Vice Squad
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Commercial Sex in China

I just ran across a blog, andrésgentry :: water, that provides this remarkable, wide-ranging post exploring commercial sex in China. The author, Andrés Gentry, starts by recounting his efforts to survey the number of sex establishments in Zhangjiagang City, Yangshe Town, where he was living this spring:
Taking the survey was pretty depressing. A number of times, especially near the long-distance bus station where the streets are very narrow and the alley walls are about 10 feet from each other, the women would leave their workplaces and attempt to physically drag me back in with them. There was no way to avoid them when they impeded my path. I felt their nails through the sweatshirt I wore and had to shake their hands off with my elbow as I trudged on. The desperation of clinging to a stranger's elbow in the hope of selling your body should give pause to almost anyone looking at the sex industry.

On any number of occasions I also saw policemen walking their beats in Yangshe's red light districts: a journalist could write a very interesting story figuring out whether these police are paid off, owners of some of the establishments, and/or involved in getting and keeping women in prostitution. It would also be quite interesting finding out who the women's patrons are: I would guess mainly CCP cadres and businessmen. While foreigners are often accused of introducing spiritual pollution to China, in Yangshe Town that is quite impossible: there are almost no foreigners there and of the four red light districts only that one near the Walking Street would see any foreigners.
Such a short snippet, however, cannot do justice to the mass of information and multitude of insights in the original post. It is well worth a visit -- as is the dialogue in the comments section concerning some of the quantitative estimates in the post.

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