This fall, young girls in China’s southern Guangdong province will be learning a new subject in school: how to avoid becoming a mistress. Although Chairman Mao kept a stable of women at his disposal, extramarital peccadilloes were frowned upon during China’s more fervent socialist years. But as economic reforms have helped Guangdong become one of the nation’s wealthiest regions, the province has been beset by a flood of ernai, literally, “second breast,” as mistresses are commonly known in China.
In 2007, Guangdong passed a piece of legislation that outlawed the keeping of mistresses, but wasn’t able to enforce it. The provincial government’s new solution is a pioneering “female education program” across elementary and high schools that aims to teach girls to depend on themselves — not sugar daddies — for their future. “The education will focus on self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement,” Lei Yulan, vice governor of Guangdong, told a symposium when the initiative was announced in March.