Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2019
This study examines the masculinity of Chinese male migrants who earn their living as “dance hosts.” Dance hosts partner middle-aged women in dance halls, sell experiences of intimacy and engage in ongoing romantic relationships with their female clients. This article seeks to capture an intimate and “up-close” portrait of (heterosexual) male dance hosting, and then further addresses dance hosts’ masculine subjectivity by examining the coping strategies they use to overcome the stigma attached to their profession and to assert their masculinity. Ultimately, the article argues that the process of masculine subjectivity formation in the case of male dance hosts is structured by dominant norms of Chinese masculinity. Although seemingly highly subversive, the relationship between dance hosts and clients in fact fulfils conventional gender ideals and encourages the perpetuation of traditional gender roles in China's patriarchal society. This work seeks to offer an understanding of traditional gender norms (or ideals) through the lens of normative Chinese masculinity within the context of a stigmatized occupation.