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Margaret Atwood on Japanese Hostess Clubs

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Illustration by Zohar Lazar  

I was in Japan, and a Japanese friend was showing me around the nightclub area. There was one nightclub with very pretty girls, most of them blonde, and they looked very Barbie indeed. So I said, “Are these prostitutes? Are these call girls?” “No, no, no, nothing like that.” “What is it?” “Well, you go in, and they’re very nice to you. They’re polite to you, they listen to you, they laugh at your jokes. And it’s very expensive.” “Oh.” There was another nightclub with extremely good-­looking young men. And I said, “Is this a gay place?” “No, no, no, nothing like that.” “What is it?” “It’s for women. You go in, and they’re very nice to you. They pour your Champagne and they light your cigarette and they give you a rose, and they listen to you talk and they respect your opinions. And it’s very expensive.” So this is acting out your fantasy of being well-treated in a romantic situation. It’s not about sex. It’s not prostitution. Just plain bare-naked sex is not the only motivator. Unless you’re completely delusional, you know perfectly well that you’re dressing up. It’s playing a part. Having a crush is like that. It’s an escape from reality. Take Twilight. They do settle down and have a little vampire sex, but at that moment, it gets boring.


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