Studies on Intimate Relationships Among Chinese Students in US

There have been some very interesting studies that directly focus on the intimate relationships and sexual experiences of Chinese students in the United States. Due to the big culture differences between China and US, it is not hard to imagine how Chinese students in the US might have very different experiences compared to other American students.

Yan and Berliner (2011, 2013) find that Chinese students in US have various personal concerns and sociocultural stress. Due to the culture shocks, Chinese students in US might have:

  • Tendency to withdraw from social activities
  • Confined interactions within Chinese community
  • Isolation from American culture
  • Poor cultural adjustment

Yan and Berliner (2011) also argue that Chinese students in US have difficulties in their romantic relationships. Specifically, they experience anxiety and frustration from finding a Chinese GF/BF, due to:

  • Limited candidates
  • Long-distance, long-term separation
  • Over academic oriented and less socially involved

Several studies have also looked into the sexual experiences of Chinese international students or Chinese American students in the US, and have revealed some consistent results, that Chinese students tend to have:

  • later sexual debut
  • less premarital sex experience
  • less self-reported sexual desires

There are many factors that influence the experience of intimate relationships of Chinese international students in the US, such as gender, age, acculturation, etc.

  • Gender: Studies have found some discrepancies between the experience of intimate relationships of Chinese female students and their male counterparts. In general, men have earlier sexual debut and more sexual experience (also sexual fantasies and arousals) than women. However, some researches also show contradictory results that Chinese men in fact might have less sexual experience than Chinese women, possibly due to the stereotypes of Asian men being “nerdy” and “socially inept,” and Asian women being “docile” and “men-pleasing.”
  • Gender role: Gender role is another interesting theme that has emerged from previous studies. Researches have revealed mixed findings. Matsui (1995) finds that while some female Chinese students feel more liberated in the US, others criticize the traditional idea of femininity in the American society, such as being young. They also feel uncomfortable about courtesy and dependency. However, they do not challenge the Chinese patriarchy. Similarly, other studies also show the prevalence of Chinese patriarchal idea in mating preferences among Chinese international students. Some male students complain that female Chinese students in US are overly academic oriented and too manly and that they want submissive and good-looking partners. While some female students complain that male Chinese students in US are not socially active and do not make the first move.
  • Acculturation: Studies have shown that sexual conservatism is particularly prevalent in Chinese society, and that the more Chinese students are acculturated into the American society, the more they are open about intimate relationships. In addition, acculturation does not necessarily have to do with the time of living within the American society, it is more about the positive interactions with American culture. However, several studies have also shown that sexual conservatism may start to lose its power in Chinese society over time, especially with the young generation, who are deeply influenced by the western ideas.
  • Age/Generation: Studies have shown that younger Chinese women in US are more permissive towards premarital sex and cohabitation than older women. This finding is consistent with the argument that sexual conservatism may have lost some power over younger generation in China.

Findings from these researches on the intimate relationships among Chinese international students in US have offered me many constructive ideas and directions in building my interview questions. I am particularly interested in finding out more about how gender roles might change in intimate relationships for Chinese international students before and after they came to the US, especially considering that they are the new generation heavily influenced by western culture already when growing up. I am interested to see whether previous findings on the persistence of traditional gender roles among Chinese international students in US still hold true nowadays.

For the next step in my research, I am going to focus on studying the similarities and differences in ideas of intimate relationships among Chinese and American college students respectively. This step will help me understand what cultural differences Chinese international students might experience with regards to intimate relationships when they move from China to US.

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