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The girls from the drama academy cost the most. Actresses are pretty, after all, and pretty is the point. The gentleman on a budget had better browse through students at the tourism institute, or perhaps the business school. He started out small: fliers passed on the street to the chauffeurs of expensive cars.
He is nonchalant about the work, even vaguely proud. He is feeding on a wave of prostitution that, academics and sex workers say, has spread throughout universities and among young, would-be professionals in recent years. This semester, at least two universities introduced rules banning students from working as escorts or mistresses. But the motivation is strong. In China, everybody seems to be selling something these days.
Advertising crowds the skyline and the roadsides. The end result is the same. Just a few decades back, premarital sex was looked down upon by respectable families. Many in the latter group are reluctant to think of themselves as hookers and are therefore lax about protecting themselves. The women are generally careful not to get trapped in a life selling their sexual favors. This is paid sex as a strategy, a way to look more elite, get a better job, find new opportunities. The younger generation wants to wear all the brand names, the expensive cosmetics, use the newest cellphones and computers.
Xiao Yi, a year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong, insists that she and the other young, paid mistresses are misunderstood. She met her lover when she was an intern at an advertising agency, and he was a much older boss, nestled in the comforts of money and family. But she insists she is drawn by something deeper than the cash and perks.
She says she has fallen in love with him. Sometimes, she says, she even takes him out for a meal. Using sex as a commodity, it turns out, goes a long way.