China Blog II - Sex in the City

There are some sights and attractions your Lonely Planet guide will not mention. My reason why they don't - they are so obvious that they don't need to be pointed out.

One thing you cannot but notice in Shanghai is the ubiquitous PDA (Public Display of Affection). At all times of the day, in the most crowded of places I saw couples making out. While small children were flying kites, their older siblings were locked in loving embraces from which it seemed they would never emerge. Nothing to suggest that China is still a prudish country when it comes to matters of sex. A theory is that China is so overpopulated that people don't have private areas to make out and hence it has become culturally acceptable to make out in public. If this theory is true then recent political moves in India seem rather contrary. In the Sexual Freedom Dept. India is surely falling behind.

Another unmistakable sign in Shanghai is the amount of white/foreign men walking around with really pretty well-dressed Chinese women. Whether these were 'escorts' or regular, Chinese women looking for some fun (as this Time story suggests) it was hard to tell. At more than one place we were offered 'services' and from the boldness and the frankness of the 'agents' you could tell that such offers were fairly commonplace and were generally accepted by foreigners.

Like Starbucks dots every third block in any major American city, KTV or karaoke bars dot the urban landscape in China. Regular karoke is fun - most people are soon drunk on the Tsingtao beer, are singing off-key; others slightly less musically challenged think they are on stage in front of cheering millions. For those wanting a little more adventure, in most places you can hire singing companions endowed with talents other than just of song.

As we would soon find out, this is not always all fun and games. On the Shanghai-Beijing sleeper we were sharing the cabin with a Chinese couple with an irresistibly cute 3 yr old son. Since they spoke a little English, we could have a meaningful conversation. Soon the cultural exchange took a turn we least expected. The women opened up in a way we were not prepared. The purpose of the trip she told us was to get them away from Shanghai, a city she hated. She was her husband's second wife and they were no longer in love. The husband had been philandering with a KTV singer. He often took 'business' trips with his mistress, which the wife found out about and it did not go down too well with her. Naturally, she wanted to leave him but his parents had recently begged her to work things out. So they were taking this trip to get away from the evil charms of his mistress and spend some time together to work things out. While the wife opened her heart out to complete strangers of an all-too-familiar story, the husband had the strange calm of a man condemned for a crime he did commit.

Love, sex, prostitution and marital infidelity are all universal themes but the pace at which they hit us could only happen in China. China seems to have embraced the idea of the West far more quickly and with more enthusiasm than even the West itself.

1 comment:

Ashutosh said...

I hope that a women's liberation revolution of the kind that happened in 1960s US and UK is in the offing in China. Given China's population though, a revolution embodying free love may be a problem!
In China, at least making out seems to be an out and out activity. In Japan, I have heard that things are haphazard and somewhat bizarre in certain places; apparently, even holding hands in public places is seen to be a form of mild blasphemy, while on the other hand, pornography is for open sale in the subway.