Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture presents a workshop on

Sexual boundary crossings and sexual contact zones in East Asia

Saturday Oct. 2, 2010
Room 10-301 Sophia University Yotsuya Campus


Contemporary Contact Zones 1

9:30 - 10:40

blue woman

Shanghai’s global nightscapes as ethnosexual contact zones

James Farrer,
Sophia University

  Beginning in the 1980s bars and dance clubs reemerged in Shanghai as important zones of sexual interactions across racial and national boundaries. Based on interviews with bar and club owners, customers, as well as field notes from participant observation over the last fifteen years, this historical ethnography describes the changing organization of the ethnosexual contact zone of the nightlife. Nightlife is a context in which casual social and sexual interactions among foreign travelers, sojourners and settlers and the increasingly mobile PRC citizens are common and relatively spontaneous. Despite the complexities of these interactions, the ethnographic evidence here points to the continued relevance of postcolonial racial categories in which a struggle for gendered status within the nightscape is described as a competition between a dominant but declining Global Whiteness and a rising Global Chinese racial identity. This mapping of a fractious global nightscape challenges the idea of a seamless transnational capitalist class, and instead points to racial and gendered sexual competition as an important feature of the leisure culture of transnational mobile elites in Asian global cities. James Farrer is Professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School of Global Studies at Sophia University. He is also Director of the Institute of Comparative Culture. He has been researching on aspects of Chinese and Japanese urban culture for over a decade. His ongoing research projects include a study of leisure and nightlife in twentieth century Shanghai and a study of expatriates living in Shanghai since the 1980s. He is author of Opening Up: Youth sex culture and market reform in Shanghai, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2002.
pink woman

The “Bare Life” of Money Boys: Transgression in Sexual Contact Zones of Rural-to-Urban Male Sex Workers in Mainland China

Travis Kong, Hong Kong University

  As part of a massive rural-to-urban migrant population of more than 100 million in contemporary China, rural male migrants are increasingly joining the sex industry that offers same-sex sexual services to other men. These men, known in the local parlance as “money boys”, form a new urban subject. However, for a number of reasons such as state laws that restrict access to permanent urban residency, the hard-strike government policy on same-sex prostitution, the short life-cycle of the sex industry, and the rural homophobic culture, these men are transient queer labour: moving back and forth from one occupational setting to another, form sex work to other occupations and from one city to another. They live in the queer time of non-reproduction, work outside the logics of labour, and stay in queer places such as parks, brothels, and massage parlours that do not and never will belong to them.

Based on my ongoing research project on male prostitution since 2004 (major sites: Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen), I will, first of all, argue how money boys, due to their interlocking and complicated identities of rural migrants, prostitutes and men who have sex with men, struggle for an urban identity under different “sexual contact zones”, i.e., sexual spaces that operate and function hierarchically along the lines of rural/urban, low suzhi (“quality”)/high suzhi, illicit/illicit desire, commercial/non-commercial, etc. Second, I will ascertain that the three cities under investigation are “zone” cities, with different degrees of political regulations, economic autonomies and social and cultural variations. The different “zoning technologies” of each city also have detrimental effects on money boys in terms of their access to various citizenship rights, market conditions for commercial sexual activities and different social and cultural environments responsive to sexuality. By viewing the “bare life” of money boys through using the notions of “sexual contact zones” and “zoning technologies”, this paper contributes to current debates of queer migration, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism under globalizing China.
Dr. Travis S. K. Kong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches sexuality, queer theory, media and cultural studies. His research interests include Chinese homosexuality and masculinity; prostitution in Hong Kong and China; and transnational Chinese sexuality. He is currently working on two projects: Chinese male sex workers (“money boys”) and elder Chinese gay men. He is the author of the recently published Routledge book “Chinese Male Homosexualities: Memba, Tongzhi, and Golden Boy” (2010), which discusses homosexuality, male identity and prostitution in different Chinese locales, within the constellation of global culture.


Abstracts from the morning session 2
Abstracts from the afternoon session
Abstaracts from graduate session
Program page