李银河谈为何越来越多人选择单身 – Li Yinhe discusses why more and more people choose to remain single

统计数据显示,过去15年中,全球独居生活的人数剧增,从1996年的1.53亿上升到2011年的2.77亿,上升了81%。在英国,单身家庭占全部家庭的34%;在美国,单身家庭占27%;在瑞士,47%的家庭只有孤身一人;在挪威,40%的家庭是独居家庭;在东方国度日本,单身家庭的比例竟然也已高达30%。最新发展趋势表明,中国、印度和巴西单身人群有增加趋势。目前,我国婚龄单身男女数量已经过亿,北京、上海的单身男女早已超过百万。

为什么现代中国会出现单身浪潮?原因是多种多样的。有的人是自愿选择的;有的人是因为找不到合适的结婚对象被迫独居的;多数人是随遇而安,找得到伴侣就结婚,找不到就暂时单身。

择其要,出现单身浪潮的原因有以下数种:

首先,个人本位文化的传入和个人主义价值的上升。社会学对东西方文化差异的一个经典概括是:西方是个人本位的社会,中国是家庭本位的社会。前者以个人快乐为主要价值;后者以家庭利益为主要价值。随着现代化和都市化过程的推进,中国都市文化中个人本位色彩加重,个人快乐的重要性在许多人尤其是年青一代的心中所占分量越来越大,结婚生子传宗接代的传统价值不再像过去那般强大,这是单身浪潮最主要的形成原因,尤其是在那些自愿选择单身生活方式的人们当中。

其次,男女平等和女性参加社会生产劳动。从1950年代开始的妇女参加社会生产劳动的大潮彻底改变了中国女性在社会和婚姻生活中的地位。最主要的变化就是从依附于男性的男主外女主内模式改变为男女平等的模式,女性有了自己的一份收入,可以完全独立地养活自己。如果说在传统社会,结婚是女人唯一的生活来源和生活方式,那么现在女人已经有了选择单身生活方式的可能性。这也是单身浪潮的成因之一。

再次,人类预期寿命提高与终身配偶关系的矛盾。在传统社会,人的预期寿命在三四十岁,保持终身配偶关系的难度不大。而在当代社会,预期寿命攀升至七八十岁,长期配偶关系与情感的变化及审美疲劳的矛盾凸显,除非发生了激情之爱的伴侣,很多人都会遇到情感趋于淡漠甚至厌倦的情况。即使在有过激情之爱的伴侣之间,也有情感发生变化的可能性。而固定的婚姻关系日益成为人们情感和欲望流变的羁绊。离婚率的飙升就是证据。而离婚的高昂成本(物质上和精神上的)使许多人对婚姻望而却步。这是单身浪潮的另一成因。

最后,生育崇拜和以延续后代作为生命主要价值的改变。在传统中国,人们基本上是无神论的,而祖先崇拜和传宗接代是中国人最具宗教色彩的价值。人们会为生育后代赋予个体生命延续的意义。此外,在人年老丧失劳动能力之后,子女的赡养是老人唯一的生活来源和情感慰藉。在现代社会中,生育的价值有下降趋势,社会养老制度的普及正在逐渐取代子女的养老功能。而如果选择不生育,结婚的绝对理由就去了大半。自愿不生育已经成为一种可能的选择,而这一选择的直接后果就是单身人口的增加。

至于说到如何评价单身浪潮的问题,我认为首要的原则是不应多做道德评判,换言之,不应对其做出是好事还是坏事的评判。这是因为道德是一个随着时间和空间改变而不断改变的东西。如果从家庭本位的立场,单身浪潮的出现就是坏事;但是从个人本位的立场,许多人选择单身生活方式就不是什么坏事,而是一种符合人性的自然选择,而且完全属于个人权利范畴,牵涉到个人自由。我们应当庆幸生活在这样一个个人自由选择空间大大扩展的时代和社会,无论法律还是传统习俗都丧失了约束人们按照铁板一块的传统方式生活的力量。

Q:您怎样看待“爱无能”这种心理现象?

A:两个原因:一个是从小没受过多少爱的教育,爱情小说看得少;另一个是缺乏精神追求,只满足于物欲和肉欲。

Q:为什么有些人闪拍又闪分,而且很快就会有下一个人谈恋爱?

A:情感流变是很自然的,爱情发生了,爱情又过去了,于是会出现闪婚。至于为什么很快就会找到下一个,那是因为像他这样的人很多,大家都在互相找。

Q:如何维持爱情,最终走向婚姻?

A:一般的规律是,激情转变为柔情,熊熊烈火转变为涓涓细流,能实现这个转变的关系就能最终走向婚姻。

Q:爱一个人该怎样保持两人的距离?如何才能让对方既不觉得疏远又不觉得没有自由?

A: 缔结婚约就是放弃了自由权利,因为婚姻要有忠诚承诺。要自由恋爱,可以离婚。如果既不想离婚,又想给对方自由,可以与配偶另行约定,比如约定双方可以在何种程度上接纳第三者。

Q:对于很多人提早尝试婚前性行为,您有什么看法?

A:目前婚前性行为的上升已经成为一个趋势。既然婚前性行为不可能禁止,那么最好的方法就是“疏”而不是“堵”。性教育最晚应从青春期开始,比如对于大学生同居的现象,学校应该告诉学生如何避孕,而不是等怀孕了,又去流产。

Statistics show that, over the past 15 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of single people around the world: it rose from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011, or a 81% increase. In the UK, one-person households accounted for 34% of all households; in the US, they accounted for 27%. In Switzerland, 47% of all households consisted of one person only, and in Norway, 40% of households have only one person. As far as Eastern countries are concerned, the proportion of single-person household in Japan has gone up to 30%. The latest trends suggest that there is a similar increase in the number of people living alone in China, India and Brazil. Currently, the number of young men and women of marriegable age living alone in China has gone over 10 million; and in Beijing and Shanghai, there is over 1 million single young men and women.

What brought about this wave of single people in today’s China? There are many diverse reasons for it. For some people, it is a voluntary choice; others are forced to remain single because they cannot find a suitable marriage partner; and the majority of people just goes with the flow, if they find a suitable marriage partner, they get married, but as long as they don’t, they remain single.

Overall, there are four main causes for the tide of single people:

First, the development of an individual culture and the rise of individualism as a value. A classic sociological summary of the differences between East and West is as follows: Western societies are individual based, Chinese society is family-based. For the former, individual happiness is the main value; for the latter, family interests are the main value. With the progress of modernisation and urbanisation process, individualism has become more important in Chinese urban culture, and individual happiness has become increasingly important in the mind of many people, especially the younger generation, whereas the importance of getting married and having children to carry the family line is no longer as important as it used to be. This is the main cause for the wave of single people, especially among those who voluntarily choose the single lifestyle.

The second is gender equality, and the participation of women in the social division of labour. The rise of women’s participation in the social division of labour since the 1950s has completely changed the status of Chinese women in the community and the status of marriage. The most important is the shift from a system of dependency on men, where men go out, and women stay in, to a system of gender equality. Women have their own income, and can independently support themselves. In traditional society, marriage is the only source of income for a woman, and the only form of life. Now women have the possibility to choose a single lifestyle. This is also one of the reasons for the wave of single people.

Third, the rising life expectancy increases tensions that arise from contradictions among the couple. In traditional society, people only lived into their 30s or 40s, so it was not difficult to to maintain a life-long marital relationship. But in contemporary society, life expectancy has risen to 78 years. This long relationship makes disagreements and contradictions more prominent. Unless there is passionate love between partners, many people will find themselves indifferent or even tired of each other. Even among partners who passionately love each other, emotional change is still possible. Fixed marriages increasingly become barriers to people’s emotions and desires. The soaring divorce rate is evidence for it. And the high cost of divorce (material and mental) has deterred many people from marriage. This is another cause for the wave of single people.

Recently, there has been a radical change in our worship of fertility and providing future generations. In traditional China, people were basically atheist, but ancestor worship and concern for the family line were Chinese people’s most religiously coloured values. People would think of their offspring as the continuation of their own life. Apart from that, when old people were no longer able to work, children represented the only source of material and emotional support. In modern society, the value of reproduction has gone down, The system of universal social pension has gradually replaced the role of children as pension providers. And if you choose not to have children, the actual grounds for marriage are reduced by half. Voluntary infertility has become a possible choice, and a direct consequence of this choice is the increase in the number of single people.

As to the issue of evaluating the wave of single people, I think the first principle should be not to pass on moral judgements. In other words, not to judge whether this is a good or bad thing. This is because morality is a thing that changes constantly with time and space. From the point of view of a family-based morality, the rising wave of single people is a bad thing; but from the point of view of and individual-based morality, many people choosing to live single is not a bad thing, but a natural choice consistent with human nature, entirely within the scope of the rights of the individual, and an expression of their individual freedom. We should celebrate the fact that we live in an environment offering so much space for individual freedom and such vastly expanded times and society, laws and traditions no longer have the power to restrain people into one monolithic mode of living.

Q: How do you see the psychological phenomenon of “impossibility to love”?

A: Two reasons. One is, from childhood, that one has not had much love education, and read too few romantic novels. The other, the lack of spiritual pursuit, and satisfaction with material and sensual pursuits only.

Q: Why do some people suddely fall in love then suddely break up, and then very quickly fall in love with a new person again?

A: The evolution of emotions is very natural, love happens, love passes, and so marriage passes in a flash. As to why the next one follows so fast, it’s because there are lots of people in this situation, looking for each other.

Q: How to maintain love, and ultimately go towards marriage?

A: The general rule is that passion turns into tenderness, and the raging fire into a gentle trickle; only by achieving this transformation can a relationship ultimately turn into marriage.

Q: When you love someone, how should you maintain the distance between you and them? How can you make sure the other person does not feel alienated, and does not feel like they’ve lost their freedom?

A: When a marriage is concluded, you’ve given up your right to freedom, because marriage requires commitment and loyalty. If you want free love, you can divorce. Or if you do not want to divorce, and want to give each other freedom, you can reach an agreement with your spouse, for instance, discuss to what extent both sides can have lovers outside the couple.

Q: A lot of people are experimenting with pre-marital sex, what is your view on that?

A: There is a rising trend of pre-marital sex these days. Since it is impossible to prohibit pre-marital sex, the best thing to do is to ‘‘ not to ‘block it’. Sexual education should start at puberty at the latest, and when students cohabit, like at university, the school should teach them about contraception, rather than waiting to get pregnant, then get an abortion.

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