Personal sexual interests are highlighted in accounts of Western men’s purchase of sexual services. McKeganey and Barnard (1996: 50), for example, listed five reasons that drive men to use commercial sex: seeking particular sex acts, having sex with different women, seeking women with specific characteristics, the thrill of doing something socially condemned, and sex without emotional attachments. Many interviewees in my study reported without hesitation that they had experienced poor sex lives when they were compulsorily drafted into military service, being without sexual partners or their wives/girlfriends not offering enough or good sex. Their sexual consumption was justified in terms of ‘sexual needs’ that could not be satisfied by masturbation:

When you have experience of wan nu ten (literally ‘playing women’), and you know that wan nu ten. is much more interesting than masturbation. If you could afford it, you definitely would choose to wan nu ten. (Hong, 35, manager, engaged)

It was impossible [to masturbate] when I was young. I had many [girl]friends and was very popular when I was young, you know. I definitely wouldn’t think about it [masturbation]. (Lai, 44, truck driver, separated)

‘Wan nu ten’ is a universal phrase that Taiwanese clients use to describe buying sex from women. Considering the cultural and social practices of ‘wan nu ten’ in Taiwan, the term serves to ‘other’ sex workers as sexual objects who can be flirted with, gazed upon, chatted up and used sexually by men (even if this does not necessarily end in penetrative sex). Being a sexual consumer means that a man is guaranteed the ‘right to choose’ which makes prostitution use a ‘thrill’ (O’Connell Davidson 1998). Indeed, the commodification and objectification of the bodies and sexualities of sex workers are especially manifest in the process of ‘picking up’ sex workers, especially when ‘xuan fei’ (literally choosing concubines) during sex tourist trips to China. A client laughed lasciviously when talking about how he and a friend picked up two Chinese sex workers who had ‘big breasts, good body shape and pretty faces’ from among hundreds of sex workers in Shanghai. The ways women were coded by numbers, lined up and displayed to clients, serves to present sex workers as commodities among which clients have a ‘right to choose’. This interviewee ‘others’ Chinese sex workers as pure sexual commodities to the extent that he does not care if they are working in the sex industry in coercive conditions:

I don’t care. I choose women. … by their physical features. It doesn’t matter whether she was trafficked or not. … I only think about my sexual pleasures — whether I come or not. This is their job. (Hong, 35, manager, engaged)

When considered in this way, the client—prostitute encounter is extremely sexualised, com­mercialised and depersonalised. The exchange of money for sexual pleasures is the key theme in this type of sexual consumption. The social boundary between ‘respectable’ clients and unrespectable ‘other’ whores is clearly maintained by sexual contracts within which clients are consumers and prostitutes are workers. Nonetheless, as far as paying for ‘wan nu ten’ is concerned, moving beyond the contract to enjoy additional sex is not only a way to reconfirm the social boundary between the ‘respectable’ self and the other so-called ‘whores’, but also a way to perform hegemonic male sexuality in which men’s penises are the center of heterosexuality both physically and symbolically (Plummer 2002). Ho talked about how he ‘conquered’ a sex worker in a skin nutrition salon where penetrative sex is not allowed:

Both men and women are naked in the salon. In that situation. it is working women who should be subjected to the regulations of the salon. They are not allowed to have intercourse with clients, so women have to control the situation. Eventually every man wants intercourse. . I didn’t force her [to have intercourse], but. I used my body to. approach her. . Of course, she had her line of defense, but eventually she gave up defending it. She gave it up. It was she who gave it up! (Ho, 38, sales, married)

It is more accurate to call this a rape than commercial sex. As McIntosh (1978) put it, women are expected to be responsible for their ‘sexual attractions’ because men’s ‘sexual urges’ are uncontrollable, as Ho says, ‘eventually evety man wants intetcoutse’. Moreover, the representation of the sexual encounter is heavily dependent on a widely accepted biological discourse in which the penis is an active weapon that embodies male sexual drives, while the vagina is a passive container that needs to be aroused. In this way, clients successfully convince themselves that prostitutes are conquered by their masculinity, while conveniently ignoring the known reality that women are usually subjected to rigorous working conditions that require conceding to male demands.