Legal, but risky! Sex-for-travel sparks heated discussion in China

Updated: 13 Oct 2016
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Trading sex for travel sparks heated discussion on the Chinese Web. Photo: IC
Poppy Yang (pseudonym), 25, smiled as she checked the box beside "traveling to Kunming" in her notebook three weeks ago. Since October 2015, without spending a penny, she has traveled to around 20 places in China.

According to her, she loves traveling to different places, but she cannot afford the way she travels.

"When I travel, I would like to eat fancy food, stay in very nice hotels, not look at the price tag and buy whatever I like," she said.

"I earn less than 3,000 yuan ($448) a month, and there is no way I can pay for the travel I like on my own."

Yang thought she would never realize her dream, but an article she read online in August 2015 gave her new hope.

In the article, a 20-something-year-old woman talked about how she would find a temporary boyfriend online who was based in each of the places she wanted to visit and get them to take her around and pay for everything, from her airfare and hotel bills to meals and shopping sprees, in exchange for sex at night.

"I was inspired; if a man is willing to pay for my travel, I would also be willing to sleep with him at night," she said.

Determined to copy the woman in the article, Yang left dozens of messages on online social networking and dating platforms. They included her requirements for her temporary boyfriend: her preferred height, age range, looks, and a stipulation that he must be willing to pay for her trip.

After three days, someone took her up on her offer. He accompanied her on a two-week trip to Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region. During the day, they went sightseeing, and the man paid for everything. At night, they slept together.

Nowadays, it appears that more young women are interested in sex-for-travel. A radio program on The Himalayan, an audio sharing platform in China, talked about the topic on September 20. The broadcast was listened to around 660,000 times up to press time.

Trading sex for travel is highly controversial. The topic has spurred heated discussion among Chinese Net users. Some see it as an understandable lifestyle, while others believe it is unethical and express serious concerns about safety issues.

According to experts, although sex-for-travel does not break Chinese law, it is not protected by it either. For some, the practice raises issues about the safety of the women. Others worry about how it might affect social perceptions of sex and sexual morality.
Bewitched by the thrill

After her first experience, Yang could not stop. It is now her primary mode of travel.

"I became so addicted to sex-for-travel," said Yang. "Each trip is exciting because every temporary boyfriend, basically a complete stranger, brought me the thrill of unexpectedness as I met and got to know him."

She took her trip to Sichuan Province in May as an example. One week before her planned departure date, she got a boyfriend based in Chengdu online, and he said he would pick her up at the airport.

During the three-hour flight from Beijing to Chengdu, she was very excited.

"Although my temporary boyfriend had sent me his photos, I kept thinking whether he looks the same in real life, whether it would be awkward when we first meet at the airport, what kind of person he is and what would happen during the following days.
Everything was unknown and unexpected for me," she said.

When she arrived at the exit, Yang saw a man holding a bunch of roses in one hand and a piece of cardboard with her name on it in the other.

"It was very romantic for a first meeting," she said.

In the following days, her temporary boyfriend drove her to many scenic spots and happily paid for everything, including the souvenirs she purchased.
As they chatted more, she got to know him better and felt more relaxed when she slept with him at night.

For her, the trip to Sichuan turned out to be a very pleasant experience. But at the same time that she was enjoying the lifestyle brought by sex-for-travel, she knew people were gossiping.

"They said I was trading my body for money and called me a woman without virtues," she said.

Legal, but risky

According to Zhu Xiaoding, a lawyer from the Beijing Cailiang Law Firm, sex-for-travel does not break the law as it does not do great harm to the society or violate criminal law.

He said in sex-for-travel arrangements, most people have sex as couples and very few of them take sex as their profession or rely on it to make a living. Therefore, sex-for-travel is different from prostitution or buying sex, both of which are illegal in China.

But although sex-for-travel is not illegal, Zhu said it does have a range of risks and is likely to trigger other criminal behaviors, such as robbery, as it gives strangers the opportunity to prey on the participants.

"There exists a great gap between the virtual world and the real one," he said. "The person found online may turn out completely different in reality, and therefore, would probably pose a danger."

Zhu also mentioned other dangers to personal safety, such as abduction, trafficking, and homicide.

"It is also not out of the question that a woman gets photographed in the nude and is threatened to be involved in prostitution or join pyramid schemes to make money for her blackmailers," Zhu added.

He also said that if girls under the age of 14 engage in sex-for-travel, their temporary boyfriend could be charged with rape.

A person who engages in this practice also has no legal recourse if the other breaks the agreement. Zhu said that the agreement reached, either spoken or written, between the man and the woman, has no legal force, so if one breaks the agreement, the other cannot fight for him or herself through legal channels.

Tina Lin (pseudonym), a 27-year-old salesperson based in Beijing, could not agree more. She went on a sex-for-travel trip to Xiamen, Fujian Province, around six months ago, and after she had slept with her temporary boyfriend on the first night, he stopped paying for the tickets to scenic spots, refused to pay for the lunch they had the second day and then disappeared.

Sad and angry, she thought of calling the police but hesitated because she was afraid that more people would know she had traded her body for travel and would be judged. In the end, she decided not to call the police.

"I felt so regretful, but at the same time, I felt lucky that he didn't do anything worse, like shooting nude photos of me and using them to threaten me," she said.

Zhu suggested that given the potential risks, instead of giving in to thrill-seeking impulses, young girls should consider the possible negative consequences before they go on a sex-for-travel trip.

Pushing sexual boundaries?

According to Wang Qianni, an anthropologist based in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, in a way, sex-for-travel is used by some women as a weapon to fight against the traditional social boundaries which delineate sex as something that is shameful.

She said publicizing their sex-for-travel experiences on social networking platforms shows that the participants do not consider trading their body for travel shameful.

"To some extent, it does reflect the changes in sexual morality," Wang said. "In other words, through experiencing and publicizing sex-for-travel, some youngsters move the boundaries that associate sex with shame."

Although she recognizes that if a woman trades her body for travel, it is her personal choice, Wang believes the phenomenon has a negative effect on society because it encourages gender inequality.

The Global Times did not find any statistics on the number of men and women who trade sex for travel, but through research, it found that the majority of the people who trade their body for travel are women.

According to Wang, female participation in sex-for-travel illustrates that the development of gender equality has regressed.

"Only when women feel they are at a disadvantage during sex would they think of being compensated with money," she said. "Women are placing themselves in a lower position in the power structure."

Wang said that some people find sex-for-travel attractive because travel offers a space where they can escape from their presupposed and relatively fixed social roles in daily life, where they can do things that challenge morality and daily norms.

The reason sex-for-travel is happening now and not at any other time, according to Wang, is that it is accordant with the current society where values are rapidly changing, and feelings, as well as the body, are greatly commercialized, which makes it easy for people to put a price on them.

Yang conceded that she considers her body as something she can use in whatever way she likes and enjoys the feeling of escaping from daily life and doing something unusual. But she was alarmed at the underlying risks behind sex-for-travel.

"I never expected that sex-for-travel could entail so many dangers; I will give it a second thought," she said.

SOURCE: Global Times
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Comments Area ( Total Comments: 2 )
Voodoo Commented on 29 Jun 2017
This is Prostitution..
TheHumanFly Commented on 24 Oct 2016
A form of prostitution, if truly legal there is definatly something wrong with the government leaders!