existence of a subculture of Chinese gays and lesbians, trying to cope with heteronormative social and cultural expectations, and to negotiate between the public and the private, between sexual activities and sexual identity, and between “playing gay” and “being gay.” Future research directions are discussed.

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Correspondence to Min Liu.

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Liu, M. Two Gay Men Seeking Two Lesbians: An Analysis of Xinghun (Formality Marriage) Ads on China’s Tianya.cn. Sexuality & Culture 17, 494–511 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-012-9164-z

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Keywords

  • Sexuality
  • China
  • Tianya.cn
  • Formality marriage
  • Sexual activities vs. sexual identity