Modern life Q&A

Volunteerism and philanthropy / Pressure to have sex / Homosexual love

Modern Life Q&A is a weekly advice column on the Global Rencai blog where Joy Chen answers readers’ questions about modern life.

Should we change the world or focus on ourselves?

Q:  In China, drastic socioeconomic transition has brought about society-wide loss of direction. Many good values are lost, and money and consumption reign. The young Americans I meet all want to “change the world,” but we Chinese are used to looking at things by how they benefit us personally. Our parents sacrificed for our success. Should we therefore focus on being successful or on changing the world?

A:  Good news!  You do not have to make this choice. We all can focus on being successful AND on making the world a better place. In fact, I was very moved by the outpouring of love and generosity by hundreds of thousands of Chinese volunteers after the Sichuan earthquake.  We can each strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity through gifts of our time and  money. You can devote yourself  full-time to changing the world (like I did as a public official), or you can devote just a few hours a week or month or year (like I do now in writing this blog). Each time I’ve given of myself, I’ve always been surprised and delighted by how much more I receive in return. Through your acts of generosity, you develop new perspectives , new friends and connections , and as a result you become a better person and better professional. Your generation of young people has the opportunity and the skills to shape the future of China and to make the world a much better place, and personally I’m excited to live in that world.

Pressure to have sex in a relationship

Q:  I’m 23, Chinese gal in Australia. Recently, I met a guy, we only went out twice but found ourselves very attracted to each other. In our third date at his home, he would love to have sex with me and said it’s natural and we both should enjoy it. I rejected and said it’s my bottom line that I only make love to my boyfriend but he was not my boyfriend yet. Things went really bad and we both were very frustrated about this bad experience. He said maybe I’m not ready for a boyfriend or whatever as I sometimes resisted intimacy. But I’m sure I am ready actually, just the sex stuff came so sudden that I can’t accept.

Frankly speaking I would love to make love to him but this bad experience already makes a difference between us, I feel really bad about it. He wanted to think about it but he hasn’t called me yet. So Joy I really don’t know what to do, I used to be very independent and tease the gals who behave stupidly when they are in love, now it seems I’m becoming one of them, which is so sad.

A:  You are not behaving stupidly!  Under no circumstances are you ever obligated to have sex with someone if you aren’t feeling it. Not if you are on your third date with someone or your 300th date with him. Not if he whisks you away for a romantic weekend and is paying for the hotel. Not if he’s your boss and is offering you a promotion (especially if he’s your boss). Not even if he’s your husband. No means no, and if he truly cares and respects you, he will respect your boundaries and work hard to create the conditions that will make you feel safe and comfortable and joyfully in the mood.

After years of dating and then marriage, I’ve come to believe that your policy of reserving sex forwhen you are in a committed monogamous relationship is the best policy. I admire your maturity.  Forget about this guy and find someone who will love you the way you deserve to be loved.

Gay and lesbian love

Q:  What do you think will happen in the end if one falls in love with someone of the same sex?

A:  I think that love between two people is always a beautiful thing. Between two people of the same sex, it may be that communication can be even more fluid, since you don’t have to contend with the differences in how men and women approach the world. Here in the United States, gay marriage is a major political issue, which is frustrating to me. With so many pressing global and domestic challenges facing us, it seems silly that we would spend so much energy arguing over whether we should allow to people who love each other to marry.  My hope is that, during our lifetimes,  discrimination against gays and lesbians will lessen everywhere.

I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.

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