Zhang Lijia

Author Zhang Lijia reviews the novel Paying for It by Canadian comic artist Chester Brown about prostitution on her weblog, but gets nicely sidetracked into her own upcoming novel on prostitution in China.

Zhang Lijia

Who are the prostitutes? The majority of them are country girls from the poor hinterland, unskilled, poorly educated and ill-prepared for life in the city. Many of them work in karaoke bars, sing and dance halls, hair saloons and massage parlors.

My beloved grandma worked as a prostitute for years after she became an orphan and then she was sold into prostitution. I’ve become fascinated by the subject ever since my mother disclosed this secret to me, shortly before grandma’s death.

I am working on this novel about prostitution and also considering a non-fiction on the subject. For me, prostitution serves as an interesting window to see China and the tensions brought by the reforms. It deals with gender issues, economic issues (it contributes a lot to the GDP), the changing values and the sexual norms and of course corruption.

Pan Suiming, China’s top sexologist, contends that China has a specific type of prostitution that entails a bargain between those who use their power and authority in government to obtain sex and those who use sex to obtain privileges. All exposed corrupt officials have mistress, often more than one.

… I think in a civilized and democratic country like Canada, the clients are more likely respect the working girls. In China, men often think they can do whatever they like to the girls, for example, refusing to use a condom. The prostitutes are often the victim of robbery and violence. There are quite a few cases of them being murdered.

Like Brown, I agree that women should have that choice. It’s her body. She should be allowed to do whatever she likes with it. I only hope that there should be more NGOs that can offer the working girls some support. I am very pleased to see that slowly such NGO’s are emerging. I know one former prostitute-turned lady (as robust as her chest) who runs such an organization in Tianjin, offering prostitutes free condoms, knowledge how to protect themselves and how to save money but she doesn’t try to pursue them to quit the profession.

Zhang Lijia interviewing prostitute

More on Zhang Lijia’s weblog.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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