The phenomenon of clients seeking emotional comfort through commercial sex is widely documented. Moreover, clients tend to think that their relations with sex workers are reciprocal rather than exploitative. Lever and Dolnick (2000: 96) went further to suggest that talking is a way in which clients seek to establish a ‘limited reciprocity’ with sex workers. In my study, apart from clients who simply want to ‘give vent’ to their sexual urges, some interviewees claimed that they were not seeking ‘just sex’:

Oh, I do not want to take a woman out only for having sex. I mean just for having sex. It [sex] must be mutually enjoyable and with some feelings, then the sex could be interesting. (Liu, 48, truck driver, married)

I emphasized carnal desire earlier. It’s a physical need, because one’s dick cannot stand it. But, it would be better if there were something more than that [sex] … It might not be love. I think maybe an illusion of love or something. (Lee, 33, Internet studio owner, married)

I think that sex is not just about doing that thing or just about ejaculation. I need emotional attachment. That makes you feel that you are not so… It’s right that it is very comfortable, but it will make you feel that you are not so. lonely. (Chen, doctor, 38, single)

These quotes challenge the hegemonic model of sexuality in which male sexuality is constructed as genitally focused, autonomous and unemotional and female sexuality as diffuse, relational and emotional (Plummer 2002). In saying ‘(sex) must be mutually enjoyable and with some feelings’ clients express a need to blur the boundary between commercial sex and non-commercial sex. An affluent doctor described paying between NT$15,000 to NT$25,000 per hour [US$517 to US $862 per hour] to see call girls at his house, serving them red wine and playing erotic music to create a romantic atmosphere to make the encounters ‘not so commercialised’. Through this blurring of the boundary between commercial and non-commercial sex, clients can differentiate themselves from ‘terrible’ clients who are rude and arrogant. This also enables clients to enjoy a fleeting feeling of being ‘cared for’ and ‘loved’ by sex workers.

Accordingly, we can discern that men do not expect ‘just sex’, but ‘good sex’. Moreover, according to current heterosexual norms, ‘good sex’ is seen as ‘a series of stages to be gone through before the final output: foreplay leading to coitus culminating in orgasm’ (Jackson and Scott 1997: 560). Apart from some clients who preferred to accept sexual services passively, the majority of interviewees emphasised that ‘good interaction’ was important in terms of having ‘good sex’:

… [S]he served me and I served her. Um, I think we treated each other equally. That’s co-operation. . Of course, you could just lie down there and let her rub or stroke you, but it’s very different. Oh, it’s much higher than making love, you know. Yeah, I just used my fingers and let her come two or three times. It wouldn’t be possible, if the two parties didn’t have a good interaction. (Ho, 38, sales, married)

Many punters think they are buyers, so they simply lie down there and don’t do anything. I think many men do it. But, for me it would be very bad sex. . It won’t guarantee a good interaction. (Lee, 33, Internet studio owner, married)

The majority of interviewees in this study reported that ‘good sex’ demands both men and women co-operate with each other in terms of physical positions and dichotomised gender performativity. Therefore, instead of doing nothing or passively accepting sexual services from female sex workers, men who actively engaged in those sexual encounters are more likely to obtain ‘good sex’. Hence, according to Lee, the supreme power of the buyer, which is frequently used to justify the various bad behaviours of clients, is better restrained for the sake of having ‘good sex’. Moreover, Ho’s narrative shows that giving sex workers orgasms constitutes an important part of ‘good sex’. This reflects the way in which discourses of heterosexual orgasm are very much gendered — to the extent that heterosexual women’s orgasms are not achieved on their own but, rather, through men’s ‘hard work’ or ‘excellent sexual skills’ (Roberts et al. 1995; Jackson and Scott 2001). Being able to make sex workers orgasm thus not only provides the illusion of mutual sexual satisfaction, but also makes the client feel he is a skilled sexual partner.

As the female orgasm is seen as an indicator of men’s sexual skills, most interviewees could not help but focus upon the responses of sex workers in commercial sex. All interviewees reported that they could tell whether working women came or not. Thus sex workers’ fake orgasms, in most cases, irritated these interviewees:

I can tell it [orgasm]. Later on I was very annoyed when prostitutes pretended to make some noises. I told them ‘Don’t bother to fake it!’ … I know women’s orgasms very well. (Hong, 35, manager, engaged)

Sometimes I felt annoyed. (he, he, he . ) I got bored. I really want to slap her face and

say something like ‘Yeah, keep faking!’ Yeah, it’s very boring. … When you are con­centrating so much on it, while she is faking. Your thing [penis] shrinks immediately. (Chen, 38, doctor, single)

These two quotes clearly mark out a political economy of demanding mutual sexual satisfaction in commercial sex. By claiming ‘mutual satisfaction’, clients not only present themselves as ‘good’ clients, but as men with good sexual skills. The price, however, is that sex workers have to fake orgasms. As many interviewees reported, most working women do not have an orgasm; as one interviewee put it, ‘[I]t is all about good or bad performance’.