One Night in Beijing


Lack of personal space is a major obstacle to sexual liberalization in Asia, but randy Chinese kids  have discovered the "one-night motel":

In China, the first time a man and woman are likely to kiss is at age 23, according to Pan Sui-ming, director of the Institute of Sexuality and Gender at Renmin University, who says that "Chinese are still some of the most conservative people in the world."

But don't expect that to last much longer. Driven by China's opening to the west and the flourishing of western ideas, as well as a flood of communication by cellphone, social websites and instant messaging, Chinese youth are finding unprecedented access to each other, with the anonymity of online conversation emboldening youngsters to be much freer than if they were interacting in person, and it's freaking out older teachers who are supposed to teach sex education but get embarrassed by questions.

Take Jo Xue and her boyfriend, who decided to consummate their relationship. Then in their first year of college in Tianjin, just south of Beijing, the couple thought about spending the night together in their dormitory. But Chinese dormitories are separated by gender and under strict curfews. Also, given the sheer number of students at university, most dormitories have six people living in each room, which hardly allows for privacy.

"We had nowhere to be alone," said Xue, 24. "And a hotel was too expensive." So she decided to call the number on one of the advertisements often found hanging on walls near universities around China. It was for a one-night motel, where rooms can be rented for two hours at a time for 40 yuan or for 80 for the entire night. Extended stays are not allowed.

"I called and a man said he had a room for us," Xue said. "But when we got there the man acted very shy to us, like he was running an illegal business. It made me feel weird. But, actually, I felt very excited because we were going to spend the entire night together."

In neighboring Burma, couples sit on benches placed around public ponds and attempt to hide themselves under parasols. Under these conditions a seedy hotel is a major improvement.