Exploring Wan Chai’s red light district: a male and female perspective
Men get hit on by female sex workers, while women are shunned
Lockhart Road probably isn’t my preferred Friday night destination, but I’ll admit I’ve sampled the varied nightlife there on more than a handful of occasions this year. The strip’s neon signs offering “Dancing Girls” are crass but generally inoffensive. The real seediness is happening behind closed doors.
Some middle-aged female door staff seem surprised when I ask whether I can watch a dance show, but tell me it will cost HK$100, which includes one drink. I politely decline.
Sex workers unsurprisingly tend to ignore me and my female friends as we dance. Even in the toilets, where women sometimes have a brief albeit drunken chat, they seem happily unfazed and disinterested in me. It’s only if I get approached by one of their potential customers that they take notice, and even then, they might just look mildly irked by my presence. Needless to say, the generally balding, chubby male clientele in Wan Chai are not exactly my type anyway, and I normally manage to shake them off within seconds. Besides, for the sex workers, there’s always another prospective customer waiting at the next table.
On one occasion, as I sat watching a Filipino rock band play covers at Amazonia, known as a primary venue for sex workers to congregate, my male friends headed towards the bar and almost immediately got approached by some women. I sat contentedly scrolling on my phone and sipping my cider. As a young woman, if you want a chilled out, hassle-free night out in Hong Kong, you could do a lot worse than Wan Chai.
The lights are low, the music loud, the smoke thickens towards the corners. Men, mostly middle-aged and white, dance and drink and mingle, quite physically, with the sex workers, usually from Vietnam or the Philippines.
This is the scene welcoming me as I enter one of the numerous bars in Wan Chai.
Sipping a beer, my friend and I chat with one of the women. It’s a friendly, light-hearted chat, but before I know it, her hand rests on my forearm. In spite of the obvious nature of her intentions, the place doesn’t feel disreputable.
Even when a man, waiting alone just outside the entrance, stares at me long enough for me to assume he might want to deal, I don’t feel threatened. With the neon lights hanging above the strip clubs and the voice of a middle-aged lady inviting me in, Wan Chai feels like yet another of the city’s many faces.