“It’s shocking what some Chinese girls will show online, but you won’t hear me complaining.
While censors remove many smutty posts, the rapid-fire nature of Weibo and other social media sites make this technology far more resilient than just blocking a URL. “Websites are easy to control but Weibo is limitless,” said Pan Suiming, director of research on sexuality and gender at Renmin University in Beijing.
As social media has gone mobile, so has cruising. Like Grindr, the
gay app that shows users the photos and locations of nearby users, China is awash in GPS-loaded apps that make it, um, easy, to find a “date” on the go.
On a recent day, hundreds of men and women were logged on to the social app “Momo,” which has become a convenient tool for arranging casual encounters since it was launched last year. While plenty of users are looking to hook up free of charge, the app is also popular with those looking to earn something in return for their affections. The same goes for Weixin, an app that allows users to “look around” for people nearby. Earlier this month, China’s state television aired a segment about a prostitute caught using Weixin for business, which was discovered after she was arrested and the police looked in her phone.
“It used to be that you’d chat and make a plan to meet up and everything was cool,” said one male user who asked to remain anonymous. “But now it’s like you say hi and boom, she’s demanding 1,000 yuan ($157) a night.”
Both users and analysts see social media as creating a wider space for the discussion of sexuality in China. “Weibo gives people the freedom to express themselves and find others who like the same things,” said Wei Xiaogang, director of the Beijing Gender & Health Education Institute. “The younger generation is much more open. Just log onto Weibo after midnight and you can see everything.”