Karaoke: Developments in entertainment, associations with the sex industry

Karaoke is an entertainment activity some people hate and some love. It takes different forms, and one seems to belong in the sex industry. This is KTV  – karaoke television – where groups of friends hire small rooms and the services of women to drink and sing with them. These places can look quite grand outside and in the lobbies.

Who can explain what all the little objects are in this picture of a karaoke customer? Is it a boutique or a museum? For more about KTV in general go here.

Apart from the singing and drinking, there are possibilities for flirting, snogging and making assignations. Host and hostess clubs offer the same sort of opportunities. But there is an element that links these sites more closely to the sex industry: the use of line-ups like in many brothels.

I have not read research about these places; tell me if you know of any. The following are comments from one ktv fan forum:

A room for four guys:

Minimum room charge: Average – 1000rmb
Bottles of Whisky: 600rmb
Beer: 40rmb
Food dishes: 30rmb

Normal girls: 300rmb
Models: 500rmb (not really models, just tall)
“Special” girls: 500rmb (These are the ones that will supposedly go home with you for an extra charge.)
Dancing girls: 500rmb (These are basically strippers)
Mama-san: The same price as the girls.
Waitress: 200rmb

I realise that some people may find the above list distasteful, but if we want to understand what’s going on in sex work we have to face all the realities. I also just uploaded a photo to my sex industry album on facebook (open to non-members, too), which demonstrates price-differentials according to social prestige of phenotypes or perceived ethnicities:

This kind of prestige is relative. A ‘Russian’ will not always command such a price, and so on.

3 thoughts on “Karaoke: Developments in entertainment, associations with the sex industry

  1. Ted Cheng

    the place in the first picture actually near where i lived before.

    In Taiwan, when saying KTV, people usually think of a place for singing songs with friends. Like the first two pictures and the two videos. Usually people go there for celebration (i.e. birthday) or party. KTV serves buffet, snack, food, drink (soft wine), cigarette (not allowed now) or even little boutiques for celebration. It is not only a place for celebration but also an occasion where people meet new friends, get closer/more intimate, have affair, or even one night stand. Sometimes people will hire escort women (usually not the sex one, but like model, or just accompany people to drink) and strip dancer (male and female) for fun. It is not necessarily involved with sex transaction but sometimes it is. This kind KTV is like this one: http://www.cashboxparty.com/, unfortunately it is all in chinese.

    The other kind you mentioned, it is also called KTV, but in Taiwan people tend to call it Jeou-Den or “dancehall”(the dancehall where dance is served). The lobby may look the same, and the booth is similar in some stores. Basically there is KTV machine for singing. Usually businessmen will go there after work for fun and business negotiation, they said the place helps business negotiation when people feel relax. Women line up there and wait for the customer’s pick. These women’s work when picked is to serve wine, to sing, to play games, to make the customers happy and earn tips from these activity. There is also dance halls or just dance hall in some stores, so in such kind, it is not only limited to KTV booth but also more like night club. There are different kind of activity (Xmas, New Year) and women sometimes will dress themselves with costumes such as nurses and school girls. Usually men go there, but also their wives or female business women go there too. There is also wine shop and sexy young women whose work is just to sell wine (they also appear in bars and restaurants) in some stores. It is legal in Taiwan and technically there is no sex business (nude strip dancing, oral sex service, prostitution, etc.) involved, since sex business is prohibited. In short, it is like a night club or bar or KTV with women whose work is to serve wine and play with customer).

    Besides, such kind of KTV (JeouDen or dancehall) has different kinds. Like one for women, like the host and hostess club picture you mentioned, or for the elder where women are not young and the cost is cheaper. Or the stores are only a small booth/the ordinary house in the ally with cheaper cost (in Taiwan there is no clear living district distinction like in US or some Europe countries), and usually some of them is for neighborhood elder or people who do not have enough money. The famous one for example is the store called Golden Leopard in Taichung City in Taiwan, and the link is a blog of a woman who shares her work there with public, she also promoted the Golden Leopard’s New Year activity (http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/jw!tSW2DsqDRk8Du44z3RzK/)

    But this is not to say all the store without sex business, in some stores, the customers will take women out to Hotel/Motel for sex commerce after having fun, maybe the commerce belongs to their own personal transaction and technically not allowed by the owner, but maybe the owner mediates the commerce. In some stores, there are sex services (oral sex, strip dances) and these services usually is related to the punishment of the games (called sex games) in the booth. Thus, even though it is legal, it has stricter regulation to run the business than other business, so some of them are underground (illegal) in this sense. Also, even though it is legal, the police will go to investigate the store (though some of them will go there for negotiation too).

    As for ethnicity, the legal stores (the second kind of KTV) usually hire local women, some may hire migrant women (especially from Russian westernlike women whose whose work is considered “model”, these women are called “PR girl”, “model” in refined terms, or just Ms. Jeou-Den), but it is rarely heard migrant women working in the legal stores. and in most cases i heard, the small or even illegal stores in the county area will hire migrant women from south-eastern Asia since their salary is cheaper and also most of them have illegal national identity such as immigration through smuggling, false identity, invalid visa. That is, local young women basically possessed the higher-class legal stores in the city to serve local or transnationl businessmen and on the other hand, the migrant female KTV workers, especially from south-eastern Asia and China, are more underground in the county area. Also the skin color in usual cases like the virginity, whiter the cost higher, that is why transaction with Russian needs 590 (but i guess the picture is taken in HK or Macao). There is a class difference based on their racial/ethnic/national difference. But these impressions are from news reports or pictures, not from formal researches, so what the actual situation is is not clear enough.

    By the way, I think the Line-Up video is taken in the first kind of KTV, not JeouDean or Dancehall, and the women in the video are taking group pictures. But yes, the way they line up for taking pictures is like women in the second kind of KTV when they are waiting to be picked up by customers.

  2. Ted Cheng

    Sorry, the example Golden Leopard belongs to the high class big one, not the small one in the neighbor ally.

  3. Ted Cheng

    There is seldom researches on it in Taiwan, especially about the underground one. Only one I can remember is one book, “Life Stories of Twelve Office Lady”, which is re-written by a MA student Chi, Huei Wen from her MA thesis, and she did her research by working in KTV. (note: they are also called “office lady” too. my translation “office lady” is only the direct translation from language, but not imply the concept in english term that office lady is middle-class lady who really stay in the office”.)

    the book was written for almost more than ten years ago. The publishment of the book actually aroused the moral panic about why a MA student went to such a place to work and do research and the following debate of the validity of her research when she was the worker there. Unfortunately few public attention focused on the research itself. The book Link: http://sex.ncu.edu.tw/publication/1998/12ladies/12ladies_index.htm, but both book and website is in Chinese.

    I don’t know if there is any academic research in HK, but i know there is one book “Old business New Professions” which depicted parts of cultures by Yeung, Yee-Shan: http://www.yesasia.com/global/%E5%8F%A4%E8%80%81%E7%94%9F%E6%84%8F%E6%96%B0%E4%B8%93%E4%B8%9A-%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E6%80%A7%E5%B7%A5%E4%BD%9C%E8%80%85%E7%A4%BE%E4%BC%9A%E6%8A%A5%E5%91%8A/1001825077-0-0-0-zh_CN/info.html. The book is more like a news report and was further taken into Movie: Whispers and Moans: http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews_2/whispers_and_moans.htm But overall the book and the movie are quite humanist and not politically beyond the framework of the typical understanding of prostitution (like, sex work’s corruption with drugs and struggles over the poverty)

    I thought i have read some papers about such cultures in Japan written in english, but i just cannot remember their names, sorry.


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