Most Chinese women who unwittingly marry gay men suffer a wide range of abuse from their husbands, including violence and sexual apathy, according to a study believed to be the first of its kind in China.
The report, "Social Adaptation of Women who Marry Gay Men," was led by Tang Kuiyu, a professor from the College of Humanities at Harbin Institute of Technology.
The study surveyed 173 women who have married or divorced gay men and was carried out through the virtual communities, which the wives－most of whom do not know the men are gay until after marriage－have created on social media.
"The research began with an idea from the Ministry of Education in 2012," said Tang. "As far as I know, it is the first such research on the Chinese mainland."
The survey found that more than 90 per cent of the respondents had suffered domestic violence, including emotional abuse and physical aggression. Some had suffered serious injuries.
It also found that 40.5 per cent of the wives had sex fewer than 10 times a year, and 34.1 per cent seldom or never had sex with their husbands. However, only 31.2 per cent of them chose to divorce.
Most of the respondents were between 18 and 35 years old, with marriages of 10 years or less.
"The research found that gays' wives at an individual level decide whether to divorce by their emotions, economic situation, children and the difficulties of remarriage for women," said Tang. "In fact, being married to a gay man can cause lots of social problems, such as the spread of AIDS and a bad environment for the children to grow up in."
In China, gay men choose to marry women and have children mainly due to significant pressure from their parents and social traditions. Many Chinese believe continuing a family's bloodline is an inescapable obligation for men.
One respondent told the researcher that she was surprised to find that her husband was gay after they married, and that all his family members already knew the truth.
"After our daughter's birth, my husband no longer has intimate contact with me," said the wife, "but I don't want to divorce because I hope I can give my daughter a complete home. In fact, I hate my husband because he has destroyed my life."
Some wives have made different choices. One respondent chose to divorce after suffering violence several times from her gay husband, even though they had a child.
"I must divorce him even for my child," the respondent told the researcher. She also expressed her disappointment with men and marriage.
Tang said: "It is estimated that there are at least 20 million gay men in China, and 80 per cent of them have married. It means there are more than 16 million women married to gay men, which is a special and huge group.
"Gay men's wives suffer more difficulties in their social life. We hope the public can be more understanding and accepting of gays, so that the tragedy of these wives may be reduced."
Liu Dong, a doctoral student with Tang, took part in the research from the beginning.
"Those girls who are unmarried should judge seriously whether they have met a gay boyfriend," Liu said. "I hope the wives can improve their lives through communicating with each other."