What #MeToo: Booze & Hookers Is How Many Asian Countries Do Business

In Asia, the #MeToo movement hasn't made much headway. Instead, booze and hookers still appears to do the time-honored trick of helping businessman build "relationships."

While the #MeToo wave plays out in the United States and Europe, resulting in a revulsion against "toxic masculinity" complete with countless rape accusations, both real and fake, in places like Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing it is still standard practice for corporate executives to "bond" (and bondage) with colleagues while chugging booze and hanging out with escorts who "often illegally perform sexual favors", according to a new Bloomberg article.

Meet Regina Yuan who works at a start up company based in Shanghai. She’s 27 years old and often "entertains" clients from out of town for several evenings in a row. Sometimes she drinks with them, sometimes she picks up the bill and she "shoulders most of the burden" when she goes out with male colleagues and clients "for her own safety". She said that clients that visit these types of clubs include prestigious Chinese investment bankers and financial execs.

"You just have to think of yourself as a man" she told Bloomberg. "Pretty much going to hostess clubs is like a tourist destination when our clients and investors come to town. It’s like if you don’t take them there, you haven’t paid your respects to your guests.”

Younger men in Asia have often referred to the egregious alcohol consumption and trips to hostess clubs as a form of hazing. On the other hand, women like Yuan are at risk of being left out and missing important "networking" opportunities if they don't, or can't, attend.

Zheng Tiantian, author of “Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Post-socialist China” confirmed: “Visits to hostess clubs are an integral part of doing business in China and Japan. Interactions with hostesses are constantly performed and being evaluated by others to determine their characteristics and qualities and whether they are worthy as business partners.”

Said otherwise, don't tell Hollywood, but if you don't bang the ho, so to speak, you may soon be unemployed, especially since prostitution is legal in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Clearly this practice stands in "contrast" to what is acceptable in polite society in the United States and Europe, where companies  have come under fire for conducting business in gentlemen's clubs or similar types of venues. And while these types of trips are on the decline in the US and in the United Kingdom, they remain embedded in the working culture of places like Japan, China and South Korea. For instance, Japan has more than 63,900 hostess clubs, where prices can range from a few hundred dollars to as much is $30,000 for "bottles of liquor" to share with groups of or impress females.

In South Korea, these types of hostess bars have long been considered part of the business landscape. Some of them are even built with elevators to so-called "love hotels". The South Korean government estimates there are 13,316 sex brokers in the country with 57% of them operating in the form of hostess bars (prostitution is illegal in SK).

Meanwhile, in China not only do females have to worry about business culture, they have to worry about suppression from the government. Despite both prostitution and hostess clubs being illegal in China, high-end venues in Beijing and Shanghai can charge up to $2900 for a room, including alcohol. Escorts hired to drink with clients can cost more than $280 each.

Paradoxically, female activists who have tried to stand up to these clubs and start movements in China are often arrested.

The broad acceptance of hostess clubs on the mainland has some venture capitalists using these clubs as a way to try and gauge what type of company they’re going to invest in.  China Growth Capital’s Gong Yuan stated, without a trace of sarcasm, that "there’s no better way to understand a founder than by looking at what bonding method this person uses. The startups that emerged three years ago trying to transform traditional industries brought a lot of these questionable behaviors. Companies that have real technology just go on hikes."

As a result, many women remain silent or simply leave these companies as the #MeToo movement has zero likelihood of becoming socially-relevant in these male-dominated societies.

Meanwhile, back to start up employee Regina Yuan who is not optimistic for the future. She concluded: "I don’t think this will ever change in China. I don’t think #MeToo has had any significant impact in China. People are too busy making money to think about these matters."