With nothing to do on a rainy Saturday, my friends and I decided to watch a movie about male strippers. Even as my brain was turning to pulp during the 90 minutes of inane – and, frankly, tiresome – pumping and grinding, I was reminded of the story of Lao Ai (258- 238BC), the first and possibly only recorded male “exotic dancer” in pre-modern China.

Ying Zheng, king of the state of Qin from 246-221BC, had a widowed mother who rather liked the company of men. One of her lovers arranged for Lao to put on a special show for her, one that involved a well-hung physical attribute the dancer was famous for and the wheels of a chariot. Enamoured, the dowager queen took him as a lover. Lao disguised himself as a eunuch in order to be allowed to go in and out of the queen’s chambers freely without arousing suspicion. The pair even went on to have two sons.

In 239BC, however, someone exposed the affair to Ying and drew his attention to the threat his stepbrothers posed to his throne. To pre-empt the king, Lao raised an army against him but the rebellion was quickly put down. Lao died a horrible death (his body being pulled apart) and members of his clan, including his sons, were exterminated. The dowager queen was placed under house arrest. She was later forgiven by her son, who went on to unify China and become the First Emperor in 221BC.