Taiwan's 'home boys' don't click with women

Associated Press

Wearing colorful masks and black T-shirts with women-hating slogans, dozens of young men paraded through an upscale Taipei shopping center one night in December, yelling at startled couples, "Lovers, go to hell!"

It was a rare moment of public exposure for Taiwan's so-called home boys, a generation of single young men who spend evenings cloistered at home, playing online computer games, reading fantasy comic books and complaining in Internet chat rooms about women.

"You don't have to be sad if you don't have a date," said 24-year-old college student Lu Yung-ping. "We can huddle together and have fun."

Taiwan is not alone. Japan, Hong Kong and the fast-growing areas of coastal China all have their own versions of home boys.

These young men use the Internet to construct an alternative reality, where fantasy characters and digital games trump domestic responsibilities and the formation of relationships.

Parents find the trend worrisome, and it has become a hot topic in Taiwan's media.

Talk shows and popular magazines attribute the phenomenon to a desire to remain in the comfort of Mom and Dad's home rather than head out into the uncertain world of raising families and paying off mortgages.

There are no reliable estimates of their numbers, though home boys far outnumber home girls, because males tend to spend much more time with online games.

Sociologists say the home boys' obsession with computers inhibits their ability to conduct normal personal relations, including dating -- a concern at a time when young Taiwanese are delaying marriage and the fertility rate has fallen to 1.2 children per woman, down from 3.2 in 1971.

The home boys tend to be self-centered, less caring for others and incapable of problem-solving, said sociology professor Hsueh Cheng-tai of Taipei's National Taiwan University.

"Many 30-year-olds still have the mentality of children who want to rely on their parents' care and financial support," he said. "They're not ready to get married and fulfill family duties."

It's not so much that they hate women, the young men say; it's just that women ignore, reject or betray them. And rather than pining away in private, they prefer to gather electronically with fellow sufferers and bind their wounds by talking about anything except the hurtful side of love.

Many of the chat room denizens reject the idea that they are socially awkward, blaming their lack of domestic compatibility on women.

Said one who identified himself only as Klowa: "More so than politicians, women are swindlers among swindlers. They will cheat you of your money and time, or worse, steal from several men at the same time."

Not all computer addicts are so pessimistic.

Lin Wei-ting, a chemistry major at Hsinchu's National Tsing Hua University, describes himself as a "positive home boy."

The Internet habit can be an advantage if pursued in moderation, he said. His own favorite stay-at-home pursuit is reading comic books, which he said had given him useful knowledge about subjects from robotics to cooking -- knowledge that Lin thinks will serve him well in his still underdeveloped love life.

The more rabid home boys go public with their complaints on popular dating days, such as Valentine's Day and Christmas Eve.

Hsu Wen-hsiung, a bespectacled 26-year-old office worker who took part in the anti-couple demonstration late last year, complained that women never have the patience to get to know him or allow him to show his good nature and sense of humor in a relaxed atmosphere.

Waving a fox-shaped mask that he made for the parade, Hsu said he thought that his own computer obsession had put him in a no-win situation with the opposite sex.

"You spend so much time on the Internet that you don't get to know women, and then failing to find a girlfriend, you go back to the Internet," he said. "It's a vicious cycle."

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