CHINA IN BOYS FOR SALE
The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew & Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 98-107.
Probably no other culture has developed the refinements of boy-love to the level that the Chinese have. Ancient Chinese literature is full of descriptions of the delights of lovemaking with young boys. A rich man, such as a government official, expected to be rewarded with unusual delicacies and the specially trained erotic boy was one of them. As for the poor man, such delicacies might also be a treat for him, at least on special occasions in the male brothels.
Prostitution was facilitated in China: first a permissive cultural attitude which assumed that such matters were another man’s private affair, and second, the widespread poverty which made the purchase of children easy to accomplish. Life was cheap and expendable. Life is still cheap and expendable in present-day China but the old attitudes, from what we have learned, have gone by the boards for the time being.
One unique aspect of Chinese taste made prostitution different from Greek love practices. The Chinese preferred effeminate boys — effeminated to a degree which required years of special training. The expense of such training demanded commensurate compensation when the boys were to be sold to the rich (or rented exorbitantly to the masses.) Also important was the Chinese taste for pain. They developed types of treatments which, to increase their sadistic pleasures, required hurting the boy being used and such recurring pain was not a satisfactory basis for a continuing love-relationship. Short term affairs made the brothels, with their close controls and discipline, inevitable.
The boys in their brothels were nearly all Chinese — purchased, when quite young, from their parents or from kidnappers. Both parents and kidnappers did a thriving business. For the heads of large families, these deals meant fewer mouths to feel. The kidnappers were rarely prosecuted as long as they paid off the right officials. White European children and an occasional Malay were to be found in any fair-sized Chinese brothel - even a Negro boy was found in a Shanghai “house.” For that matter, Shanghai brothels had the reputation of being able to furnish anything a customer could request — any age, any sex and any act. After World War I, there were a good many white Russian children in these brothels — mostly orphans who were lost or abandoned as infants. Probably the children offered as “French” or “German” were actually Russian. They could just as easily been the sons of European sailors who frequently visited white women prostitutes in the seaports.
An English sailor once went to the consul with a complaint that there was an 11-year-old English boy in a Canton brothel. He said the boy’s wrists had been chained behind his back for two years because he was “disobedient” whenever unchained. The consul investigated and found that there was a blond boy who spoke English in one of the local houses but that he had disappeared and was unknown by the time the consul returned with the authorities. The boy had told the sailor that he was chained because he had protested against the misery of being raped 20 to 30 times every night.
Once a boy’s career was ended — sometimes as early as fourteen but usually when he was seventeen or eighteen — he was thrown into the street if no one could be found to buy him. Many, of course, became sick from ill-treatment and simply died when dismissed from the house. The fear of being evicted kept most boys obedient. Possibly, since their only experience with the outside world was with customers who came to the brothel, it is understandable that almost anything would be preferable to what they imagined as the horrors of “outside.” If they judged the world from the actions of their clients, it can be well imagined that it seemed a fearful place. The brothel, even with its misery, was at least familiar to them and possibly, by imagined comparison, the better of the two. If one recalls the care given to wrapping the feet of young girls to shrink them to an unnatural shape considered beautiful, one can believe the extent of the disciplined feminization of young boys destined to be boy prostitutes in China. This process began at least by the age of five and often earlier. Although a boy was sometimes purchased and trained after he was ten, it was believed impossible to achieve perfection in the training of a boy after that age. The only remaining parallel which still exists is the regimentation of youngsters for the acting profession on the Chinese stage, especially those being prepared to play the parts of girls. Not so long ago, families whose boys were apprentice actors, were warned to prepare themselves for the possible death of their sons. Training was so rigorous that the youngsters were occasionally whipped to death when they failed to achieve the skill required in playing feminine roles. It is certain that the discipline was even more severe in assuming the feminine mentality and manners which were enforced upon boys training to become prostitutes. They lived under the whip twenty-four hours a day.
In the novel Bijou de Ceinture we are given the picture of such punishment. A 10-year-old is stripped naked, his wrists and legs tied together in the most painful way conceivable so that, lying on his stomach with his feet up in the air, he resembled a twisted serpent. His master, comfortably arranged for the long ordeal, began whipping the boy’s feet with a lithe strip of bamboo. The blows fell with the regularity of a machine. They never hit twice in the same spot so that the master was so able to administer the most excruciating pain without danger of deforming the boy’s beauty. The whipping continued long enough to guarantee that the pain would endure a month — even longer when he walked.
Various kinds of exercise were forbidden to avoid developing masculine muscles which would not be considered beautiful. The least masculine movement was punishable. Indeed, there is evidence that foot-binding was sometimes practiced on boys too — not only because small feet were the ideal, but also to keep the trainee from too much exercise. Exercise was replaced by massage, of a sort designed to give shape to the body. The Chinese knew the art of shaping the buttocks into rare beauty, if given a child young enough to work on at the beginning. The shape of the head and legs could also be controlled and the rest of the body was rounded out by diet and forced feeding. Special attention was also given to skin texture. Refined oils and unguents were used after depilation and during massages. The arts of delicate perfuming and dramatic hair arrangements and dress were also stressed.
Body movements were of prime importance. A Chinese actor performs with his entire body and mind - thinking and willing the part. Boy prostitutes were trained to be actors, living the part of a woman 24 hours a day — willing to live only to give pleasure to their patrons.
An important part of the training was intellectual — memorizing songs and stories, erotic poetry and developing a philosophy that the principal aim in life was to give sexual pleasure. This intellectual preparation was not separated from the physical but was especially attached to sexual preparation. From the moment he arrived at the home of his trainer, a young boy began a program to enlarge his anus. Dilation was accomplished by the insertion of progressively larger, penis-shaped dilators of ivory or wood. Dilators were always inserted as a reward, or at moments of joy — they were removed at times of punishment. Whenever a boy was praised as deserving an especially large reward, it was always accompanied by a larger and therefore more painful dilation.
The boys were given quaint names — usually those of flowers. A new boy might be shamefully called “Unwanted Flower”. (Flower was a Chinese euphemism for anus.) As he grew older, he might be rewarded with a name like “Desired Flower”. His name could be changed as a temporary punishment to something like “Stinking Flower Unloved.” And at the age of 8 or 9, when the time neared for his master to force the first anal intercourse, his name could be switched to “Curious-Needy Flower.”
There is some disagreement about whether or not the first human penetration was made deliberately painful. One authority suggests that when the first penetration came at an excessively early age, a minority of more humane trainers used a drug which was both anesthetic and dilatatory. However, most trainers agreed that the youngster’s first intercourse needed to be extremely painful to prepare him erotically for his long-range future experience. A burning pain, prepared for, interpreted, and properly accepted was considered an essential aspect of teaching the boy his place. It was thought that it burned the knowledge that he was a whore into his spirit like a brand on the flesh.
Editors’ note: In spite of the preparation, the first actual penile penetration always creates a tremendous impact — especially at the moment of entry. There is an initial shock which has its psychological meaning quite apart from the question of pain. That shock is becoming aware that one is being controlled involuntarily by another. Some have suggested that perhaps a horse being broken consists of coming to terms with the same shock — giving up one’s independence to a rider who holds the reins. When a burning pain is added to the shock, there is more than resignation and acceptance. There is a re-shaping of personality, a loss of identity and the gaining of a new self-understanding. Sartre, in Saint Genet, gives a related interpretation of sexual experience — “I am the helpless one who knows another’s pleasure as pain.”
The training of the Chinese boy-prostitute sought to make him a masochist who could enjoy the inevitable pain of his profession. Whether or not he succeeded made little difference for many brothel customers would insist that a boy suffer visibly. Others were aroused through the process of spanking the boy, biting him, making him dance to a whip, or generally knocking him about.
One observer writes: “The brothel boys were handsome youngsters of 10-12, dirty and badly treated. When a customer arrived, several boys would vie for the privilege of sitting on his lap. When one was chosen, he would entertain the customer with dirty stories and songs until he was sufficiently aroused for sex. The intercourse was always painful. At times, the client would knock the boy around in advance to make sure that he would get his money’s worth.”
Another observer writes of Tientsin at the turn of the century. It had 35 boys’ brothels housing over 800 boys from 8 through 17. These houses were open 24 hours a day. Europeans were welcomed and a foreigner seeking such a house could ask a policeman for directions. The customer was taken to a waiting room where boys were ushered in until he had made his choice. Then, he was taken to a private room without being asked what he wanted to do with the boy. However, he was instructed that any unusual tortures required a special price.
The boys were almost eagerly obscene but would, once undressed, wait patiently on a customer’s lap until he understood the pleasure desired. “Many of the customers were extremely sadistic and European sailors often patronized the places merely to spank a boy and that, sometimes endlessly.” The observer also reports that European sailors came out of curiosity, having heard that “a Chinese boy is as good as any European woman, but different...” They left praising the talent and beauty of the boys and the pleasure they could give. The “utter surrender” of the boys was also a new experience for Europeans who had never experienced such docility and willingness for anything.
“Our man in China” went on to point out that the boys seemed to have far more personality around the ages of 11 or 12 than when they got to be 15. Perhaps he did not realize that the boys who remained in the houses until fourteen were then castrated which caused them to lose all sense of ever having been male. Nevertheless, those chosen for castration were the most successful, the most beautiful, the most lascivious — they were castrated to prolong their careers.
These boys, interestingly enough, were called “raped boys” — not because they had been raped at the tender age of 8, but because their castration had raped them of their masculinity.
Their clothing was most luxurious — silk with gold decoration. They were perfumed like the private “lustboys” of the nobles. The younger boys were dirty and ill-bathed, and perfumed only by customers willing to pay for this additional service.
Some men preferred older boys, some younger, but all came expecting experienced partners and did not, as in the West, come prepared to pay extra sums for virgins.
Very little is said about fellatio. Authorities point out that other countries are full of oral artists but that the Chinese are not interested in this end of the business. What they wanted was sodomy. Indeed, young Vietnamese, for example, great on fellatio, enjoyed French lovers and became accustomed to their kindness and consideration in lovemaking. They consequently dreaded being turned over to a Chinese customer because of the inevitable pain and violence.
In Peking, and Northern China, there were fewer boys’ brothels but other common forms of boy prostitution to make up for the lack of houses. Boys were rented as “nightly” companions, waiters or entertainers and their training and discipline was much the same. Greater emphasis was placed on singing and dancing in the north and boys there were often attached to some theatre troop. These same boys often approached tourists in their boxes at theatrical performances. It was quite an accepted part of going to the theatre. Often, sexual relations occurred in the theatre boxes during a performance. Customers in box seats were invariably approached by many boys making offers and showing samples of their wares. Some of these boys were obviously amateurs for they were occasionally too young to belong to the theatrical troop.
There were restaurants, too, where the waiters were quite young and a customer could take a favorite waiter to a private room. Some of these restaurants would send food and boys out to private parties. Many government officials would no more serve a dinner without lovely boys than one would serve a dinner today without wine or some other beverage, especially if it were a festive occasion and the guests, important personages.
Very young boys, with scented mouths, were assigned to lick off food particles from around the mouths of the diners and they would also use their tongues and mouths elsewhere when requested. Again, these Peking “entertainers” were quite feminized and were often completely dressed and coiffed as girls. Their erotic teasing and coquetry were almost entirely feminine in nature.
Though in North China there was less brutality in lovemaking, boys were taught to feign pain as a compliment to their lovers’ virility. The common position in anal intercourse was for the boy to kneel on the customer’s lap — back to the customer — which made possible all kinds of variations in one single act of sexual intercourse. The boy’s training had forced him to become a contortionist and he was able to perform in ways which Europeans often didn’t believe possible when they saw it performed. Demonstrations were common and for a modest fee, the manager of the house would put a boy through his paces to show the rich variety of things he was trained to do. Through it all, whether demonstration or actual commercial contact with the customer, the most noticeable characteristic of a boy prostitute was a dead-pan, unexpressive face but an extraordinarily alive lasciviously erotic body, every inch of which was capable of expressing emotion.