#24 – Sex Industry in China: Social and Political Context

event #24
March, 26 2013

Prof. Dr. HUANG Yingying 黄盈盈
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Renmin University of China; Deputy Director, Institute of Sexuality and Gender

Chang Ji (娼妓, prostitution) is recognized as one of the oldest profession in Chinese history; while Xiaojie (小姐, female sex workers) is constructed as one of the most vulnerable groups for STI/HIV transmission since the late 1990s. Based on a meta-analysis of ethnographic data collected from nine studies of FSWs from over twenty red-light districts across China, from 1996 to 2012, Prof. Huang aims to provide a comprehensive description of the changing and diverse working situations and the key social and political contexts of sex work in China over the decade.

Her studies argue that FSWs experience many daily based occupational concerns in addition to STI and HIV infection, which include violence from the police and clients, fear of pregnancy or infertility, and exposure as a sex worker to relatives and friends. These concerns must be understood within a social framework that combines individual factors such as sex work-related identities, knowledge and practices, and the diversity of sex work; organizational factors such as venue management style, power dynamics between FSWs, managers and male clients, and fluidity of employment; and structural level factors including poverty and employment situation, sexual and gender norms, social mobility and most importantly, the two policies that directly regulating sex work: illegal and regularly crackdown actions, and HIV/STI prevention. Interactions among these factors, especially the power dynamics between the key bodies, and agency arising from sex work, contribute to the social construction of sex work and influence FSW vulnerabilities.

Changes within and surround sex work in recent decades, under the background of a rapidly transitional society and a sexual revolution, are also observed. These include higher social mobility and doing sex work in transnational spaces, increasing violence, increasing overlap between drug use and sex work, deceasing price, more diverse gender involvement in sexual services, emerging grassroots groups to empower FSW, and meanwhile harsher crackdown actions since 2010.

Speaker Biography

HUANG Yingying is associate professor of Sociology Department, deputy director of Institute of Sexuality and Gender, Renmin University of China. Her research focuses on female sex workers, male clients, women’s body and sexuality, social aspects of HIV/AIDS, and research methodology on sexuality. She is the author of the book ‘Body, Sexuality and Xinggan (sexiness): Study on Chinese Women’s Daily Lives’ and several publications on female sex workers and male clients in China since 1999. Her most recent research projects include: The emerging grassroots groups of female sex workers in China: agency and challenges under anti-prostitution policy; The rise of sex and sexuality studies since 1980s; The changing sexualities in China: population-based surveys in 2000, 2006 and 2010; Exploratory research on sexuality among PLWHA women in China; and Partnership for Social Science Research on HIV/AIDS in China. Dr. Huang also worked as gender consultant for several international HIV/AIDS Projects since 2003, and is one of the key sponsors of biannual international conference on Sexualities in China which started in 2007.

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