Dongguan's ISO sex industry

Southern Metropolis Weekly
December 4, 2009
Rejected cover

This week's issue of Southern Metropolis Weekly presents an extensive cover feature on the sex industry in Dongguan, a manufacturing center in Guangdong Province.

The city seems perpetually in the midst of a cleanup campaign aimed at rooting out vice and ridding the city of its image as the sex capital of China. SMW introduces its fairly salacious feature by observing, "To cure something at the root, you must first know its source."

The cover on the right was too risque, writes editor Chen Zhaohua, who posted both images to his microblog: "Here's an alternate photo that we ultimately rejected. But it would have been much more eye-catching on newsstands."

The illustration, by Xiang Zhaohui and Li Feng, is present inside the magazine in a slightly enlarged version that includes a weird clown figure that is obscured on the rejected cover (see below).

The actual cover shows a "Dongguan SMS," a text message advertising the latest services at a club, sauna, or hotel:

The catchy phrases manage, in the space of a few dozen characters, to clearly lay out an establishment's offerings — usually "Dongguan-style service" — price, and contact person. The goal is clear: practically all men of means across the Pearl River Delta will receive these messages. Mai, the manager of a mass SMS distribution company in Houjiezhen said, "For just 200 yuan, you can have a company send a text message to 7,000 car owners in the Pearl River Delta."

One article in the feature explains how Dongguan's manufacturing practices have seeped over into the sex industry in the form of "ISO service":

Like Luo Chao, many interviewees complained about the uncertain nature of services provided by ordinary sex establishments. Luo has been a customer of sex services at hotels in more than ten cities, from Shanghai and Beijing to more remote cities in the western part of the country, and in his words, "Whether you pay 300 or 1,500 yuan, what you pay for isn't what you end up getting. Say there's a girl who claims to be skilled in a particular service. She'll actually be rough and clumsy. And because it's all grey-market, if they overcharge you, you just have to accept that you're getting screwed."

In Greater China, the saunas of Dongguan and its surroundings are known for the following: for 400 to 600 yuan, sex workers will provide 15 to 30 different types of services over the course of two hours. These sex services are standardized, from the opening strip tease and the sex worker's expression to the number of times the customer can climax. The rise of the manufacturing industry in recent years has brought ideas about standardized production along with it. Workers in local manufacturing who frequent Dongguan's sex industry jokingly call the sex standards the industry's "ISO," which even has its own ex-post evaluation system. Practically all of Dongguan's hotels and saunas will ask customers for an itemized assessment, and if any girl is thought to be slacking off or is no longer attractive to customers, her wages will be cut.


To keep up turnover rates, saunas in Dongguan are set up with many rooms on multiple floors, all of which are furnished with the waterbeds and dance floors needed for services, but the steam rooms and lounge areas found in ordinary saunas are not found. Reporters found that because of "ISO," competition revolves around the opulence of furnishings, and the size or particular characteristics of its group of sex workers...this is the "market information" sought by the lechers, and forms the heart of the data that is then embellished into "Dongguan SMS."

Reporters found that no one in that line of work could say with certainty where these services originated. Some described them as coming from the "Thai baths" (aka body massage) that are familiar to men in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but in training centers, sex workers typically used adult videos from Japan as their source for new techniques. The training process is more intense than the technical training given to factory workers, and its contents include the use of fruit to increase sex workers' mouth strength. "A dozen days of training is enough to take the skin off your knees," one sex worker who recently entered the profession told this reporter.

Update (2009.12.10): Key at ChinaHush has a translation of another segment of the feature.

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I'm getting my hairy pimply pink n' white arse over to Dongguan as soon as I get off this couch.

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