The Inflatable Doll Prostitutes

(yWeekend)  "Sex" services through inflatable dolls. By Jiang Wenjun.  December 21, 2006. 

[in translation]

The widely discussed case of the "inflatable doll prostitutes" turned out to be a piece of fake news.  Through the investigation of our reporter, it was discovered that the name of the location was incorrect, the facts mentioned could not be confirmed and the reporter Zhang Lixing did not exist.

Thus, the various discussions on the Internet are based upon nothing.  But quite a few netizens insist that the debate has not been devoid of social meaning.  If inflatable dolls can illegally take the place of prostitutes, it may decrease sex crimes and sexual transmissions of diseases.  Furthermore, the brothel boss was regarded as being "creative" and "may have created a new business."

The climax of the incident occurred on December 16, when the MOP forum placed a piece of "news" at the top of its home page.  The title of the post was "Are inflatable doll prostitutes legal -- the 'brothel' is legal and the police cannot do anything!?"  According to the report: Recently, it was reported that on Central Avenue of the central district of Huluniao city, there was a new brothel named Spirit Entertaining Garden.  The place offers all types of inflatable dolls, some of which are made to look like top movie stars.  The place also offers private rooms in which the customers can bring the selected doll to make love to (more precisely, it can only be said to be masturbation) for a certain rental fee.  The dolls not only look real, but they can emit the corresponding sounds.  The brothel owner said that this service satisfied the need of people to be close to the stars.  Since there is no corresponding law, the local police are unable to do anything.

After this post appeared at the top of the MOP home page, there was a big storm on the Internet.  Previously, the same type of post had appeared in countless forums with many replies.  An industry insider speculated that if this news report were fabricated, it was most probably used by sex equipment producers to promote their products.

The forum post had the right title and it had the time, location and people.  It was more than 1,000 words in length and well-written.  But where is the Huluniao city mentioned in the post?  And what kind of place is the Spirit Entertaining Garden?

Our reporter checked through the sequence of posts on this subject and found that it was initially posted by netizen "jdbjk" at Zhonghua Net at 17:46, December 10.  Over the next few days, the post appeared at the various BBS and blogs at MOP, Yahoo!, TOM, Chinaren and others.  It seemed to have blanketed all the local forums and shopping websites.

The netizen named He Tao was the first to question this post: "There is no such place as Huluniao city.  There is only Huludao city.  I don't know if the poster deliberately wrote it that way, or was this whole thing fabricated?  Perhaps the poster is a lousy speller!  How can the person be a reporter if such a huge error was allowed to occur!  This is a joke!"

There is no such place as Huluniao in China.  The closest thing to it is Huludao city in Liaoning province.  On December 18, the reporter searched for "inflatable doll brothel" on Baidu and found 7,840 reports.  A search of "Spirit Entertaining Garden" yielded 890 reports.  A search for "Huludao brothel" yielded other related results such as "Liaoning inflatable doll brothel," "Huludao legal brothel," "Huludao special brothel" etc.  The reporter noticed that many of the re-postings had changed the name "Huluniao" to "Huludao."

By telephone, the reporter found that there were are three printed newspapers in Huludao city: Huludao Daily, Huludao Evening News and Huludao Broadcast Television Daily.  The offices and news centers of the three media outlets denied ever making a report about the "inflatable doll brothel."  The human resources departments at the three media outlets do not know of any reporter named Zhang Lixing.  The reporter searched for Zhang Lixing on Baidu.  Among the more than 1,000 results, there is no other news report apart from the "inflatable doll" report.

On December 11, Huludao netizen Brother Lihai wrote instantaneously: "Is there such a place?  I went and checked.  I could not find it on Central Avenue!"  On December 18, the reporter called the Security Administration division of the Huludao city public security bureau and the Lianshan district public security bureau office that was responsible for Central Avenue, a division captain named Fu and a police officer named Wang had not heard that the police ever investigated any "inflatable doll brothel" and there was no such person as the "Security Division leader Zhang Huo" mentioned in the forum post.

The Huludao city department of industry and commerce spoke to our reporter at length and told us that the Spirit Entertaining Garden was not registered with the department of industry and commerce.  "Nobody has complained to us.  This place should not exist."  The worker told our reporter: "Even if someone applied to register under that name, we could not possibly approve.  He could not have described his business in that manner.  But it is possible that he may have done something different in his actually business instead of what he claimed that he wanted to do."

The reporter interviewed the editor at a certain adult equipment website and was told that this piece of news was possibly made up in order to bring attention to the latest products from inflatable doll manufacturers.  Based upon the speed and scope of dissemination of this post, it is obvious that someone has been deliberately manipulating it.

Although the veracity of the news could not be confirmed, netizens uniformly believe that this incident was not without social implications.  If inflatable dolls can replace prostitutes, there will be fewer sex crimes and sexual transmissions of diseases.  "This may have created a brand new industry."

Netizen Aishi Lawu wrote in his blog: "What is obscenity?  The times are changing, and the boundary between obscenity and personal interests is increasingly blurred.  Is an inflatable doll an obscene object?  If it is not obscene, then can it be placed on the podium?  If it is obscene, then how can it be sold?"

Chinese Political Law University professor Wu Ming'an said that the inflatable dolls are probably not treated as obscene by the Ministry of Culture, but he said that the person who rents out the dolls can be prosecuted for distributing obscene objects for profit.  "(The inflatable doll brothel) involves a rental relationship which is right on the edge."

Li Yinhe believes that this should be treated as an ordinary leisure activity and the inflatable doll is a supplementary product used during sexual activity.  "This type of tool does not appear to be an obscene object in China.  When sex equipment is sold legally in the streets, it should not be an obscene item.  Obscene items refer to compact discs and so on."  Reporter: "But the rental relationship and the provision of a room is a form of organized prostitution?"  "No.  I don't think that this is any different from renting out a flotation ring for swimming," said Lin Yinhe.

Question: Is it legal to publicly rent out inflatable dolls for profit?

"This is definitely not an act of prostitution.  It cannot be treated as prostitution under the Administrative Penalty Regulations."  Wu Ming'an hit the mark.  "According to Chinese legal regulations, the act of prostitution has to occur between two persons.  A similar act between a person and a rubber doll cannot be legally defined as an act of prostitution."  Haotian Legal Office's Zheng Yan said while organized prostitution violates the Criminal Law Code, an inflatable doll is not a real person and so this does not involve the crime of prostitution.  However, this particular mode of business is done for profit and in detriment to social morality.  As such, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should suppress it and impose fines.

"There is no such facility in Beijing and it would not have been permitted to register."  A worker at the legal office of the Beijing municipal department of industry and commerce told the reporter that the law does not contain any explicit rules on this, but the law could not have been expected to be so detailed anyway.

The reporter called the Legal Advice office of the Chaoyang public security bureau.  The worker was obviously paying attention to this case: "In Huludao city, Liaoning province, there really was such a place."  The worker claimed to have read about it on the Internet.  He paused and then he said: "We have not received information about this news from the proper channels within the system.  This is something new, for which there is no clear guidelines."  This worker told the reporter that the law always lags.  Illegal acts appear first and then the corresponding laws will appear eventually.  "Whether this is against the law depends on the danger that it poses on society.  I do not exclude that this whole affair was a gimmick or hoax.  The law has its blank places and blind spots, and someone will exploit it.  Personally, since inflatable dolls can be sold, this proves that it is legal to sell as well as use them.  The next question is about where it is being used.  It should be legal in a closed private space.  This is your personal lifestyle.  But the law should define whether it is permitted to be used in a public space.  This depends on its potential danger to society and whether new problems may arise."

According to Chinese Renmin University School of Law professor Tang Weijian: "From the logic of law, if it is allowed to be sold, then it is allowed to be used and there should not be any problems with renting it out.  Logically speaking, there is no problem.  But this is a business activity, and the operator must receive the business permit from the department of industry and commerce.  If he did not register, then the business is illegal.  Conversely, if he has the business permit from the department of industry and commerce, then the business is legal.  The legality of the business does not on whether this is a special type of service.  It depends on whether there is a business permit."  Professor Tang believes that the department of industry and commerce needs to evaluate this type of business permit application carefully, because it does not fall into any classification category that the department approves for operation.  The department of industry and commerce needs to have a clear legal basis for issuing the permit.

About 50% of netizens share the view that even though it is legal because the law does not prohibit it, there has to be a bottom line for moral principles.  For the Chinese people, this matter offends public decency and needs to be morally condemned.