‘Compensated dating’ is just another term for prostitution

Let’s be frank about this phenomenon in Hong Kong: if a client is paying thousands of dollars for a night out, they don’t just want to talk or hold hands

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 2:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 2:50am

Some years ago, an expatriate news editor asked what the difference was between prostitution and “compensated dating” during an editorial meeting. We locals all rolled our eyes and one of us went into a discourse on the meaning of the Cantonese phrase, how it was appropriated from Japanese subculture and the practice it involved. And we all giggled when we left the meeting, thinking, “Those expats, if only they’d learn to speak like locals!”

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Remembering it now, I am actually embarrassed. The guy had a perfectly good point: there is no difference between the two, only a highly dangerous euphemism frequently used by the news and social media to make it sound edgy, trendy and acceptable for young people. Actually, I think “transactional dating” is a better, at least more literal, translation of the Chinese phrase.

The police have just cracked down on internet dating services for sex and arrested 19 people, including three male students from a secondary school, a tertiary institute, and a vocational training school, along with a 16-year-old female secondary school dropout.

Even today, the news media, including this newspaper, refer to the case as one of “compensated dating”.

I hope those arrested will learn a lesson. They could call themselves “compensated dates”, but they were working as prostitutes, male and female. They may be the lucky ones.

They are certainly much more fortunate than the 15-year-old girl whose body was stuffed in a bag and disposed of like garbage in a rubbish collection station in Mong Kok in 2014. Or the 16-year-old girl whose body was chopped up, pieces of which were flushed down a toilet, by a 24-year-old man high on Ecstasy and ketamine in 2009.

Granted, most clients are probably not murderous psychopaths high on drugs, but it’s hard to imagine many of them being terribly pleasant or disease-free. It’s nothing romantic.

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It’s sometimes claimed that compensated dating is not like prostitution because sex is not always involved. Huh! Do we really know that? If a man is paying thousands of dollars, he doesn’t just want to talk or hold hands.

There are many different types of prostitution. Let’s face it, compensated dating is just another form. It’s a bit like nitpicking over the difference between pimps who go online or use mobile phones and those who stand on street corners – it’s still pimping.

Let’s call it prostitution. If it involves really young people, call it underage prostitution. And yes, it’s illegal.