Why is Hong Kong's libido so low?
Don’t be fooled by our city’s plethora of penis envy monuments – when it comes to the bedroom, we’re embarrassingly flaccid. Shirley Zhao looks into why the SAR’s sex drive is stuck in first gear and ways to redress the arousal issues…
Third lowest in the world. Yeah, that’s properly embarrassing, but that’s where Hongkongers rank in terms
of global sexual well-being. We go on and on about our economic credentials (the world’s freest, the most efficient etc), but when it comes to productivity between the sheets, the sex life of Hongkongers is sadly limp.
According to Durex’s online sexual satisfaction survey (which you can find at bit.ly/tohkdurexsurvey), Hongkongers rank third lowest in sexual satisfaction out of 22 countries or regions across the world, only beating out Japan (despite their weird porn advantage) and (surprisingly) France. And it’s not just this Durex survey that suggests Hong Kong’s flailing sexual drive.
A survey conducted last year by City University’s Community College shows that local couples are content with having sex less than twice a week. According to the survey of nearly 1,000 Hongkongers aged 36 to 80, men were satisfied with getting their rocks off on average 1.9 times a week, while women were satisfied with 1.6 times a week – and more than half of the women admitted feigning illness or tiredness to avoid sex when they were not in the mood. And another study, conducted by the Hong Kong Association of Sexuality Educators, Researchers and Therapists showed that almost 20 percent of 1,400 local males had not had sex over the past six months. In short, we’re just not that horny. It’s not super hot news – but what we want to know is: why is this the case?
“To many Hong Kong people, having sex is too much trouble,” says sex expert Dr Ng Wing-ying, pointing to the huge work pressures and busy lifestyle of most Hongkongers. “Hong Kong people are too tired after work to build up the mood and have sex with their partners. In many cases, they’d rather do it themselves.”
Professor Emil Ng Man-lun, associate director at the University of Hong Kong’s Family Institute and founder of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association, agrees, citing the major reasons of our low interest in sex and forming families as work pressures, lack of financial security, limited space, high property prices and inflation. “Many young adults can’t afford their own home and live with their parents,” he says. “It intimidates them from getting married and the lack of privacy prevents them from enjoying a sex life.”
Meanwhile, Professor Ng thinks social conservatism also plays a part in the issue. “Hong Kong people have been taught that sex is not a priority in life and that sexual enjoyment is sinful,” he says. “Better sex education can overcome the conservatism – but it’s going to be a long battle.”
On some levels, sexual wellbeing may seem like a rather frivolous discussion point. But, from many academics, there is a growing concern as to the societal impact of good sex. “People who are married or have a good sex life tend to live longer and more happily,” says Professor Ng. “Lack of satisfactory and well-managed sex is detrimental to people’s mental and physical health. This is also going to take a big toll of the society’s productivity and health service, and could destroy our society if left not tackled because a continuously ageing society simply can’t survive.”
Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, a council member of the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, believes the difficulties of raising children in Hong Kong have been preventing young couples from having children. “Over the years, workers’ salaries haven’t been raised much,” says Yip, “but the inflation has been rapidly growing. Many young couples are simply financially incapable of having children.”
Yip warns that, if such a trend keeps going on, the fertility rate in Hong Kong will become lower than one birth per woman, well below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain a population at its current levels. In 2010, Hong Kong’s fertility rate was 1.1, one of the lowest in the world.
The FPA, which has been keeping track of the sexual attitudes of local youths every five years, found in a study last year a decreased willingness to get married and have children among more than 1,200 youths aged between 18 and 27, with nearly half of the respondents indicating they were undecided about getting married, a 10 percent increase from in 2006. The study also shows over half of the respondents were negative, undecided or passive about having children.
So what’s the solution? “Hong Kong is in urgent need of sustainable population policies,” says Yip. He suggests that the government can encourage people to have kids by providing a series of family-friendly policies like more affordable housing, more childcare facilities and more choices of education.
Kam Tao-fu, author and market commentator, lays out a proposal to encourage marriage and reproducing from the perspective of the property policies. According to his proposal, the government, while building more public housing, would promise eligible newly married couples priority on the waiting list and allow them to get a public housing unit within one year. Then, when they have two children, they can be eligible for a larger unit within another year.
Kam also suggests that the government should support the development of local matchmaking businesses, citing Korea and Japan as examples. “An ageing population will become a heavy burden to the society and bring a lot of problems,” he says. “A responsible government should take it seriously.”
In his political platform, Chief Executive CY Leung included policies like raising child allowance to as much as $100,000, providing a 15-year free education and establishing a paternity leave system.
Professor Ng also has a rather controversial suggestion: that people should be encouraged to start having sex, get married and reproduce when they reach the age of 12. “Youngsters have sexual desire and are physically well prepared for sex and reproduction once they reach puberty but our society, like many other societies, has been using morals and laws to encourage people to delay sexual activity longer than it is necessary by nature,” he says. “India, for example, has no problems with ageing population and ranks quite high in sexual satisfaction in studies because they have child marriage.”
It’s quite an extreme suggestion – and, ultimately, it really shouldn’t come to that. It’s sex after all – and it’s meant to be fun. Right? Well, um, maybe we’re not quite convinced by Professor Ng’s suggestion – but, as Hongkongers, we’re right up for having more sex. Just let us find our diaries. We think we’ve got a slot next Tuesday evening…