“I’d rather be single and die alone than date Kong men.”
I nearly spit my coffee as Hanna Lung slammed her smartphone on the table after making the bold statement. She was furious after reading a recent column telling Hong Kong women to stop dreaming of finding their perfect Prince Charming and “get real.”
“How dare this guy write that ‘the only reason why an average woman over the age of 30 is still not married is because nobody wants to marry her’?” bellowed my friend. I glared at the beautiful 31-year-old media executive who is a rising star in her company—and, obviously, single.
“It’s not about whether someone wants to marry me. It’s about whether I want that man in my life. It is my choice,” she continued. “It’s Kong men who should get real and stop blaming us women.”
Women have long been the victims in an ongoing battle of the sexes in Hong Kong over the past three decades. Government statistics show that the number of men per 1,000 women dropped significantly from 1,087 in 1981 to 858 in 2014. A recent report revealed that last year there were over 1 million women aged 15 or above who had never been married, versus 962,700 men who hadn’t tied the knot—so technically, at least, 37,300 women are destined to remain single, and this doesn’t even factor in whether any of the 962,700 men are gay.
In recent years, the fearful message has spread: Hong Kong is running out of men! So ladies, if you don’t want to end up as an old maid and die alone, you must hurry and “get real.” Don’t be picky and only go after men who have a “good package.” Cure your “princess syndrome” and stop being a spoiled brat. Don’t become one of those gold-digging, delusional Kong nui (a derogatory term for Hong Kong women) or a successful career woman.
This stigma toward single women has become the central narrative of Hong Kong’s dating culture. The message to women is clear: Lower your expectations, even though you might deserve better. A column entitled “Hey sisters, get real or you will die alone” published on April 11 in EJ Insight is the latest, most offensive iteration of this message. (Yes, this is the one that offended my friend so much. While it appears to have been removed by the publisher, perhaps because of the number of complaints, a cached version is here.)
The truth is, neither men nor women want to settle for less than what they want—and Hong Kong men and Hong Kong women seem to want different things.
Hong Kong women have long been accused of being materialistic and eyeing money, but there is a reason for it. According to Fan Lai, a professional counselor who deals with relationship problems and family issues, few Hong Kong women are looking to marry a scion of a property tycoon. But, she added, many do aim for a man with a monthly income somewhere between HK$80,000 and HK$100,000 (roughly US$10,300 to US$12,900). That’s because they want a man who is financially independent and won’t turn around asking them for money or take advantage of them. “They are women who have a great education, a successful career, and a pretty face and just don’t want to settle for less,” Lai said.
Men who have a “good package” (this means, by the way, that they are physically attractive, with a sizable bank account and a promising career), she added, have complained to her that they are having greater difficulties in finding their Ms. Right.
“They mind women who are too career-driven,” said Lai. “They don’t mind women who have a job, but when it comes to looking for a marriage partner, they want someone who is willing to stay at home and raise the family.”
And that is simply unrealistic. “How is it possible for women who are smart, ambitious, and independent to surrender their freedom and become a stay-at-home mum?” Lai questioned.
A quick survey of my single female friends confirmed that they are unwilling to settle for less—and sadly Kong men are the worst to date, a conclusion that has nothing to do with their finances or physique.
“Kong men are not gentlemen at all,” said Lung. “If you go on a date, you pick up the girl, open the door for her, pick up the bill, and send her home. That’s very basic. And yet I’ve never seen a Kong man who has done it. But Western men do. I’m an international man eater, so I aim at a global market.”
Twenty-year-old university student Diana Lam described Kong men at her age as “toxic.”
“They seem to be like ‘kidults.’ They are obsessed with video games and figurines. If a Kong man does not have a promising career or the ability to take care of a woman, Hong Kong women will not date him,” she said.
Irene Fung, a 40-something businesswoman, said men who are still active in the dating market that she had encountered are usually incapable of genuine communication, have low standards for themselves, fear commitment, and lack self-confidence. “Once I dated a man who boasted how many properties he owned. It was such a turn-off,” she said.
Kong men may also have little to offer in the bedroom. According to a 2014 survey released by the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, nearly 60% of the 2,100 women aged between 21 and 40 reported at least one sexual problem that lasted over three months to one year—which could be attributed to a partners’ lack of expertise. Nearly 32% said they had no desire. A similar percentage said they had problems getting aroused. Some 40% said they fail to attain orgasm.
“Before accusing women of being unrealistic Kong nui and gold-diggers, Kong men should reflect on their shortcomings first,” Lung pointed out.
And when they do “settle down,” some Hong Kong men actually don’t. Fung said she has also encountered many married men who are wealthy and successful, looking for girlfriends behind the back of their wife. “They act as if they were single,” she said. “It is men who should get real and stop wasting our time. Being with a man is not a must. We’ve got better things to do.”
I continued to sip my coffee in silence as Lung began munching on her green tea cheesecake, and I thought: As Hong Kong Film Awards chairman Derek Yee put it when he presented the best film award to dystopian film Ten Years, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Being single is not the end of the world.