Study hypothesis 1 (age) was verified. The age groups born in the 1980s and 1990s are an obvious division, and their regression coefficients are significantly higher than those of other age groups. We can expect that the younger generation will be more open to extramarital sex. Study hypothesis 2 (education) was verified, and the analysis shows that good higher education is a key distinction. The higher the education level was, the greater the acceptance of extramarital sex. In particular, people who have received undergraduate education or above have a higher level of acceptance of extramarital sex. Study hypothesis 3.1 (Christianity) was not supported. Unlike the evidence in other countries, the Chinese survey data do not support the significant influence of Christian belief on the acceptance of extramarital sex. In this regard, more detailed investigations and studies are needed. A possible reason is that Chinese Christians are mainly Protestants rather than traditional Catholics, and thus, they have greater freedom for personal sexual behavior and loyalty to marriage. Study hypothesis 3.2 (Islam) was verified. Islamic belief has a negative influence on the acceptance of extramarital sex. Study hypothesis 4 (the Internet) was verified to some extent. The probability that the group that uses the Internet as their main source of information is completely opposed to extramarital sex is lower than that of the reference group. Study hypothesis 5 (liberalization) was verified. On average, the stronger the respondents’ support for personal choice and freedom rights was, the greater their acceptance of extramarital sex. To some extent, desensitization to extramarital affairs in Chinese society in recent years is a manifestation of the overall trend of society toward freedom of thought and pluralism. The Chinese data do not support a significant influence of gender on the acceptance of extramarital sex. Men and women have relatively consistent views and attitudes toward extramarital sex, and there is no gender difference. After controlling for variables such as education, income has no significant influence.
Academic studies on issues related to extramarital sex in China lag behind social development. Although the government has not issued policies on extramarital sex, the public’s discussion of extramarital sex has been increasing. The media’s discussion of extramarital affairs is more common, and the expression of extramarital sex groups’ own appeals has gradually entered the public space. Marriage is based on the feelings of the spouses, and individuals may perform extramarital sex for various reasons, such as excitement seeking, impulsiveness, new experiences, satisfaction, or spiritual emptiness [12
]. However, considering traditional marriage and family views in China, mainstream society is still committed to maintaining the stability and integrity of families. Marriage and family are still very important in social culture. Existing studies show that even if parties have had extramarital sex, they still value marriage and family life and try their best to manage marriage and raise children [18
]. The occurrence of extramarital sex does not necessarily mean that the spouses’ emotions have already declined and that marriage is irreparable. From the perspective of social morality and ethics, effectively intervening or even reducing the public’s acceptance of extramarital sex can prevent the actual risk of extramarital sex to a certain extent and maintain the overall stability of family life in society. This presents a wide space for family services to provide marriage and family counseling and assist clients in making rational choices.
This study shows that people of younger ages, higher educational levels, stronger tendencies toward liberalization, and greater dependences on Internet information have a higher degree of acceptance of extramarital sex. Although extramarital sex is a personal behavior, it is always contrary to modern marriage and family views. It is necessary to provide marriage and family education for young people and guide young people to understand the relationship between freedom and self-respect, analyze Internet information, and cultivate correct marriage and family views. Therefore, family counseling services need to enhance the connection between individuals and mainstream society and increase their attachment to society through corresponding group or community activities to prevent the emergence of extramarital sex and marital problems.
In China, there is no correlation between gender and acceptance of extramarital sex. Note that the acceptance of extramarital sex and the actual occurrence are two completely different concepts. Although there is a correlation between cognition and behavior, there is also a huge gap between them. Studies in the United States and the United Kingdom are based on the actual occurrence of extramarital sex as a measure [17
]. The actual incidence of extramarital sex is much higher in men than in women. However, at the cognitive level, this study shows that men and women actually have the same acceptance of extramarital sex. Why does the same acceptance make a difference in actual behavior? This may be related to the reasons why men and women have extramarital sex and actual social tolerance. In extramarital sex, men value sex more and have more sexual curiosity, while women value emotions more and hope to find the “right” person [43
]; therefore, men are more likely to have extramarital sex. At the same time, men are sometimes regarded as “successful” and “attractive” if they have extramarital sex, while women are labeled as “lewd” and “unchaste” if they have extramarital sex. Society’s moral tolerance for men’s extramarital sex is significantly higher than that of women’s extramarital sex. China has been promoting and practicing gender equality, and men and women have the same acceptance of extramarital sex in the same social environment; however, differences in social tolerance may ultimately affect the actual occurrence of extramarital sex.
If extramarital sex is regarded as a deviant behavior, religion should play a certain role in social control over the deviant behavior [45
]. The influence of religious factors differs between China and foreign countries. Relative to other countries, the importance of religious life for the Chinese is very low. According to the survey results of the Pew Research Center, less than 10% of Chinese people believe that religion plays an important role in their lives (See Appendix A
. Note nr. 4). Correspondingly, the influence of Christian factors highlighted in the foreign literature on the study of extramarital affairs has not been verified by data. Other religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, also have no significant influence. In contrast, belief in Islam has a significant influence on the level of acceptance of extramarital sex. With respect to the difference between China and foreign countries for the influence of Christian factors, a possible explanation is that Chinese Christians may be more influenced by the values of European and American countries; thus, they have a relatively higher level of tolerance toward extramarital sex. This factor makes the difference displayed by the internal data in European and American countries insignificant in China.
It is necessary to further think why different religions in China have different effects on people’s acceptance of extramarital sex. Perhaps what we should consider more is the actual degree of participation in religious activities. Foreign studies show that the reduction in married people’s marital infidelity is closely related to the degree of religious devotion and conviction, especially the degree of participation in religious activities, but has nothing to do with beliefs, doctrines, and other religious characteristics [46
]; more specifically, the degree of participation in religious activities and the degree of attachment to religious organizations are significantly related to marital fidelity [24
]. Christians, Buddhists, and Taoists in China are relatively loosely attached to religious organizations, and they do not frequently participate in religious activities. Most of them choose to participate in religious activities based on their own utilitarian needs: Buddhists and Taoists (except monks) are not required to regularly participate in religious activities, and Christians rarely go to church regularly every week [47
]. In comparison, Muslims participate in religious activities more frequently, have to pray several times a day, and are more dependent on religious organizations. For religious reasons, Muslims are more socially controlled, and their attitudes toward extramarital sex are becoming more conservative. As both religion and extramarital affairs are topics that have not received much empirical attention in Chinese social science studies, more in-depth studies are needed on this issue. Furthermore, there are few comparative studies on the acceptance of extramarital sex by different religious groups in Western countries. The findings and interpretation of this study need further cross-cultural verification.
When more European and American countries support extramarital affairs, it can be predicted that various disputes related to extramarital affairs will attract more attention. In English academic circles, studies on extramarital affairs have become more specialized and refined, and there are numerous specialized academic journals studying the issue of extramarital affairs. Chinese academics’ attention to this issue is still in its infancy. This study is of great significance to the study of extramarital affairs, both academically and practically.