The man crab-walks up to me and asks, “Lady bar?” and I imagine some sort of chocolate covered ice cream on a stick, but that’s not what he’s asking, so I politely decline. Not hungry, anyway. I wasn’t expecting to find Gentleman’s Mammary Clubs or porn shops in China, but you can hardly exit a dumpling shop, walk two doors down and take a surreptitious left without running into one. We actually did see a club called “Lady Bar Sex Sex Sex.” Maybe these grow from tension caused by the “One Child” policy, or maybe I have that backwards and the One Child policy grew out of a preexisting preoccupation with bonking.
Just like home.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. China hasn’t run out of people, so they’re obviously getting plenty of horizontal time. But I’d read that the government has a very strict anti-pornography policy, so I am surprised to see so many places that appear to flaunt that. Perhaps I should have ventured in after all. Purely for cultural research, of course.
I’m not sure what I would have found in the store we passed labeled “Adult Appliances” though. Sexy washing machines in flagrante frottage with naughty microwaves, coquettish double ovens slyly winking behind their thick thermal glass. Kitchen aids.
On my last night in town I walked an endless road alone, and long after dark I left the tourist areas, heading down quieting streets toward the still-distant subway station. The line of street lights dribbled their yellowish glow on sporadic groups of locals in the solid but seedy old neighborhood. I had enough confidence in myself (tall, vigorous, oblivious) and my map (iPhone, Google, well charged) to continue my walk despite the generally dilapidated appearance of the area.
Quiet. Very quiet now, and dark. I passed two brothels. Not the Lady Bars catering to Western tourists, but real neighborhood brothels where everybody knows your name, with red lights outside and in, and thinly dressed, thinly waisted women of ages from too old to probably too young sitting on ordinary chairs and watching for customers. It might have been a sweatshop, but they weren’t making shoes.
Walk on by. No stopping. If anyone asks, “Looking for a good time?” I’ll reply, “I’m already having a good time, thanks.” But nobody does. There’s something comforting about being left alone. I continue northward toward busier neighborhoods, and an eventual subway station.