China’s schizophrenic sexual revolution

 China’s schizophrenic sexual revolution

The brothel downstairs from my Shanghai apartment, like so many similar establishments across China, masqueraded as a foot massage parlor. But only the densest or most desperate massage seeker would have mistaken it for a purveyor of the painful rubdowns prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine. Most nights young women in short shorts and exaggerated makeup lounged in the massage chairs in varying degrees of boredom, and the space was lit in pink. The imprint of a foot on the placard outside was about all that kept up the ruse.As far as neighbors went, the sex workers were fine — quiet, courteous, not prone to cooking stinky tofu. The few times my clothes fell from the bamboo poles used to dry laundry in China, they saved the garments for me until I could make the trek downstairs to retrieve them. We didn’t share an entrance, though a window in the back of the parlor opened onto my stairwell, and on my way home on hot nights I would see the women brushing their teeth. (Even the room that doubled as a kitchen and bathroom glowed fuchsia.) As the years passed I rarely had reason to think about the brothel. But it remained a difficult thing to explain to overseas guests, invariably evoking one of those questions about China that evade any quick, pat answer.Continue Reading…

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China’s schizophrenic sexual revolution

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