Chinese people have become more tolerant toward premarital sex in recent years, a survey has found.
The survey, "Sex and Sexuality of Chinese 2000-06", which was released this week, found that roughly two-thirds of people said premarital sex was "acceptable" today.
The survey, conducted by the Institute of Sexuality and Gender at the Renmin University of China and financed by the Ford Foundation, polled more than 6,000 people aged 18-61 from 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country.
Premarital sex, once considered taboo, was "not a moral problem" in 2006 according to 64 percent of the respondents. The corresponding figure in 2000 was 56 percent.
Women's tolerance of sex before marriage had also increased greatly. In 2006, 60 percent of women respondents said it is okay, while only 49 percent said so in 2000.
People in the middle-income group were found to be the most tolerant, with more than 70 percent saying premarital sex was acceptable.
Pan Suiming, director of the institute, was quoted by China News Service as saying: "The minimum age at which people can get married is 22 for men and 20 for women. This is higher than in many countries and higher than it used to be in China.
"However, Chinese are still some of the most conservative people in the world, with the average age for people's first kiss being 23," Pan said.
"Those who are tolerant toward premarital sex might not actually do it themselves," he said. "They just have an open mind."
For example, college students, the most sexually open-minded group according to the survey, were found to be tolerant, but not overly active.
Just 12.8 percent of the students polled said they had had, a figure much lower than that in many Western countries, Pan said.
A similar survey conducted two years ago by the Fujian Institute of Education found that 92 percent of college students in the East China province said it was okay to engage in premarital sex. It polled more than 200 students from four universities in Fujian.
Cheng Ling, a teacher with the institute told China Youth Daily that China's traditional conservatism had made it difficult to openly discuss sex-related topics.
But sex education should adapt to the changing attitudes of students and help in the fight against STDs and HIV/AIDS, he said.
(China Daily 06/07/2007 page5)