about   |   writing   |   archives

Raise the Red Lantern

Oman: brothel lantern

You’re barreling along a sparse Oman highway late at night and reach a roundabout with a cluster of shops, restaurants and a brothel. The use of red lights to advertise sex services is nothing new, the twist here being that the form reflects that the pimp/prostitutes are Chinese; that the string of lanterns are large enough to be spotted by passing road traffic; and that the dry climate is conducive to the relatively fragile lantern. .

Of interest is how the desire to consummate a taboo transaction (males and females agreeing a price for sex services) co-exists with more mainstream family activities in such a relatively small area. That the brothel is located here and not somewhere on the edge of town is a testament to: our ability to de-code and then ignore signs; creative multi-use of space; and (most probably) paying off the local police (in kind). I could go on about how the shift to personal tech in aiding service discovery changes this equation but this has been a pleasantly lo-fi weekend.

Looking for a good read this Sunday? Robert Jensen and Emily Oster on The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India (pdf) – in particular measuring levels of domestic violence; son preference; autonomy and fertility.