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Graveside Strippers

The Asian Sex Gazette, an online (and perhaps offline) publication whose content is a bit risque for this PG-rated blog (I found the link over at the excellent Marginal Revolution website, which plainly has a pervier crowd), reports that some Chinese funerals feature graveside strippers:

The more people that come to a funeral in China, the better the deceased is likely to fare in the afterlife, which is why some families have taken to hiring exotic dancers to keep attendance figures high.

Now Chinese officials are cracking down after the state broadcaster, CCTV, ran a report about two groups of strippers performing at a farmer’s funeral in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

The next day, police arrested the organisers and five women for “obscene performances.” Local officials were told they must submit plans for funerals within 12 hours after a villager dies. Exotic dancing is off the menu – and residents can report “funeral misdeeds” on a special hotline for a reward of USD $ 35.

I am skeptical that the government is really willing to pay $35 to stop a “funeral misdeed.” But more significantly, this story got me to thinking about funeral attendance in general. A few months ago, I attended the funeral of a friend who was 84 years old and was a well-regarded man in several arenas. Because he was an observant Jew, the funeral was held the day after his death, with no time to announce the time and place of the funeral — and yet more than 500 people attended. Many of them came from Manhattan (the funeral was held in New Jersey), although at least a few mourners came from Washington, D.C., and a lot of those 500 people have pretty high-ranking jobs in various fields.

Which made me wonder: how does funeral attendance impact productivity? I fear it may sound ghoulish to raise this question, though I do not do so in the spirit of ghoulishness. I just wonder about the changes in productivity among people who attend a lot of funerals and memorial services, and especially the difference between cultures or countries in which just about everyone goes to every funeral versus cultures or countries in which attendance is more uncommon. If anyone knows of research on this subject, I’d be interested in knowing. This is certainly not to suggest that people shouldn’t attend funerals; but a funeral is an event whose utility strikes me as amorphous at best. Not long ago, I was driving with my family past a lovely old cemetery on Cape Cod, and when I pointed it out, my 6-year-old son asked what a cemetery is for. I told him it’s so that people can go visit their dead friend or relative, maybe talk to them a bit, and that it can make the living people feel better. “That wouldn’t make me feel better,” he said. (Clear-eyed little guy just might grow up to be an economist.)

Of course, I may be looking at this all wrong. It may be that funerals are more valuable as networking events than they are costly in terms of lost work time.

Anyway: it’s a shame that the Chinese mourners can’t send their loved ones off with a big crowd any more. But maybe the stripper ban will at least nudge Chinese productivity up a bit.

[A related addendum: the blogger Max Kalehoff, who is a v.p. with BuzzMetrics, asks “Are Deceased Dads Remembered More On Fathers Day Versus Deceased Moms On Mothers Day?”]