IT WAS only a matter of time. First prostitution returned to lead the male proletariat astray - now the gigolo is alive and well and living in Beijing. That is, at least, according to the mainland periodical Bright China Times, which published - under the headline ''The heinous phenomenon of male prostitution'' - a series of profiles of gigolos operating in the Chinese capital. The magazine adopted a predictably moralising tone, suggesting the young men had been corrupted by Western decadence. ''With the opening to the outside world, there comes not only fresh air but flies and mosquitoes as well,'' it said. The gigolos tend to be good-looking young men who are either unemployed or hold menial, low-paying jobs and have been lured into a life of sin by middle-aged women, ''successful in their careers but unlucky in love''. One unemployed 19-year-old was apparently tempted into prostitution after reading a magazine article about gigolos in the West. He took 10 yuan (HK$13) from his parents and went to the local dance hall to try his luck and was soon picked up by a middle-aged woman who ended up ''renting'' him for a month at a cost of 1,000 yuan, about five times the average worker's salary in Beijing. He was now a regular at the dance hall, on the look out for rich, single women, the magazine said. Another man, a 25-year-old room attendant at a state-run hotel, became a gigolo after being offered 100 yuan for a night of sex with a middle-aged guest. ''Although Wang did not want to make love to the woman, who was old enough to be his mother, he surrendered to the money . . . since then Wang has voluntarily offered his services and become a pet of rich women guests,'' the magazine said. Foreign women have also been known to seduce young men into prostitution, the magazine claimed. The head of a United States company, described by the magazine as ''blonde and very fat'', allegedly leapt on her handsome tour guide during a walk in the mountains of Lintong. The man has never been the same since. While the Bright China Times expose may be slightly embellished with sordid detail, many Beijing residents say they are aware of gigolos working in the capital. And although the magazine compares the gigolos with ''thieves and drug dealers'', most Beijing residents accept the phenomenon matter of factly. ''There are female prostitutes so why should there not be male prostitutes as well?'' one woman said.