Sex Shops Win Popularity among Chinese Girls

Last year, one of my girlfriends bought me a present that I would never forget. It was wrapped with an adorable bag tagged the shop name Amy’s Bedroom. I unwrapped it quickly only to feel nothing but ashamed. It’s a pair of black knickers with a hole on the private part shaped like hot red lips.

I had never seen such lingerie like that before. Apart from being a bit embarrassed, I became very interested in this Amy’s Bedroom shop. So I went there a week later.

Located in old French Concession, Amy’s Bedroom stroke me as a cute boutique from outside. But when I entered, I saw dozens of dildos and vibrators which made me realize it’s a sex shop.

That was the first time in my life that I had visited a sex shop. I believe most girls including me are against traditional adult shops due to the lousy shopping environment and those middle-aged male shop assistants. But in Amy’s Bedroom, I was welcomed by two local young girls. They told me that Amy’s Bedroom is particularly designed to be a girl’s bedroom where girls feel comfortable shopping and looking around.

Cute as it was, no one actually shopped there. I noticed a couple of local young girls were checking out all the items with great curiosity and whispering to each other. They probably saw the shop from the street and entered without any specific purpose.

But this year, I witnessed the change! Five customers including three locals shopped at Amy’s Bedroom during an hour when I was there last month. A young local couple was even comfortable asking shop assistant about the differences among a few dildos and discussing which one they should buy.

I also noticed the difference between western and local customers. Sex shops are already well accepted in western countries, therefore, they are familiar with the products. I saw two western men select and purchase the products directly without asking any questions. It took no more than two minutes. However, local customers are different. “Sex shops are still new to locals,” said the shop assistant. “When they are in the shop, they prefer to look at things that draw their attention such as couple slippers shaped like penis and boobs, nurse and maid uniforms, etc.”

Despite half the customers being foreigners, local shoppers have increased in the past two years. One of the owners Kara told me, “local people are more open-minded about sex which is not taboo or secret for them anymore. They don’t feel ashamed talking about it. More local customers are hitting the shop and buying products now.”

Kara is not alone. According to a survey on the sexual concept of Shanghainese female undergraduates conducted by Fudan University in June, some so-called sensitive terms such as cohabitation, one night stand and premarital sex are no longer taboo to female university students in Shanghai. Planotic love isn’t the mainstream anymore. Today, female undergraduates generally accept sexual activity as part of the relationship.

Another statistic reported by China sex products sales net in 2009 shows that Shanghai, lagging behind Beijing and Guangdong Province, only takes 7.39% of the total sex products consumers in the nation, while in the usage and consumption of sex products, Shanghainese women are 7% above the national average. I’m not surprised to see this result after my second trip to Amy’s Bedroom.

When it’s just opened up over two years ago, there was few sex shop like Amy’s Bedroom in Shanghai. But the number is rocketing this year. I have seen such shops on Nanchang Road, South Shanxi Road and East Tianmu Road. Dildos are even being sold at convenient stores. I think it will be fun to buy some cute presents from those shops for my girlfriends as we all need to spice up our life a little bit.

Runaway gym owners must pay

On a recent visit to the gym in my neighborhood, I walked up to the front door to find a mob of members yelling as movers hauled the equipment out of the building. I realized that I wouldn’t be renewing my membership. The owner had cleared out with all the money.

This has become commonplace in Shanghai as gyms struggle to sign up new members to make ends meet.

My understanding is that gym owners can recover their initial investment quickly. One fitness trainer told me that the owner of his gym spent about 1 million yuan ($150,000) setting up the business, and was able to recoup his investment in two months. For most gyms, it’s not difficult to get enough members to cover their initial costs. The question is whether they can hold onto the members that they have and maintain the pace of recruitment.

Most gyms hire a swarm of salesmen to sell memberships. You can often see them hanging out outside of the gyms where they work. These salesmen have monthly sales targets they must hit. I believe that most gym owners put too much focus on getting new members, as opposed to keeping up their facilities and enhancing service.

Joining a gym used to be expensive, but prices have fallen as more gyms compete to sign up members. Unfortunately, service and quality have fallen with prices, which has caused gyms to lose members. My gym had almost every kind of exercise equipment and offered a lot of classes, all for an annual membership fee of 1,200 yuan.

When I joined the gym last year, everything was brand-new. But as the months went on, equipment broke and the managers dragged their feet about getting it fixed. Class schedules changed constantly and instructors sometimes failed to show up.

Members complained, but the owner seemed more focused on gaining new members than taking care of the ones he had.

By the time I found the angry mob outside the gym, I was already thinking about letting my membership lapse. Fortunately, I never had to make that decision, but many members who had just renewed their memberships were clamoring for refunds.

The government has instituted regulations over schools and training centers that require their clients to pay large fees upfront, but these regulations don’t apply to all businesses. In light of my recent experience, I believe they should. First and most importantly, the government should have strict rules governing businesses that ask their clients to pay large membership or other fees upfront, making it difficult for owners to set up fly-by-night operations that will likely close down when business drags. In addition, a margin system needs to be established to ensure that the business maintains enough cash on hand to compensate members if the owner takes off.

Universities in China: Reforms are Required

As many managers worry over whether their factory workers will return after the Spring Festival, about 600,000 new graduates remain unemployed, a government official stated on January 26.

Ministry of Education statistics show that more than 6 million students graduated in China last year, up from 1.45 million in 2002.

The other day, I interviewed a recent graduate who was struggling to make ends meet at his current job, which paid him 1,500 yuan ($227) per month before tax. He said that he thought migrants who worked construction jobs were being paid more than 2,000 yuan ($303) a month even though they didn’t have a higher education. “What’s the point of studying for 16 years?” he asked, quizzically.

The graduate actually wanted to work for a Japanese company because he had studied their language, but none of the companies he interviewed with was willing to hire him because of his lack of experience.

On one side, a large number of graduates have failed to find satisfactory jobs; on the other, many multinational corporations can’t get enough highly skilled white-collar workers. The most common complaint that I’ve heard about new graduates is that they don’t think outside of the box and don’t know how to cope with difficulties. I believe this is the fault of China’s universities.

Reforms must be made to solve this problem. Firstly, students should be allowed to change their majors. In the US, students can change their majors at anytime. Many do during their college career. Chinese students, however, have to make that decision when they are 18 years old. Many of them later realize that they chose a course of study that didn’t suit them, but the higher education system makes it difficult to change majors. As a result, many students find themselves trapped in majors in which they have no interest or passion.

Secondly, universities should establish a department to help students prepare for their future careers. Most universities have such courses, but they remain impractical and meaningless.

Thirdly, universities should offer more opportunities for students to obtain practical, real-world experience with companies and organizations related to their majors. As a journalism major, how I wish my university would have offered more internship opportunities, but all we had was a chance to work at the Xinmin Evening News where boys were preferred, despite the fact that there were three boys and 22 girls in my class.

Fourthly, schools should put a lot more effort into teaching students how to think analytically and express themselves. Most classes are still graded based on final exams, which tend to only test students’ knowledge of textbooks and lectures. There is not enough classroom interaction and work outside of the classroom. My journalism teachers emphasized reciting the textbook as opposed to asking us to cover stories on campus.

Apart from reforming the universities, students themselves should be more proactive in finding opportunities to gain experience outside the classroom. I started working part-time right after high school. I had worked five jobs before graduating from university. Not only did I gain lots of experience, but also I managed to develop some connections, which got me a couple great job offers after I graduated. Some of my schoolmates thought I was lucky. But they should have known that success and opportunity only come to those who are well-prepared.

In the end, isn’t that also the job of higher education system?