Hong Kong has a bewildering range of sex businesses offering services to suit all imaginable tastes: from the glitzy nightclubs of Tsim Sha Tsui East, through the saunas, karaoke lounges and one-woman brothels of Mong Kok, to the streets and short-time hotels of Sham Shui Po. Chinese-language sex magazines print reviews of individual prostitutes, and promote an ever-widening array of bizarre sexual practices. Even mainstream newspapers engage pimps as columnists. Business appears to be booming – but there are hungry newcomers to this underground economy. How do local prostitutes deal with the ruthless competition posed by an endless supply of girls from mainland China?
To find out, Yeeshan Yang spent a year gaining the trust of the city’s sex workers, interviewing 50 hookers, hostesses, toy boys, transsexual prostitutes, mama-sans and brothel owners. The result is an eye-opening book which shows the human side of sex for sale.
“By focusing on people, not salacious activities, Yeeshan Yang presents an informative, outsider-peeks-in view of the sex trade in Whispers and Moans. Hong Kong sex workers may be less famous than those in Bangkok, but they probably face even greater potential rewards, hazards and prejudices. … Yang’s research called for befriending many of the “professionals” working in nightclubs or karaoke lounges, lingering in hotel lobbies or on sidewalks. She interviewed hookers, toy boys, trans-sexuals, pimps, mama-sans, brothel operators and others. Only after building trust did she accept their stories as truth, not the usual tales spun for the media.” – Cairns Media Magazine
“Whispers and Moans is a collection of ‘interviews with the men and women of Hong Kong’s sex industry’ in essence, but amounts to much more. It is a well thought-out, colloquially written, all-encompassing non-fiction account of the problems of the sex industry, and possible solutions. Yeeshan Yang exhibits a remarkable ability to summarize as well as editorialize, keeping these functions separate and evident. She posits opinions and colors stories abruptly, with little disguising description so that we know her stance on the subject matter before we read any objectivity into the stories. That said, she includes facts and quotes from a multitude of officials and sex-workers, alluding to the informed nature of her opinion. … What’s really striking about Whispers and Moans is its breadth. There are chapters on pimps, the Northern girls who come over from the China mainland, the gangster connection, as well as male prostitutes. Due to an early aggressive interview with Ms. Yip, one of the central figures of the ‘Purple Vine’, a non-government organization seeking to form the first sex workers union in Hong Kong, Yeeshan is put on the defensive, and it is because of her need to prove herself that the book functions as more than the sum of its parts.” – Joshua Wiebe, Blogcritics
“There is a theory that we are all prostitutes. We all sell ourselves for whatever we can get. Looking at the lurid pink cover and cheap title of Yeeshan Yang’s Whispers and Moans, we might think book publishers are no different, peddling volumes of smut thinly disguised as academic works. But anyone after prurient thrills or the ‘human sexual response’ that made Masters and Johnson’s publisher its virtuous fortune will be in for a disappointment. This is not a book about sex. It is about stupid people exploiting each other and feeling sorry for themselves – but delivered with a feisty detachment that makes it more entertaining than depressing. … As Yang notes, not all whores are even considered hookers. The ones who live in apartments in Shenzhen and juggle a small stable of Hong Kong married clients are called concubines. The ones who work their way up the film industry are called stars. The ones photographed by paparazzi escorting ageing billionaire tycoons are called lucky. … For those that sell their minds or souls – the ones called upstanding members of the workforce – this is a book that will amuse and possibly amaze rather than arouse, provided they join the author in having a sense of humour, a thick skin and no sociological or feminist axe to grind.” – Hemlock’s Diary
“Yang embarked on a mission to investigate the change in attitudes as well as the reality that presently exists in Hong Kong. The result is a comprehensive exploration that has been put together in her Whispers and Moans. The format employed by Yang is a juxtaposition of academic study and storytelling.” – BookPleasures
“Yang has spent many hours talking to many different people in Hong Kong’s sex industry, from Sham Shui Po street hookers addicted to heroin to fetish models, from gigolos who make over $100,000 a night to Japanese mamasans, from suicidal transsexuals to mainlanders on 7-day visas. The author has clearly tried to exhaust every avenue of this most intriguing of professions in order to provide us with a comprehensive and truthful guide to the oldest profession in the world in Hong Kong.” – DS magazine
“Whispers and Moans premiered at this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival and is currently playing in cinemas as this issue goes to print. The celluloid work’s co-scriptwriter Yeeshan Yang is the author of Whispers and Moans: Interviews with the Men and Women of Hong Kong’s Sex Industry, a non-fiction tome published last year but currently getting display and shelf space in certain local bookstores. Retailing at HK$140, the book may be several times more expensive than the price of a cinema ticket but even were you to buy what should make for interesting bedside reading in the high rent areas of Central, Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui, it is still $60 cheaper than the set price of street hookers in areas like Yau Ma Tei, Sham Shui Po and Tuen Mun.” – bc magazine
Tricks and the Trade: Lee Wing-sze found that there is no such thing as a happy Hong Kong hooker when she interviewed Yeeshan Yang for the South China Morning Post. Read the story here.
Yeeshan Yang was interviewed by HK Magazine‘s Alexandra Carroll. Read the full article.