Spotlight China | Lunar New Year 2019

Great books and articles by Chinese authors you should read!

Why young girls are selling sex in the cyberspace through compensated dating?

Chu, C. S. K. (2018). Author of Compensated Dating: Buying and Selling Sex in Cyberspace (S. Jackson, O. Khoo & D. T.-S. Tang Eds.): Palgrave Macmillan.

In the past decade, an increasing number of teenage girls are commodifying their sex and intimacy in the cyberspace. The age of girls is also getting younger and younger. In Taiwan, girls as young as nine-year-old are already selling sex online (Yu, Z. Z. (2011, August 12, 2011). A Nine-year-old Girl Engaged in Compensated Dating Online. The Police Force Exclaimed: The Society is Ill!  in Chinese). People. ). These trends become a social panic that worries many parents, educators, social workers, sexual health providers, religious groups, and the society as a whole. They were aghast to see how underage girls, high school students, college students, and young women are voluntarily flocking to sell their sex and sexuality, not for dire financial problems or survival needs, but for materialistic desires and the pursuit in an expansive consumer culture. The general public tends to blame the flourishing trend of the sale of teenage sexuality on a decline in social morality. On the one hand, girls are accused of being vain, lazy, and brainless. On the other hand, men are blamed for sexually exploiting vulnerable young girls. However, depicting young girls as materialistic or ‘powerless victims’, and men as ‘evil predators’ is too simplistic. The book, Compensated Dating: Buying and Selling Sex in Cyberspace , looks at the social milieu that facilitates the growth of the commercialization of female sexuality and offers an empirical foundation from which to comprehend the reasoning behind young girls and men who sell and purchase sex in the cyberspace by examining their lived experiences through in-depth interviews and participant observations.

Despite the sale of sex and intimacy to men, many young girls who commodify their sexualities in Hong Kong do not conceptualize their behaviors as sex work nor consider themselves as sex workers. Rather, they euphemize their behavior, which is essentially transactional sex, as compensated dating, and themselves as ‘CC’ or ‘part-time girlfriend’, which is commonly abbreviated to ‘PTGF’. The term ‘CC’ is developed from a Cantonese term ‘C Chung’ (私鐘), which literally translates to ‘private clock.’ This term has been used to refer to individually-operated sex workers since the 1980s to emphasize the flexibility of their working hours and private practice. In the context of CD, ‘CC’ refers to a girl who is willing to provide sexual services, ranging from oral sex to unsafe penetrative sex, while ‘PTGF’ refers to a girl who provides a romantic experience without sexual contact. Theoretically, CCs are distinct from PTGF. Practically, however, the distinction between CC and PTGF is not useful because a PTGF may eventually agree to provide sexual services to her clients, either because she succumbs to their consistent persuasions, or because she has changed her values of what she should or should not commodify during her involvement in CD. It seems that the more the number of times a girl engages in CD, an increasingly wider range of sexual acts she is willing to provide. In some cases, the same girl would provide either CC or PTGF services depending upon different clients’ requests.  Thus the groups of CC and PTGF are mutually entangled. Either way, the use of these euphemistic terms function to undermine the commercial sexual nature of their behaviors and safeguard their identity.  

Another justification for young girls to commodify their sexuality through CD is their claim that CD is simply a new form of interpersonal relationship rather than a form of sex work. CD often involves dynamic provider-client interactions which are not restricted in a bounded context with temporal, economic, and sexual constraints. Many girls and their clients would engage in intense online communications before and after their CD encounter takes place, thus many of them would have already established a level of emotional intimacy before they actually meet in the physical world. The intimacy developed in the virtual world creates an illusion that they are dating with a romantic partner rather than engaging in commercial sex with a complete stranger. During their leisure time, some girls and clients would also engage in various social activities, such as karaoke, dinner, drinks, and mahjong games. These kinds of non-commercial and non-sexual social activities make CD very different from other forms of commercial sex. Moreover, in these social gatherings, the girls do not perceive the men as clients and the clients do not conceive the girls as CC/PTGF, but they consider each other as friends. Such kind of friendship is also seldom being observed in conventional sex workers-clients relationships. Since their relationships with clients are not necessary and strictly commercial and sexual, many girls do not conceptualize themselves as sex workers and therefore, lessen their moral burden when they are providing sexual intimacy through CD.

While materialism appears to be an easy and immediate explanation for girls’ involvement in CD, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient reason to it. Girls’ voluntary CD engagement is related more to the meaning and practice of sex and intimacy in late modernity, which is increasingly fragmented and individualized. Today, sex is no longer confined in marriage for procreation purpose, but has become more flexible and non-marital for recreational purpose. Such sexual autonomy creates a more drastic change in women’s sexual expression and practice than that in men, who historically have been enjoying a higher level of sexual freedom. While the concept of chastity was predicated on women in the past, women are now encouraged to celebrate their sexualities. In the light of this new female sexual autonomy, some adolescent girls have already had multiple sexual partners and engaged in casual sex before they entered into CD. They considered CD as a better model than their previous sexual model because while both involve causal sex with strangers, the former is with compensation whereas the latter is not.

Although the linguistic representations of CD and CD participants, the sense of emotional intimacy and ‘friendships’ in CD, and the new female sexual script in late modernity are not in themselves the causes of girls selling sex through CD, the effects of them do designate the contexts of an environment that is favorable for girls to commodify their sexuality.

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