Yang Jun is China's latest male breast masseur, and he's not going to let his parents' disapproval, his girlfriend's jealously or anybody's snickering get in the way of his trade.
The 29-year-old is only the third registered male breast masseur in the country, and he's already experienced plenty of social barriers as a man in the women-dominated field, according to China Daily. The workers massage lactating women's breasts to stimulate milk flow.
So far, Yang has only worked with two clients, earning 200 yuan (about $32) for the sessions. But still, he perseveres, explaining that breast massages for lactating women "is a rising industry and will be the direction for my development."
He has a point: Yang is entering the business amidst a nationwide attempt to revive breastfeeding, partially in reaction to the country's recent tainted milk scare. Currently, 28 percent of Chinese infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed, according to the Associated Press. Chinese officials want to increase that to 50 percent by 2020.
Along with increased government attention to nursing, the Chinese birthing industry as a whole has undergone a wave of consumer attention and spending. Last year, Jezebel attributed some of that to the fact that the birthrate has gone down in China, and mothers are dedicating more attention, and presumably money, to each child. Some of that money is being spent in the growing breast-massage industry, which is based on age-old Chinese acupuncture practices.
China's nationwide attempt to promote breastfeeding is also occurring on a global scale, with groups like the World Health Organization working to support and guide women who are trying to breastfeed. A recent study by United Kingdom-based researcher Amy Brown found that such support is critical in helping women sustain taxing breastfeeding practices.
"Lactation consultants" are a popular source of information and aid to new mothers. According to the International Lactation Consultant Association, there are currently 22,000 practicing International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in 75 countries.
In 2010, a New York Times article spotlighted Freda Rosenfeld, a New York lactation consultant who charges about $200 for her services. Lactation consultants, like Rosenfeld, help women overcome physical pains and general anxieties that accompany breastfeeding.
Earlier this month, coincident with World Breastfeeding Week, The Huffington Post launched its own "I Support You Campaign" as a way of helping mothers everywhere reach their breastfeeding goals. Incidentally, recent statistics show that breastfeeding rates have increased.
However, despite growing worldwide interest in making breastfeeding easier and more painless, it hasn't been a walk in the park for China's latest male breast masseur. Indeed, Yang has quickly learned the difficulties of breaking into the breast-massage business.
"I'm beginning to think this wasn't such a good idea. The husbands are very suspicious," he said, according to Orange UK News.