China: Prostitution, Reality, Hypocrisy and Human Lives

While online media pages, online TV platforms, commercials, advertisements and virtually every aspect of contemporary Chinese life constantly increases the presence and amount of sexualized female imagery (for example, the highly sexualized image below is captured from QQ's woman news section), recently a crackdown on prostitution and pornography has gone into affect across many of China's major cities.

During the recent 2010 World Cup in South Africa, every day there were new pictures posted on all of the major media pages of sexualized, scantily clad women in suggestive poses with descriptions such as “fragrant meat” (香肉) and “sexy soccer babies” (性感足球宝贝) depicting women as sources of sexual arousal.

Real Human Sexuality

Certainly, the female body, female sexuality, and human sexuality in general, are hopefully not perceived as negatives. The depiction of eroticism or sexuality is a part of human nature as old as recorded history, and China is certainly not the first country or society to deal with the question of sexuality (nor is this the first time in China's long history that the issue has been addressed).

Europe, America, in fact every society that has ever existed, has inevitably needed to deal with the nature of sexuality within culture, society and between individuals. The questions, especially in light of the contemporary phenomenon of hyper-mass media, simply deal with old subjects in a new way.

The Oldest Profession

Prostitution is termed “The Oldest Profession”, yet outside of a few countries or jurisdictions remains one of the most taboo and denigrated forms of earning a livelihood.

While debate on the morality of prostitution is endless and ultimately personal and subjective, the demand for prostitutes is constant and never-ceasing. Women (and to a lesser degree men) have, are, and always will be in demand as sources of sexual gratification and arousal- objects for fulfillment of fantasy and desire.

This is where some of the most pressing questions regarding sexuality, identity, ownership, culture and society come into play.

Sex, Sexuality, Economics and Ownership

Who owns a woman's sexuality and body? Ideally it could be said no one, however in concrete material reality the answer becomes: whoever claims its ownership with the most power to defend that claim- often at the expense and denial of the woman herself.

Whether it is a family, a boyfriend, a husband, a modeling/ad agency, the music/film industry, a religion, a pimp, or a government itself, someone or something is almost always claiming ownership and/or control over a woman, her body, her sexuality, reproduction, mind, relationships, and choices- and it is almost always someone or something with more power than her individually.

Economically, the female body and female sexuality are valuable commodities. Regardless of whether or not one likes the reduction of female existence down to an economic commodification, this process is real and constant in every society across the planet whether it be camels, cows, sheep or horses in some regions, societies and cultures, or contracts for dollars, euros, yen or yuan in others.

Female beauty and sexuality is used to sell absolutely anything and everything from dish-washing soap to cars, deodorant, beer, as well as family life itself. Women with appropriate forms of beauty and sexuality are sought out for different manners of using and exploiting the different products sold by and through their images.

A different form of sexual appeal and imagery will be used for cars and beer and sports than for household products, but it all encompasses a use of physical appeal and sexuality on one level or another. Women themselves are encouraged to self-sexualize and obsess over appearance and form and are sold, almost cannibalistically, the means to transform themselves into more sexualized, physically appealing forms for the consumption of other people, corporations, and industries.

An enormous amount of profit is made off of and out of women, their bodies, their images, and their sexuality, and this is where the first issues regarding the criminalization of prostitution arise: if it is acceptable for business and industry (and through tax structure eventually government as well) to exploit, use and profit from female sexuality…why is it criminal for the woman individually to do the same? If it is criminal for a woman to make profit by exploiting and using her own body, why isn't it criminal for corporations to make vast sums of money directly and indirectly exploiting female sexuality, including even the use of young girls through non-explicit yet sexually provocative or suggestive means?

Repression, Criminalization, and Control

Societies are inherently organizations based around applied control over individuals for collective gain. It is essentially impossible for individuals to have absolute individual personal freedom within a society or to have a society made up of individuals with absolute personal freedom and no central control. What societies struggle to do therefore, is to regulate the degree to which there is a floating balance point between liberty and obligation- too much obligation and the individual will feel trapped and oppressed, to much liberty and the society cannot function cohesively to maintain its needed functions.

With sex and sexuality the issue is the same- too much sexual liberty and disease is spread and pregnancy is begun by those unready or unwilling to carry it through and be parents. The opposite however, over-bearing sexual repression (especially at a culturally-wide level) causes psychological and emotional damage which can lead to physical, relational, and self-abuse and the inability to participate in or enjoy normal, natural human relations and sexuality even within socially approved relational norms.

As such, it is this pincer-like pressure of the artificial stimulation of sexualization, arousal and desire for the self-serving purpose of economic profit on the one hand and the social repression of human sexual behavior on the other (often encouraged or even administered by religious and/or governmental agencies) that compresses the humanity of the individual members of society in this no-win vice of incompatible extremes resulting in psychological and emotional trauma which often vents itself in the physical material world within the relationships people have between themselves and each other.


I should first say that I believe sex workers should be respected, they exchange their youth for money, use hard work to earn a reward, there is no cause for criticism in this, in relation to their clients they should be held in much higher esteem, even if what they do is illegal. There's no doubt that customers for prostitutes greatly outnumber female sex workers, and a great number of them [the clients] are using money they got illegally anyway, although this illegality and that of the sex workers isn't the same, since the clients are all doing illegal activities, maybe even the whole world is all doing illegal activities, but what the sex workers are doing isn't.

“Unequaled on Earth” (不可一世)Regarding the crackdown on pornography as well as others (关于扫黄以及其他…)

While it is not actually the purpose of this post to condone (or condemn) professional sex work, the point of this blogger is appropriate for discussion because although the demand for sex workers creates their occupation (which often they are also forced into being a part of – many if not most sex workers are not wholly voluntarily employed as such), it is usually the women who do the work and not the clients who demand their services who receive the largest amount of scrutiny and shame from the legal and social standpoint.


Drinking and driving, bad manners in public, taking drugs, immorality, visiting prostitutes, in the eyes of many bright stars in entertainment circles these kinds of vices aren't considered a big deal. The rich, so-called “if one is well fed one will think of lust” celebrities leisurely enjoy visiting prostitutes.

007 26 City sweep of porn reads like an inventory of entertainment circles, recruitment of prostitutes by male stars (26市集体扫黄 盘点娱乐圈"招妓嫖娼"的男星)


The porn sweep still has a long way to go before it enters the “deep end”. Why? Because the examination still isn't looking at the gangs, the deep corruption (and it can't, because the porn and prostitution couldn't exist without the protection and participation of organized crime, and regarding crime, the police aren't doing their job, and even if they know they can't do anything, the gangs are protected. As a result, it all is a really big problem.) Looking at the present public announcement of the “porn sweep's” achievement, seems like Beijing's cleaning up of the high class night club scene's “gentleman's paradises” and Chongqing's “Hilton Bars” are just individual cases.

185519734 Regarding the latest porn sweep(关于最近的扫黄)

The Vicious Circle

And so we see the illustration of the cycle of demand for women as sexual objects both from private clients searching for fulfillment of personal desire as well as from private industry using the sexualization of women to attract interest and sell their products, the involvement of criminal gangs in the recruitment and coercion of women and girls into the ranks of sex workers, the profits raised and realized from these endeavors both legal and illegal- yet who bears the blame in the eyes of society and the law?

China is undergoing a hyper-modernization of it's culture and society and a large influx of imagery and ideas from outside its traditional cultural norms on sex. Japanese and Korean, as well as American porn circulates across the web. Following in the footsteps of European, American and South American media, the Chinese media continue to increase saturation of sexualized female forms in connection with every imaginable circumstance. The idea of Chinese women needing to “catch up” sexually both in terms of activity and physical proportions and an insecurity in Chinese women due to this idea slowly seeps into more and more minds.

Hypocrisy in blaming Victims

While prostitution is probably not an ideal form of employment, so long as the demand for sex workers is generated by rich clientele, fed obliquely by the media's super-saturation of sexualized imagery, protected by organized crime and the failings of law enforcement and the government, and so long as all of these institutions profit off of the women and girls who actually do the work, it seems very unfair and even hypocritical to lay the blame and direct the brunt of the enforcement towards the people who have the least to do with the larger issues.

Sex and desire are a part of reality. Attempting to control and suppress people's ability to express and experience their own natural feelings on the one hand while artificially hyper-stimulating and glamorizing conspicuous consumption of sexuality on the other leads to incompatible contradictions in the members of society and the people caught in the middle of the large forces at work shouldn't be the ones left with the blame and the pain.





My name's Lulu, I'm 20 this year, to say I have a profession, I really don't have an official profession, I'm part of the great army of unemployed, to say I'm unemployed, I still have something I can do, every day I go to the nightclubs, bath houses, high class celebrity guest houses, those sorts of places. Once you hear you know what I mean, this kind of profession is really shameful, being a **, in Hong Kong they call it being a “chick”, here we call it “little sister”.

I don't complain about my parents, this is my choice.

I'm really pretty, maybe not like a movie star or model, but when I walk down the street, all the men can't help looking at me. If you see me maybe you could fall in love with me, but not marry me, because I don't have a job and my family doesn't have good circumstances, my mom's sick and my dad's laid off, he just depends on part-time work to support the family. Still, I'm really thankful to my parents because they gave me a pretty face and a really nice body. If I was ugly I'd be terrified to think of how I'd never be able to eat. Really I don't ever blame my parents, its my own choice.

The year before last I graduated high school, I studied with my classmates and took the college exams and I passed even though I went to a second class normal school, but after all it was still a solid base. But when I saw the acceptance letter I was stunned. The entrance fees added to the other fees were more than 10,000, if I sold my mom and dad's powdered bones I still wouldn't have enough. I really cried, I secretly took the admission's notice and tore it up, I told mom and dad I didn't pass, I even asked dad if he could help me find work. He said, ‘I'm laid off, how can I help get you work?’. So I thought of my own way to get work.

Mr. Right A “little sister” after the porn sweep (“小姐”进了扫黄局后 )

Individual Lives, Individual Reasons

Each one has her own reason, those that actually were able to make the choice (since many are forced not just through circumstance but by actual violence and threats), but the results are the same. Cracking down on the women while leaving the gangs, corporate industries, celebrities and rich businessmen untouched and unaccountable is a backwards and useless means of attempting to deal with the problem.

Punishing the providers while leaving the users and pushers is like trying to stop water rushing downstream while leaving it flowing upstream. All you can do is scoop up a little while not actually dealing with the source.

In an ideal world no one would need or be forced to sell their body and sexuality to survive, but so long as we live in reality and so long as reality demands bodies and sex, punishing the people who are used to satisfy those demands while leaving those who create and use the bodies of others for their own satisfaction and profit is never going to help anything.


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