Chinese women seek boyfriends for hire
Societal and parental pressures on China's single women over the long holiday make companion rentals a big business.
With Chinese Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day so close on the calendar this year, ABC News is reporting that Chinese shopping site Taobao has seen an 884% spike in searches for the Chinese characters that translate to "rent-a-boyfriend."
The search results list payment plans that start at $8 an hour for a night at the movies, $16 if it's a horror movie and a sliding scale of fees for basic conversation, dinner parties, a night out for drinks or meeting the parents.
The Chinese aren't alone in the friend rental business, as such U.S. websites as RentAFriend.com lend out companions for sporting events, movies, city tours and even prom dates for a fee. The stakes are a bit higher in China, however, as ABC News notes the parental and societal pressure on women to find a companion and get married is much more intense than it is in the U.S. overall.
The state media refers to women over age 27 as "leftover" women. China's arbitrary societal cutoff for marriage at age 26 recalls the disparaging Japanese term for single women of that age and older: Christmas cake, an item nobody wants after Dec. 25. With single Chinese women heading home for weeks at a time to mark the New Year, the idea of having someone around to get the parents off their back is driving an entire industry.
One rent-a-boyfriend site cited by ABC charges $1.45 a day for wake-up calls and tacks on the cost of "boyfriend" mobile minutes as an extra charge. Want someone to go shopping with you in your hometown? That's $6.42 an hour. The cost of a party pal or drinking partner varies by the length of the party and what you're drinking, but an all-inclusive package goes for $128 a day. Handshakes, hugs and goodbye kisses on the cheeks or forehead are free.
If this seems a little too “Midnight Cowboy” for comfort, just know there are some big paperwork differences between boyfriend services and the escort industry. For one, there are "no sex" clauses in the contract that entitle customers to a full refund if there are unwelcome advances and result in jail time for a handsy boyfriend-for-hire once the cops get involved. If it works out, however, the matchmaking fee can get far more costly than a few dinners with mom and dad.
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