SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Sun, Nina (2024) Beyond the Binary of Victimhood and Agency: An Exploration of Gender Dynamics in Tongqi’s Marriages in Post-Socialist China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

Text - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis provides an in-depth feminist sociological investigation into the lives of tongqi, a term denoting women married to homosexual men (tongzhi) in China. Using an intersectional framework, the study probes the intricate relationships between gender, sexuality, and social class in shaping tongqi’s experiences and subjectivities. The thesis challenges simplistic binary narratives that paint gay husbands as villains and tongqi wives as victims, urging a nuanced understanding of the entrenched gender-role kinships within which these tongqi women actively navigate. Based on qualitative data collected from 32 tongqi women and 31 married tongzhi during 2018–2019, alongside field observations in China, the research exposes the underlying gender-role system that produces Chinese women’s sufferings within their marriages, which have been clouded by the stigmatisation of homosexuality. Key findings suggest a significant epistemic gap between women who are passively labelled as “wives to gay men” and those who actively self-identify as tongqi, irrespective of their husbands’ sexual orientation. Departing from existing narratives that position tongqi as victims, the study reframes these women as active agents in resistance. Findings reveal that male homosexuality is intrinsically linked to tongqi’s strategic defiance rather than to their victimisation. Through astute alignments with the party-state’s agenda to sustain heteropatriarchal marital stability, tongqi produce a subversive gender script of “marriage fraud” to resist domestic oppression and abuse. This reconceptualisation offers valuable insights not only into the unique challenges faced by women in tongqi marriages but also into broader marital systems in contemporary China. By doing so, the research advocates for a more inclusive and equitable marital landscape in the context of China’s fast-changing sociocultural milieu.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
Keywords: Tongqi, Chinese marriage, tongzhi, domestic abuse, marriage fraud, compulsory heterosexuality
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Jieyu Liu
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 03 May 2024 13:16

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item