Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 3

The exceptional value of virginity notwithstanding, it is also fair to mention that (future) copulation itself is often used as a medium of exchange. While the object of bartering was a piece of meat or physical protection against wild animals ten thousand years ago, it could be a film role, a job, a sales deal, or better final grades today. Although not too many people will easily admit it, it is an unwritten law (in Chinese: 潜规则, qián guī zé) that men lure women with the offer of resources, and women lure men with the offer of sex. As long as there are enough supply and demand to regulate the market, this kind of commerce will remain common practice in most societies. Yet it shall be noticed that the actual transaction does not always take place. Rather, the mere promise of such a favour is often enough to entice one’s vis-à-vis into a desired state or action. As part of the courting process, some men will boast that they are rich and willing to share their wealth with their target if only the latter accepts to go to bed with them. But once she has succumbed to his advances, a rake will just drop her like a hot potato and soon look for greener pastures.[1] Most women are easy prey and will quickly fall into the trap because the blackmail “if you do not want to have sex with me, someone else will” is so compelling, even in today’s world of security and affluence.

But this does not mean that females have no leverage against this form of emotional or sexual coercion. On the contrary, those who understand the “equation of sex for money”[2] and are able to solve it by themselves can also deliberately employ it for their own pur­poses. Given males’ noticeable interest in uncommitted sex, many girls quickly get the hang of the ruse that all it takes to suck a man in is to suck that man. In many cases, the simple promise of pleasure (without the actual delivery) is enough for women to be presented with resources and other benefits, for example, a drink at a bar, a dinner, a promotion, and so on. Indeed, womankind is equally capable of deceit and manipulation, specifically by using sexual wiles, such as their youth, resplendence, or charm – just as the lyric goes:

If ladies be but young and fair,

They have the gift to know it.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

What is remarkable here, and quite a contraction to the traditional image of female demu­reness is that some of these ladies will go so far as to provide sexual access to (particularly sought after) males with the only purpose to affirm themselves and boost their own confi­dence. The more attention and time they get from these otherwise unreachable high-flyers (rock stars, professional athletes, famous actors, etc.), the more worthwhile they will see them­selves. This time, it is not their heart or feelings that matter, nor that of their playmate’s towards them[3], but the challenge to successfully seduce a man highly in demand (and who therefore has a lot of choice in poten­tial sex partners) and the thrill to beat the rest of the women in the field. To them, inter­course is nothing else but an exercise to test their attrac­tiveness in competition with other coquettes.[4]

Unfortunately, all these aspects contribute to perpetuating the problem of the sexual objec­tification of women.[5] Under these premises, it is very difficult for them to get rid of the image of being an instrument of men’s carnal pleasure. Such practice is particularly tragic because it reduces a real person to the status of a commodity with purely utilitarian functions. These can be sexual productivity (e.g., women as breeding machines), physical grati­fication (prostitutes used as playthings or sex toys), the display of a certain standing (trophy wives). Instead of a partner, these men only seek a status symbol, an object of admi­ration. For them, only appearance or desirability matter, just like for a luxury apart­ment, a yacht, or a sports car. Prominence is given to her orna­mental value (in terms of gene­­rally per­cei­ved beauty, attractiveness) or freshness (age, virginity) whereas aspects such as perso­nality, senti­ments or fondness are completely neglected. Therein lies the ignominy of such objectification of females: It simply ignores the fundamental axiom that a woman is always more than the sum of her parts.

Related proverbs and citations:


qiān jīn mǎi xiào

A smile is worth a thousand ounces of gold.

To spend endless money for temporary pleasures.


lǎo jì fú lì, zhì zài qiān lǐ

An old war-horse may be stabled…Yet still it longs to gallop a thousand miles.

Ambition survives even in senior age.


jīng jí shì méi guī de wèi shì, zhī huì cì shāng zhāi huā de rén

A thorn defends the rose, harming only those who would steal the blossom.


nán rén yŏu qián jiù biàn huài, nǚ rén biàn huài jiù yŏu qián

Men with money just turn bad, women turned bad just have money.


[1]    For other techniques and the rationale behind such behaviour, see chapters 6 “A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart” and 35 “No cat can resist snatching fish”.

[2]    Campbell (2002), p. 193

[3]    See chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

[4]    See Townsend (1998), p. 159

[5]    See chapter 4 “Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters”.

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 2

Although widely romanticised in film (see Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation) and litera­ture (The Lover by Marguerite Duras) the acceptance of such older male/younger female rela­tion­ships is generally quite low. The man may face ridicule for failing to cope with his age, while outsiders could question the woman’s integrity and the sincerity of her feelings. The level of (dis)appro­val depends on how significant the age gap is, which in turn, is a value that varies over time and cultures, and may also be influenced by the law or ethical systems. Economic disparities between age, social or ethnic groups also play a role in how such partnerships are perceived. In China, for example, the contempt and criticism are much higher if the couple consists of a local girl with a foreign guy (老外, lăo wài). A common insult she will hear is that she is a gold digger (傍大款, bàng dà kuăn), i.e., someone who likes or takes interest in someone only because he is rich. The perks they can get from their relation­ships are well worth the price. Common gifts include dinners, smartphones, hand­bags, jewel­­lery, trips, apartment rentals, etc. For the luckiest ones, it can even lead to a nice wed­ding party with a subsequent divorce settlement. This might not apply to all women falling in love with much older fellows, but those who do should be aware that this is the impres­sion that they give to others, whether they like it or not. Moreover, ladies who decide to go after the quick buck by choosing loaded partners should not be surprised by the epheme­rality of their relationships. After all, tricks like the immediate display of abundance and hol­dings (including the lavish spending of cash, the invitation to a high-end restaurant on the first date, the generous tipping of waiters, the ordering of mixed drinks in bars, the joy­ride in a new sports car, the buying of expensive gifts, etc.) are generally recognised to be effec­tive for attracting casual sexual partners rather than long-term mates.[1]

Anyhow, some females do not mind being labelled as “gold diggers” and deem it as accep­table to maintain an affair with a “sugar daddy” who offers them money and/or gifts in return for their company or sexual favours. In Japan, the practice of compensated dating, or enjo-kōsai, is already well established, yet heavily contested within the society. One impor­tant aspect that needs to be highlighted here, however, is that the female participants, ranging from school-aged girls to housewives, do not necessarily sell their bodies or engage in physical acts. In this regard, they can be compared to modern day courtesans, as defined in the traditional sense, i.e., “a well-educated and independent woman of free morals, […] a trained artisan of dance and singing, especially one associated with wealthy, powerful, or upper-class men who provided luxuries and status in exchange for companionship.”[2],[3] This form of entertainment has a long history in many cultures and regions of the world, where the representatives of very similar trades are known under different denomi­nations, such as hetaerae (in Ancient Greece), tawaif (South Asia), yiji (艺妓, yì jì, in Ancient China), sing-song or flower girls (19th century China), or kisaeng (Korea), oiran or geisha (Japan). As performing artists, they were carefully trained and frequently accomplished in the fine arts, poetry, music or dance. They also offered primarily spiritual interaction to their clients, and some of them were able to deny engagements, respectively to choose who they wished to spend time with. Sexual activity between them and their patrons was not always expected, and in fact was fairly rare. If it happened, it would not be based on monetary affairs, but as the result or the side-effect of an affectionate affair.[4] For all the other clients hoping to play patty-cake with their doxy, they had no other option but to wait for whoredom come.

Nonetheless, in the case of geisha (芸者, literally: art doer), the meaning of the present pro­verb is particularly poignant. Under the Edo era, geisha apprentices, or maiko (舞子, dan­cing girl), had to undergo a special ceremony, mizuage (水揚げ, hoisting from water), mar­king her coming of age. The observances also included the deflowering of the girl by a patron who had previously acquired this right of first access. Although the sum paid by the “sponsor” was significant, geisha would not consider mizuage as an act of prostitution. In other countries as well, even today, virginity is regarded as a valuable possession or mer­chan­dise that can yield significant return, either by selling it for a certain amount or other­wise trading it against rights or privileges. By the same token, the so-called “droit du seigneur”[5], or lord’s right, which entitled the feudal overlord of a medieval estate to deprive his serfs’ maiden daughters of their virginity, illustrates the preciousness and the coveted nature of youth and pureness.


[1]    Buss (2003), p. 100

[2]    Notice that it is only recently that the term “courtesan”, which originally comes from the Italian word “cortigiana”, i.e., the (courtly) ruler’s mistress, acquired its pejorative meaning as a prostitute with wealthy, or upper-class clientele.



[5]    Similar French terms include “droit de jambage” (from jambe, i.e., leg) or “droit de cuissage” (from cuisse, i.e., thigh), which are used as synonyms for “jus primae noctis” (Latin for “law of the first night”). For more information, see also: