China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
As cellphone technologies such as hookup apps became increasingly popular in urban China, the male-male transactional sex scene undergone large-scale transformation. The number of physical commercial sex venues rapidly declined, while transactional sex mediated by hookup apps was fast growing. This paper focuses on men who sell sex to men (M$M) through the mediation of smartphone technologies in Shanghai, China. Instead of taking for granted that LGBTQ sexualities as inherently “queer,” this paper takes queerness to a different direction. It argues that queerness emerged in the unexpected, and indeed, queer effects of the interaction among technology, economy, and sexuality. Creating the concept of “techno-erotic-economic circuit,” this paper points out how contemporary technologies such as smartphone apps mediated the ways in which economies, sexualities, and governance were entangled and blurred in a queer fashion: gay men negotiated their relations with one another through sex, money, and virtual encounters; LGBTQ+ NGOs sexualized their services in exchange for funding and pleasure simultaneously; central and local governments govern citizens’ sexualities via hookup apps and other virtual space as their proxy for political control and economic development. Through the case study of M$M in Shanghai, this paper contends that under the techno-erotic-economic circuit, individuals and institutions such as businesses, NGOs, and governments entered exchange relations with one another that were at once intimate, sexual, transactional, and political. As a result, intimacy, transaction, and pleasure became both queer and indistinguishable.