Pregnancy belly gains popularity among online shoppers
Popularity of gel belly rising among internet shoppers seeking faux motherhood
There are myriad reasons to fake a pregnancy and an unusual product that helps people do just that is rising in popularity on shopping websites - a silica-gel "belly".
In one case, a seemingly pregnant woman in Beijing reportedly tried to get a seat on a crowded metro, but her attempt ended in failure and embarrassment when her fake belly was dislodged and exposed.
She then filed a complaint of dissatisfactory merchandise quality, but found no sympathy with the authorities, who said she had not used the product for legitimate means.
Mainland media reports of the debacle earlier this month put the sale of the bellies in the spotlight.
"High standard silica gel. Feels super soft. Looks real," online shop Ivita boasts on the Taobao.com portal. "Fulfil your dream to be a mother."
The shop says it has sold 145 such bellies in the past month. Costing 386 yuan to 429 yuan (HK$478 to HK$530), they come in different sizes to match various stages of pregnancy.
A silica belly meant to fake a pregnancy of two to four months weighs 1.5kg, while one of eight to 10 months tips the scales at 2.9kg. For customers looking to pass off as carrying twins or more, much heavier versions are available.
Ivita says the product can be used as a prop for photograph sessions, acting, or simply getting a sense of how it is like to be expectant. It is also for people "who do not want others to know she is not pregnant".
"Very good, just that it is quite heavy. Feels like eight months' pregnant," a buyer commented on the webpage.
On Taobao.com a search using the keyword "fake belly" yields 78 results, with many having sold dozens of pieces in the last month.
Local non-governmental organisation Mother's Choice thinks that is hardly the way to experience motherhood, though.
"I don't think people are looking for an experience. They have other intentions," said community connections manager Eunice Ku. The group has its own props - sand bags stuffed into aprons - which it uses for educational purposes to give the wearer a sense of how hard it is to move around while pregnant. They are used for talks at secondary schools.
"Sometimes male pupils are told to wear it to experience the inconvenience of pregnancy. It is used for sex education," Ku said.
One web forum user wrote on the Tianya forum: "Many people are obsessed with pregnancy or fake pregnancy. It's just a special hobby."