Torture and Love: Wives of Chinese Gay Men and Their Cyber Communities

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Humanities


It is estimated that there are at least 14 million women in China who are married to gay men. Called tongqi (同妻) these women often have unknowingly entered into such marriages, with their dreams of a happily family life crushed. For many gay men, these marriages become a useful camouflage that protect them from social pressure and discrimination. While sustaining their heterosexual marriages, they also maintain relationships with gay partners. The women, on the other hand, live tortured lives. They are filled with anger and feel they have been cheated and trapped in their marriages. They are also frightened of the social stigma that they might have contracted HIV from their husbands. With the proliferation of ICTs, especially smartphones, in China, the tongqis are now increasingly afforded the ability to form cybercommunities, which serve as both their social network as well as their political network. This chapter examines the posts and comments of tongqis on open online platforms such as Tianya Luntan and Tongqi Ba. Using this data set, I argue that ICTs, particularly in mobile platforms, allow tongqis to find and build community as well as to educate the public and advocate for social and political change. I also point out, however, the limits of what such technologies can allow tongqis to do, given how laws and societal attitudes about intimate relationships in China have yet to change.

Publication Title

Mobile Communication in Asia