O’Connell Davidson (1998) has observed that clients’ public uses of prostitution can act as a social ritual to build up manhood (for example, the collective uses of prostitutes in the armed forces). Currently, sex tourism and he hua jeou are the most conspicuous modes of collective sexual consumption among Taiwanese men.

In the 1960s Taiwan was once a destination for sex tourism. Yet, as a rising economic power in East Asia, Taiwan has increasingly enjoyed a higher living standard and modern lifestyle since the 1980s. Gradually Taiwan has turned itself into a prosperous country which exports sex tourists to less developed areas in East and Southeast Asia. According to government statistics, the number of Taiwanese outbound tourists has accelerated dramatically in the past two decades. The number of tourists traveling overseas was estimated to be around 640,669 trips in 1982, which dramatically increased to 9,415,074 in 2010 (Tourism Bureau, Republic of China 2010). More than 82 per cent of the trips were to Asian countries (Tourism Bureau, Republic of China 2008). Among Asian destinations, Hong Kong is the most popular (2,851,170), followed by Japan (1,309,847). Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam where sex tourism has been relatively popular, attracted 1,076,182 trips made by Taiwanese tourists. Recently, using the dataset from the East Asian Social Survey of 2008, Chang and Chen (2013) found that nearly 47 per cent of Taiwanese respondents reported that they know of friends, colleagues or neighbours who have engaged in sex-related entertainment abroad. Chang and Chen argue that globalisation, the economic hierarchy ofEast Asian countries, and increasing Taiwanese business investments in Southeast Asia and China have made these areas the top two destinations of Taiwanese sex tourists.

According to Chen’s (2012) qualitative research on 30 Taiwanese men’s sex tourism in China, Taiwanese men have tended to draw on a huge amount of military language (such as calling each other ‘general’ or ‘colonel’, organising a ‘troop’ to ‘conquer’ China, and ‘liberating’ Chinese women et cetera) when describing their trips to China. This ‘militarisation of sex tourism’ in some way parodies the political situation between Taiwan and China due to the Nationalist government’s claims that they would launch a counter-attack against China sooner or later. That these trips are ‘cheap’ provides part of the reason for Taiwanese men’s sex tourism in China. Cultural intimacy (in terms of shared languages and a perception of a shared ‘race’) and geographical closeness are also attractions for Taiwanese men. In addition, similar to research on sex tourism from other parts of the world, Taiwanese men tended to see subordinate ‘others’ as desirable sexual objects. Given that tremendous choice exists in China’s sex industry, Taiwanese men frequently represented modern China as a huge brothel, and sexualised all women and girls as whores. Hence, the majority of my informants claimed that ‘It’s impossible for men not to visit sex workers when visiting China!’

Compared to sex tourism that dramatically increased in the past two decades, the social practices of he hua jeou have been embedded in Taiwanese men’s daily life for decades. Taiwanese society is well organised by interpersonal networks based on traditional kinship or blood ties. Therefore, it is claimed that building up guan xi (literally relations or connections) with people of shared interests is very important to get one’s job done. Hwang (2003) claims that the prosperity of the sex industry owes a great deal to small and medium enterprises which have been eager to earn contracts to create the Taiwanese ‘economic miracle’. Bedford and Hwang (2013) argue that treating business contacts, colleagues, contractors, and politicians to he hua jeou is indeed the major way to build up guan xi. Studies on the social network of Taiwanese enterprises also found that companies allocate budgets for treating business contacts to he hua jeou in order to win contracts (Chang and Tan 1999).

Treating he huajeou as a business tool can also make it an extension of the workplace. Allison (1994), in her research on Japanese hostess bars, suggests that flirtation with hostesses serves to blur the boundary between senior colleagues and junior employees. Nonetheless, my inter­viewees subtly talked about how the hierarchy in the workplace creates the tension in this cultural practice. Lin for example reported:

The thing is that my boss was looking at me and waiting to see whether I dared to play [girls] or not. Did I think about clients when I played with bar girls? That’s part of what business means. You need to think about how to please those clients; passing hot girls to clients and letting them have a good time. For me, that’s an extension of the workplace. (Lin, 33, Internet studio owner, married)

As masculinity is not self-evident, there is always a question as to whether a man is ‘man enough’ (Seidler 1989). Above all, studies have shown that masculinities are varied in terms of work and social class (Connell 1995; Morgan 2005). Lin complained of the ways in which his masculinity was put under scrutiny (whether I dared to play or not); however, he prided himself on demonstrating manhood and/or brotherhood by ‘passing hot girls to clients’, and in behaving as a well-trained and experienced employee. In other words, it is not only the hierarchy in the workplace that burdens younger employees, but also the competition between masculinities in terms of the cultural practices which produce the pressure to conform. To be lustfully hetero­sexual is one of the ways to demonstrate hegemonic masculinity, but self-control, particularly in middle-class occupations, is also a core element of this masculinity (Seidler 1989; Connell 1995). Hence, company men who are able to control their ‘innate sexual drives’ and ‘pass hot girls’ to clients are also considered to be ‘real men’.

Comparing the motives of middle – and upper-class men who used he hua jeou, working-class men (who mostly lacked social, cultural and economic capital) usually claimed that they visited affordable sexual establishments simply for ‘relaxation’ after long working hours. It is part of their daily lives or lifestyle rather than just using prostitutes:

When visiting a bar, I would go with friends. It is a kind of social life, you know. We chat to each other in the bars. You know, killing time and having someone to talk to… If I like a woman, I will chat with her and make friends with her. (Lai, 44, truck driver, separated)

It is common that working-class men hang out together and visit down-market karaoke bars where they can have fun and flirt with hostesses. Single working-class men in particular, who were frequently considered ‘not good enough’ for marriage, reported that they were ‘wooing girlfriends’ in these hostess bars. Another working-class respondent also talked about how, when he ran a small gambling business and won an amount of money six years ago, he visited a gong dian (literally grandpa’s shops; that is, low-ranking drinking places for middle-aged or elderly men) almost every night and always ended up sleeping with different hostesses or massage workers. Most importantly, he was proud of himself for having convinced his wife that his ‘nightlife’ was simply ‘healthy entertainment’.

As he hua jeou is treated as social entertainment among Taiwanese men, it plays a significant role in organising the wider gendered social relationships between men and women. Usually wives are expected to ‘understand’ that their husbands are playing social games with working women but not betraying the marriage. Clients, however, taking advantage of this gender hierarchy, benefit from both sides and can live the male dream of ‘having an angel in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom!’

Conclusion

In this chapter I have explored Taiwanese clients’ sexual consumption in terms of class and gendered sexuality. I contest the ideology of the ‘male sexual urge’ which underpins some explanations for Taiwanese prostitution and argue that some sexual consumption is a covert but also well-planned form of consumption, especially among respectable middle-class men. I found that respondents who visited prostitutes just to ‘give vent’ (to sexual urges) were more likely to see the client—prostitute encounter in purely commercial terms whereby rules of ‘the exchange of money and sex’ mark the client-prostitute relationship. At the other extreme, some respondents used prostitutes as substitutes for ‘romantic lovers’ in a context they described as more personalised and less commercialised.

As far as collective sexual consumption is concerned, I have examined both he huajeou [drinking flower wine] and newly developed sex tourism. The social and cultural practice of ‘he hua jeou’ creates a spectrum of different client-prostitute relationships and complex power struggles. Firstly, ‘he huajeou’, as a way of ‘playing women’, is very class-stratified. Middle – and upper-class businessmen use ‘he hua jeou’ for both work related reasons and their own sexual interests. ‘He huajeou’, however, is plainly part of everyday social life for their working-class counterparts.

Finally, I found that respondents’ conceptions of ‘good sex’ also have a strong impact on shaping client—prostitute encounters. Although the ‘good sex’ is represented in slightly different ways, one thing in common is that most respondents demand some kind of ‘emotional’ comfort from prostitution. Thus, prostitutes are expected to perform diverse emotional tasks including chatting, flirting with clients, performing femininity, faking orgasms, and even ‘falling in love’ with clients. Nonetheless, sex workers also manage to manipulate clients’ emotions by creating an illusion of ‘falling in love’ with the clients. Therefore, the relationships between clients and sex workers are far more complex than that suggested by a purely monetary transaction. It is very important for feminists to contextualise these different encounters between sexual consumers and sex workers, and to understand the ways in which both clients and sex workers invest diverse meanings in them. Exploring these details further might help us to map out different landscapes of prostitution in Taiwan and throughout the East-Asian region.