Should Chinese women have multiple husbands?

Society & Culture

Yew-Kwang Ng 黄有光, a Malaysian economist who currently serves as a professor of economics at Fudan University in Shanghai, has attracted a great deal of ire on Chinese social media after publishing an article in which he suggested China legalize and promote polyandry — allowing women to marry multiple men — in a bid to solve the country’s surplus of bachelors.

Yew-Kwang Ng 黄有光, a Malaysian economist who currently serves as a professor of economics at Fudan University in Shanghai, has attracted a great deal of ire on Chinese social media after publishing an article in which he suggested China legalize and promote polyandry — allowing women to marry multiple men — in a bid to solve the country’s surplus of bachelors.

The controversial article (in Chinese) was published on June 2 by NetEase Finance, a website dedicated to business news. Titled “Is polyandry really a ridiculous idea?” the piece is part of a weekly column written by Huang, where he writes about “all matters related to happiness,” including “factors that contribute to happiness” and “the relationship between money and joy.”

In the latest installment of the series, Huang first said that in China, where the sex ratio was 117 men to 100 women, the severe gender imbalance has caused a fierece competition among males looking for wives, leaving millions of bachelors struggling to “have their psychological and physical needs satisfied.”

Huang then provided two possible solutions to what he considered as a “serious problem” for the country: decriminalizing sex work and allowing women to have several husbands.

According to Huang, “building brothels for men to visit” was a short-term fix for men with “urgent needs,” but paying for sex was not a sustainable choice for those living on a tight budget. Moreover, Huang said that the benefits that come with having a wife go beyond sex. “They also serve other purposes such as being life partners, producing offspring, and raising children,” he wrote.

Huang went on to say that in order to solve the problem in the long run, polyandrous marriages should be taken into consideration. “Polyandry has a long history and a scope of application. The practice also exists in modern times,” Huang wrote, citing an example of Tibet, where polyandry became illegal after China’s annexation in 1950.

“I’m not denying the advantages of monogamy here, such as how exclusive long-term relationships can benefit kids’ growth and education,” Huang wrote. “But given China’s skewed sex ratio, it’s necessary to consider allowing polyandry legally.”

To bolster his argument, Huang said that from a biological perspective, women are more capable of fulfilling multiple men’s sexual desire than the other way around. “It’s common for prostitutes to serve more than 10 clients in a day,” Huang wrote. Meanwhile, when it comes to other aspects of life, Huang argued that it’s reasonable for women to do chores for several households for the sake of efficiency. “Making meals for three husbands won’t take much more time than for two husbands,” he wrote.

Looking at past articles published under Huang’s column, it seems that making a case for polyandry is a recurring theme. In a May article (in Chinese) explaining why men are more unfaithful than women, Huang wrote that because “men’s tendency to cheat in marriage can never be eliminated,” monogamy was at odds with men’s nature.

According to numbers released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics in 2018, out of the country’s population of 1.4 billion, men outnumbered women by almost 34 million. The reasons for the gender gap were in part rooted in a traditional preference for sons in Chinese families. It was also a byproduct of China’s decades-long one-child policy, which led millions of couples to abort female fetuses.

In recent years, with concerns about the country’s continuously declining birth rates and rapidly aging population, the Chinese government has rolled out a host of policies that aimed to make it easier for single men, known as “bare branches” (光棍 guānggùn) in Chinese, to find girlfriends, establish families, and have babies. These measures have received mixed reactions from the public, with women fervently rejecting the idea of marrying someone due to pressure from society and government.

Huang’s suggestion of polyandry has turned out to be a tough sell. Some people opposed his idea because polyandry defied their traditional views about marriage. But more people, mostly women, criticized Huang for his misogynist attitude toward women, saying that he saw women as nothing more than reproductive tools and objects to fulfill men’s sexual needs.

Below we have compiled some of the best comments on Huang’s suggestion:

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.34.03 AM“An ad for hell: Come down. There are plenty of women here.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.34.12 AM“This is not polyandry. This is several men sharing a sex slave.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.34.23 AM“Hahahahahaha. He made it sound like wives are such hot commodities of high demand that men should share them. He doesn’t know how to speak human language.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.34.37 AM“Okay, let’s experiment with your daughter first.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.34.49 AM“Excuse me, sir, are you really studying Chinese people’s happiness? I think you only care about men’s happiness.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.35.00 AM“Gay men make the best couples. The excessive 60 million men should solve the problem among themselves. Women are not their backup choices.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.35.08 AM“I think we should try male infanticide. I can guarantee you that we’ll have more women in 20 years.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.35.17 AM“This will no longer be a problem if we solve the expert who thinks he discovered a problem.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.55.18 AM“I want the legalization of women having multiple wives. Who cares for husbands?”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.57.39 AM“I’ve read the whole article. In a nutshell, he doesn’t see women as human beings.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.57.57 AM“Girls in the comments are all clear-headed. We are not easy to fool.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.58.31 AM“Lu Xun: The thing I admire most about you is that you had the courage to publish such things.”

Screen Shot 2020 06 03 at 11.59.43 AM“Hahahahahahahahha. He wrote the article with his ass.”