China’s dating shows for over-65s challenge taboos about older people and sex

Standing before the studio audience the slim older man holds a microphone in front of his blue polo shirt, buttoned to the neck. Wang Qingming seems a little nervous as he faces his prospective date, a formidable looking woman with long black hair piled in a loose bun, her name tag obscured.

“What bad habits do you have?” he asks.

“I’m hungry,” she replies to laughter. “But no mahjong, no smoking, no drinking.”

Asked about her health the woman says her physical condition is good, “but I can’t get pregnant now”, again prompting laughs. He boasts he hasn’t taken medication in a year, she proudly retorts that for her it’s been two. For her turn, she grills him about chores and finances, securing the offer of an allowance, and eventually the two hold hands as they walk to the back of the stage.

The scene is one of countless clips taken from China’s prolific TV dating shows, shared hundreds of thousands of times across social media and written about across the local press. But rather than the usual young and idealistic contestants looking for some sort of romance, those going viral are all in their 50s, 60s and 70s and know exactly what they’re after.

The “aunts and uncles” are direct, frank, and authentic, challenging romantic idealism as well as social taboos about older people and sex. They prioritise practical matters like housing, wages, social security, pensions, bride dowries and health.

There are more than 260 million people aged over 65 in China – about 18% of the population – and about 25% of them are single, widowed or divorced. The older age group is growing, as China struggles to fend off the demographic crisis of an ageing population brought about by decades of government control on family building.

Wang Qinming asks a potential partner about her health on dating show "Blind Date and Fall In Love".
Wang Qinming asks a potential partner about her health on dating show “Blind Date and Fall In Love”. Photograph: Youtube

Dr Pan Wang, Senior Lecturer in Chinese/Asian studies at the University of New South Wales, said negative…

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