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Can I chat you up, or are you just browsing?

Source: Global Times [23:56 February 24 2010] Comments
By Yin Yeping

There are all sorts of Rules, spoken, unspoken, published in relationship bibles and more, when it comes to dating. But one antiquated guideline that still persists is that men like to do the pursuing, whereas women should just kick back and wait.
As any modern gal knows, this rule can no longer be broadly applied. And women in China who don\'t embrace the \"someday my prince will come\" mentality can now simply visit 51taonan.com, where male profiles are on display for browsing as readily a shelf at the grocery store. It\'s a lot like Taobao, except you\'re shopping for men which suit the preferences of today\'s Internet-savvy, busy women who want better options than their parents had.
The website claims to be the first \"feminist\" domestic online dating site and was inspired by a French dating site, Adopteunmec.com (Adopt a Guy). \"We found that although it had only been online for two years, it enjoyed huge popularity among the French, so we decided on a similar idea for the Chinese market,\" Zheng said.
Since software development company Chengdu Yong Meng began a three-month test run in November, 51taonan.com registered 10,000 members before its official January launch. American online dating site Successful Match, which has specialized in the field since 2000, is among their investors.

Made for a woman

Men who register are commonly referred to as \"babies,\" (due to their helplessness) while women are called shoppers. How a fellow does depends entirely on the ladies. \"It\'s not like an ordinary dating site,\" founder Zheng Jinjun said. \"If you are a man, then all you can do after registering is leer at the women you are fond of… Until a woman contacts you, there is no other interaction you can have.\" Meanwhile the woman has a sense of empowerment as she places men with whom she\'s willing to exchange messages in her virtual shopping cart, allowing him to chat with her online. If the man fails to impress, he can be returned to the shelf.

Pay per perv

Even perving isn\'t free anymore (what is?). Men are only allowed to use the alarmingly named \"leer\" function three times (including looking twice at the same woman) before they need to upgrade. Otherwise, Zheng explained, men would just ogle every woman on the site. Each upgrade depends on a guy\'s charm rating, which is affected by \"the frequency of messaging, the amount of hours you\'ve spent online, the interest others take in you and the number of friends you invite,\" Zheng said.
Initially, Zheng and company feared the site\'s attitude might be off-putting, but instead found that more men like the site than women; they account for 60 percent of total registered users. The feedback they\'ve received indicates that women feel the site gives them a higher status, whereas men aren\'t too bothered if they are selected or not for conversation.

Thinking differently

Qi Gong, a 40-year-old from Liaoning province, said he was drawn to the site by the \"women\'s rights\" element. He, like others, have boosted the site\'s reputation because he was drawn by its creative nature. \"I believe that thinking in a different way is always fresh,\" Qi told Lifestyle. \"Men have a mighty position in the real world, but in this virtual world it is rather good to have a change, isn\'t it?\"
\"I was drawn here out of curiosity,\" said a 23-year-old man with the user name Little Ugly. \"I came here mostly for the chance to narrow my distance from girls while not painstakingly looking for my other \'half,\' which I guess is a pretty common attitude for men on here,\" he said. As a junior college student, Little Ugly explained that he was in a 5-year-long relationship before it ended. This led him to start seeking somebody more trustworthy for marriage.
Many of the men who sign up are serious about finding love, but women are more interested in exploring available options. Lin Jie, a 20-year-old Shanghai woman who registered on the site a week ago said that she prefers to be chased. \"Actually, women enjoy being chased,\" Lin said. \"It\'s not like we\'re placing ourselves in a passive situation, it\'s more like we\'re thinking that making no move is the best move.\" Lin said that she was drawn to the site by curiosity and was in search of entertainment, not a date.
She continued, \"The men I have in my cart are low in quantity and quality. It may be that I\'m drawing conclusions too early, but seriously, I probably don\'t have that much time to stake in searching the Internet until I find my true love.\" She said she, too, was drawn to the \"women\'s choice\" aspect rather than using more typical Internet dating resources, which she found unrealistic and unreliable.

Behold: the future

\"Online dating websites have grown with the Internet,\" said Zhao Yongjiu, a professional love and marriage counsellor who used to work for Baihe.com, the largest online dating site in China. \"It\'s not like Western countries. These sites in China are not mature, and have trouble earning money.\" The reason, Zhao said, is that most Chinese are not ready to pay for registration. Also, users only utilize the site until their needs are met, after which the company has to find a new group of users, which means advertising.
Zhao expressed his opinion that 51taonan changes the potential embarrassment of dating into an easy, entertaining atmosphere, but went on to repeat the old rule: \"In men\'s minds, they like to conquer things, while women tend to be conquered or chased,\" Zhao told Lifestyle. \"Also, being chosen as a \'product\' may not suit the average Chinese man who although not androcentric, isn\'t much of a feminist either.\" Men and women may get to know each other through this entertaining platform, he said, but in the long run, only time will tell.


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