Sex and Emotion: Change of the Related Discourses among Some Chinese Female Sex Workers and their Representations in the Cosmopolitan Context

By Eva K.W. Man.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is a humanities study on gender and body issues. It reviews the discursive changes in the utilization of the sexual body among some Chinese female sex workers and the ways their bodies are living through, being received, represented, and reinterpreted in the cosmopolitan context. The sex and love relation of female sex workers in the late Ming and the contemporary cosmopolitan context will be examined. The discussion is based on Judith Butler’s arguments that we will not be able to find a body that antecedes its cultural interpretation. The paper starts from a reading of Ang Lee’s film Lust, Caution which demonstrates a duality of sex and love, and the patriarchal myth that women’s sex and love should be one, followed by feminist challenges to the duality. It then refers to a late Ming manual for prostitutes, Hunrupian, as an example of a different discourse in the past, which promoted sexual ethics with love and care. Film representations of Chinese female sex workers act as the main tool of reflection, showing how the depiction of sex workers in love has been diminishing since the 2000s. Such representations are now being replaced with scenes of body and cash exchanges in the growing sex commerce in both PRC and Hong Kong. The discussion shows that in the case of the sex trade, the old Western structural dichotomies of the body and mind, sex and love are revived in the representations of the Chinese female sex workers.

Keywords: Sex, Emotion, Chinese Female Sex Workers, Film Representation, Gendered Body, Feminist Challenges, Cosmopolitan

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp.219-230. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 981.306KB).

Prof. Eva K.W. Man

Professor, Humanities Programme, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Prof. Eva Kit Wah Man got her Ph.D. from Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is presently a professor in the humanities programme at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her academic research areas include comparative aesthetics, neo-confucian philosophy, feminist aesthetics, philosophy, gender studies, and cultural studies. She has published numerous refereed journal articles, creative prose writings, and academic books in philosophy and aesthetics. She also writes columns for the Hong Kong Economic Journal on philosophy and art. She hosts cultural programmes for Radio Television Hong Kong. In 2004, she was a Fulbright Scholar at U C Berkeley, U.S. She was appointed as the Association of Marquette University Women’s chair at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2009–2010. She is an active member of the American Society for Aesthetics, International Association of Aesthetics, and the Chinese Association of Aesthetics.


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