MY family has had a family retainer - a housekeeper-cum-maitre d' - for years and years. He joined us when he was in his 30s. Now he's in his 50s. Every now and again we go to our home in San Francisco and he comes along to work for us. While he's there he likes to go out with prostitutes. It was always beyond his wildest dreams that he could ever go to bed with a blonde - and for only US$50 ($390). Even in Hong Kong, at a not particularly posh club, he would have to pay HK$800. In a posh club it would be about $1,500, plus pocket money, plus a meal for him and the lady. So in San Francisco he disappears every now and again and has a good time. He's a good friend of mine and he talks frankly about his heart's desires. His story is typical of Chinese men, particularly those from the mainland, who have led sheltered lives. He had married in his early teens and had never been with another woman. It was an arranged marriage in the countryside of Fujian province. Until he was 26 she was the only woman in his life. Since then he has been out with prostitutes and has had some one night stands, but even these are costly, by the time he has taken the women to a movie and dinner. But when he has a day off in San Francisco he can go and pick up young girls for US$50. When he was in his early 40s the girls he slept with would have been younger than his 18-year-old son. For him this was paradise. I have found out that a lot of Hong Kong people have the same feelings. They go to Europe and the US and they like to have sex with Caucasian girls. Chinese men like to pay for sex. They feel more comfortable, because they hate to fail and they hate to berejected. They are not used to flirting, because they are supposed to be proper with their wives and to make other people think they are decent. With paid-for sex they don't have to get involved. More important, they can behave like a king for the day, making up for the indignity that many Chinese men suffer because they have only menial jobs. I talked to one of these men. 'Your wife is pretty,' I said, 'why go with prostitutes?' He said: 'But my wife is the queen. I like to have someone I can treat like dirt.' It is sad, but true. I interviewed a 16-year-old prostitute in Hong Kong. She said many of her customers liked her to play vulnerable, to cry, and to get down on her knees to beg for more money. 'Your Majesty, my Lordship,' she would be asked to call them. In Las Vegas they still have ranch brothels in the desert, where the girls are of all nationalities, Vietnamese, Thais, Caucasian. I didn't go, but I checked out the price and it was cheap; the same prices they were charging 10 years ago. I guess it is because of the worldwide recession, even though Las Vegas is one of the few places still booming. Chinese men believe that conquering a beautiful woman is like winning a battle in war. And they like to lie to themselves about the fact that it is costing them money.