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MASSAGE PARLORS IN CHINA
A new wave of massage parlors in new China
In recent years I noticed an increasing number of massage parlors disguised as barber shops in China. Often when you are out at night, those are the only things that are still open, with bored ladies or young men fixing each other's hair. I remember a friend once told me that these were actually massage parlors, rather than barbershops and I expressed my doubts about it. After all, China is a Communist country and these innocent-looking shops surely cannot be massage parlors offering sensual pleasures to visitors.

To be honest, I have never been into one of these but over the past couple of years I came to realize that they were, indeed, massage parlors. First of all, when they cut your hair, even barbershops would give you a massage. They massage your scalp and neck, sometimes all the way to your lower back and arms. This is all part of the hair cutting experience.

So there is already a blurred line between massage and a haircut. Then these shops or parlors can sometimes be very open about these things. Especially outside of the capital, in places like Yunnan or Xinjiang, the girls can be very outspoken and leave little doubt as to what they are offering. In many places in Xinjiang, these massage parlors glow in dark red color, showing that these are actually "red houses." And in these parlors late at night the ladies stand outside and try to call you in.

The funny thing is that although I always felt some sort of prudish attitude towards sexuality in China, nobody finds these massage parlors strange or intolerable. People pass by them without even noticing them. So even this superficial disguise works somehow.

by Stephen Bekes, 2005

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