A distinction must be made before I get off on the wrong footing with many readers (which I inevitably will) between the system of domestic sexual slavery in China that lasted up to the mid-20th century known as concubinage, and concubines. I don’t support slavery in any form, sexual or otherwise, but I would, in the right circumstances, support a concubine. For a particular concubine, the right concubine, I would pay. I think you would too. Say you encounter the woman of your dreams — one with your ideal “10” body. I mean the kind of body that would make you cheat on your wife or girlfriend for the very first time. You know what kind of body I’m talking about. There’s not a man around who doesn’t secretly fear this future catastrophe. She also happens to be smart, cultured and talented — poet, belly-dancer, Derrida fan, you name it. And here’s the clincher: she’s into you as well. But there’s a catch. In her country, where you’ve met, you are not allowed to lay a hand on her unless you buy her. No, not a one-shot gig like a prostitute, but really buy her, for good. You can have her all for your very own, provided, of course, you set her up and take care of her, ensure her welfare. On the other hand, she is affordable (credit cards accepted). By purchasing her you will be considerably improving her economic circumstances, and thus her ability to develop her talents and self-actualize to her fullest potential. That’s not such a bad thing, is it? (In fact, this scenario is not all that different from what already exists. It’s called marrying up. The terms are just not so cut and dry.)
Airbnb has of late been getting unfavorable news coverage. Clever property owners have discovered that by turning over their residential units to Airbnb guests, they can rake in more cash than renting them out to regular tenants, while at the same time exploiting legal loopholes to avoid paying hotel taxes. In San Francisco, disenfranchised residents have accused the company of exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. Proposition F, which would curtail Airbnb’s ability to facilitate such profiteering, has just been defeated. This legal battle recalls those recently pitting local taxi drivers in various cities around the world against Uber, Airbnb’s equivalent in the private car-for-hire business. But Airbnb and Uber have their finger on the pulse of the times, and with some tweaking of their business model I suspect they will ride out the resistance and not only survive but thrive.
I don’t take a position on the above controversy. I do, however, have a negative view of Airbnb for entirely unrelated reasons.
There was commotion inside a clothing shop on Broadway. A woman could be heard shouting and a man rushed out. He stopped in his tracks and looked around in confusion. “Where the hell am I?—Excuse me, can you tell me what city we’re in?” he asked a pedestrian.
“I beg your pardon?”
“What city is this?”
“You don’t know?”
“Those apartment blocks weren’t there a few minutes ago.”
The passerby rolled his eyes and moved on. “Try that bar over there,” he said with a backward glance at the strange man. “Or you just come from there?”
The man crossed the street. The bar had an industrial door and a small window framing the word “Bar” in cursive neon. He entered the dark interior and sat down at the counter. The bartender, a rugged man in a cowboy outfit, swiveled his face past the stranger and reversed direction to meet him in the eye. “What’ll you have, buddy?”
There is a highly sensuous quality to the American retail experience, whether easing a toasty warm Potbellian sandwich or a Culver’s fudge pecan frozen custard sundae into your mouth, navigating the broad aisles of a Walmart (designed for people hooked up to oxygen canisters in their electric carts), or perusing the apparel and guns at an outdoor recreation chain such as Gander Mountain. The latter’s elegant gun displays are laid out behind glass cabinets with the patient precision of a museum curator. The hushed church-like atmosphere of the store, the combat green industrial carpeting, the wide wiggle room between the clothing carousels (reducing your risk of bumping into a customer with a concealed weapon), the durable feel of the fabrics’ weave in the fingers, the astonishing variety of pockets, the stylish camouflage patterns on everything from rifles to sunglasses, and the great deals (five dollars for a genuine Australian Akubra hat)—all conspire to make shopping intensely satisfying, even for types such as myself who don’t normally enjoy shopping.
A recent article in the The Nanfang (“Answering the age old question: Why do foreigners marry ugly Chinese girls?“) gives me occasion to address a conundrum I too have long pondered—particularly as the author, Charles Liu, devotes a scant 375 words to the topic, excluding his quotations of Xu Xiliang, the Chinese female journalist who first posed the question in the magazine iFeng Beauty. Liu doesn’t moralize to the extent Xu does on the “materialism” of Chinese society that fosters superficial glamour over inner beauty, but he implies as much in his avoidance of any coherent statement of his own. The cover photo too is mystifying, featuring an attractive Chinese woman where I would expect to see a plain-faced one, perhaps with a certain sex appeal (such as the lovely lady above).
Countless interracial couples have I witnessed over my two decades in China, usually white guys and Chinese females but not a few black guys and Chinese females as well, along with your occasional Chinese guy and white female (I have yet to see a Chinese guy and a black female). The run of Chinese women I have seen with foreign men have been ordinary looking. So were the men they were with. Not terribly surprising, given that most people are ordinary looking. I mean, what are your chances of landing a beauty in any country?
It’s 1949 at Revolutionary University. Chinese students spend all their waking hours in political meetings—when they’re not hauling feces from the latrines to the manure fields. Jump to 2015. Chinese endure endless meetings at the hands of […]