Artificial Love: Thai Mimi has kindly allowed us to share her story with you in hopes of shining a truthful light on the life of prostitution in Hong Kong
Translation by Candy CG.
Enviably tall with striking bone structure and a beautifully fresh complexion, Thai Mimi has lived in Hong Kong since she was 13. She is fluent in both Cantonese and her native tongue, but her effervescent, candid and affable personality bursts through no matter what language she’s speaking. She has kindly allowed me to share her story with you in hopes of shining a truthful light on the life of prostitution in Hong Kong. So, here we go…
“When I was 21, I started clubbing with a bunch of other gay guys. These guys loved dressing up as women; I thought they looked beautiful so I asked them to show me how. The first night that I went out with make-up on, in a little dress and heels, I felt amazing. I started to get attention from guys, mostly Westerners, and I loved it. Back then, I was pretty naive, so when a guy approached me on that very first night and asked “How much?”, I had no idea what he was talking about, “How much what?” I replied. He offered me HK$1000 to go back to his hotel with him. I was excited about being able to make such ‘easy’ money, so I went. I didn’t enjoy the sex but the attention and the money were enough to get me hooked. I went back to the club again and again, raising my price each time, seeing just how much I could get. At the peak of my career, I could earn $30,000 for just one hour.
I was excited about being able to make such ‘easy’ money, so I went. I didn’t enjoy the sex but the attention and the money were enough to get me hooked.Thai Mimi
When I was younger, the sex was just part of the job. I didn’t feel attracted to the clients but I thrived on having money to buy nice clothes and make-up and getting my hair done. Often the job would be more than just providing clients with sex, many guys are looking for the girlfriend experience. An older American client who regularly visited Hong Kong would always call ahead of time to book me for the entirety of his stay. He’d pay me a daily allowance, take me to nice dinners, concerts and even took me on holiday to Phuket, “You’re Thai so I’m taking you to Thailand”, he said. But these experiences can’t compare to a genuine relationship. The client is under no pretense that you’ve fallen for him. He knows fully well that if he wasn’t paying, you wouldn’t be there. He probably had a wife and kids at home.
Of course, not all clients treat prostitutes so well. I learned quickly how to spot violent ones and became good at running in heels. I took a few beatings but I never had any serious injuries. Some of my friends weren’t so lucky. Dangerous clients weren’t the only thing to be wary of, the threat of the law is always lurking. In my 18 year career, I’ve been arrested 3 times. Although prostitution is technically legal in Hong Kong, it comes with certain regulations to keep it out of the public eye. I was charged with ‘Soliciting for an Immoral Purpose’, a law which prevents us from approaching clients to offer our services. At each arrest, the penalty worsened. First, I was let off with a caution. Second, a month in jail with a suspended sentence. Finally, I ended up serving 6 months in a prison for men. After this most recent stint, my lawyer gave me a serious warning – if I get arrested again, I’d be facing at least a year.
You’d think that this admonition would be enough to stop me from ever going back to those Wan Chai clubs. In reality, it was my fear of drugs that ended my career. Back in the day, when I started hanging around with that group of gay guys, I slowly realised that they too were going home with men for money. This didn’t faze me. It was when they were taking drugs that I became judgmental. I was really against it. I thought it was disgusting. But eventually, after a year or 2 of constantly being offered coke, ice, ecstasy, etc. by clients and friends, night after night, I gave it a try. 20 years down the line, I now have a fully-fledged addiction to a variety of drugs, mostly ice. Drugs changed the way that I looked, my face became drawn. When high, I’d end up in situations that I couldn’t get myself out of. One time, I was in a supermarket with my friend late at night. She gave me her shopping bags and asked me to hold them while she went to the bathroom. I wandered around the shop aimlessly for hours before it dawned on me that my friend wasn’t coming back. I looked in the bags and found small envelopes full of drugs so I called her but she wouldn’t pick up the phone. I thought back to my lawyer’s warning and panicked so I immediately called her and she advised me to dump the bags and get out of there. I later learned that I was probably being set up by my so-called friend so that she could get a pay-off for being a police informant. In HK, the penalties for drugs are far worse than for soliciting. If I had been found with those little envelopes, I would be spending at least 20 years locked up.
My mum helped me find a rehabilitation centre in Thailand. I spent a year there getting clean before returning to Hong Kong. I have a new job now. I’ve been working in a Thai restaurant for 6 months. The hours are long and the money is low but it keeps me away from drugs. I haven’t touched any since I came back. I am often tempted to go back to Wan Chai for the quick money, but I feel like I wasted my life there. Now that I’m 40, I look back on that old American guy who had been so unattractive to me due to his age, and I wish he was in my life again. When I was younger, I had a boyfriend for 3 years. I’m not sure if he knew the truth about my job. He probably worked it out towards the end. The sex with a boyfriend is much more pleasurable than with clients, even the good ones. When working, you pull out certain tricks to get the job done. But with a genuine relationship, the sex is so much more about mutual enjoyment.
As I got older, I started to find more clients attractive. If they were young and handsome or simply good in bed, I’d even look forward to them coming back. There were a few guys that I developed feelings for. I would have done anything to make them be mine. But alas they went off with someone else. There were some girls who ended up having relationships with and even marrying men that they had met through sex work. I dreamed of having a Pretty Woman ending.”