There’s a huge industry in China now where people pay to talk to escorts over the phone, and we were surprised to learn that some of these escorts are actually Malaysians after we got the opportunity to speak to someone who currently works as a part-time social escort for a company based in China.
But hold on a second.
If you aren’t up to date with social developments in China, you might think we’re talking about some kind of illicit phone sex hotline, but it’s actually a completely clean and – as we found out – surprisingly wholesome industry. Since she wishes to remain anonymous, we’ll be calling her Kimchi at her request.
Here’s what we learnt from Kimchi.
Social escorts were literally given a bad name
In China, the term for this industry is “陪聊员”, which itself is subject to various interpretations. On one hand, according to Google senpai, it roughly translates to “Escort”. But a simple google search revealed other interpretations, such as Chat Assistant. To avoid any confusion, we’ll stick with the term Social Escorts due to the specific job description.
From the similarity of the name alone, it’s probably no surprise that workers in this industry are often subject to negative stigma in China, where sexual escort work is strictly banned.
“People should not associate this job with prostitution. Because of some clients who cross the boundaries and request explicit content, it has created a negative stigma on this business.” – Kimchi to Cilisos.
Kimchi also says that some clients have the misconception that they can do whatever they want with the escort once they have paid for the service. But that is not true at all, as Kimchi’s company tries their best to keep things as professional as possible.
“Before the clients are assigned to an operator, they must go through customer service. Customer service will always remind the clients to mind their behaviour when talking as this is a healthy working environment.” – Kimchi.
It’s not a strictly female-only job too. Clients can be assigned to male and female operators by customer service.
But…. how did she find out about this job in the first place?
She discovered the industry through China’s TikTok
Kimchi first came across social escorting on “Douyin,” China’s version of TikTok, where she saw people who paid “online companions” to talk and play games with them.
“As I have never heard of these kinds of services in Malaysia, I got intrigued and started searching these services on Taobao after I found out about the job listing on the web.” – Kimchi.
As Taobao is the largest e-commerce platform in China, she thought finding a company to hire her would be a piece of cake. However, it wasn’t as easy as she expected as most companies require their escorts to have at least one month of working experience. Fortunately, after going through multiple listings, she finally found one that provided a training program.
“I asked more than ten stores before I finally found a company that provides a training program. They teach us conversations skills and tell us the do’s and don’ts while dealing with a customer, such as knowing when to reject a customer’s request when it involves explicit content.” – Kimchi.
As we mentioned, the actual services they provide can be pretty wholesome, but we’ll let you be the judge of that because…
Most of the time, it’s just lonely people looking for a friend.
Kimchi typically works 5 – 6 hours a day after her day job, where she earns an average of RM1,500 depending on how many clients she’s assigned. For the most part, her job involves talking to clients through text, calls, or voice messages; but she’ll never really know what conversations she’ll be getting into because the topic ultimately depends on the client themselves.
“If the client felt the need for an outlet to talk, they would simply say whatever is on their minds.”- Kimchi.
But she also mentioned that some customers use their service simply because they are bored, which can lead to awkward silences. In this case, Kimchi herself needs to kickstart the conversations with topics such as their favourite foods, hobbies, movies, and songs… just something to make them feel comfortable like how friends would speak to one another.
“We have to make our clients feel like they are talking to their own friends. And when the conversation between the clients becomes more comfortable, the clients can choose to book a specific operator to chat with for days and even months if they like their service.” – Kimchi.
But this kind of personal yet anonymous connection can be distressing, especially when you get the sense that the person on the other end isn’t in their best state of mind. Kimchi recalled one session where a client requested her to keep sending encouraging quotes.
“This was definitely one of the most unique cases I ever had. The client requested someone to send encouraging messages to them as they were on the verge of giving up their life. I was worried that the client would do something bad as they never replied to me at all.” – Kimchi.
But beyond just talking, social escorts can also be asked to provide some really specific services…
Their services include…tucking you into bed?
Other than the basic chatting services, social escorts can also be asked to provide other unique services such as wake up calls or even to keep track of daily life routines.
“Clients can also arrange for someone to moderate their study revision progress or even their diet.” – Kimchi.
Kimchi reveals that one of their most popular services is the “Tucking In” service, where they would try their best to lull their clients to sleep.
“When the customer requests the “Tucking In” service, the assigned operator can either sing or read bedtime stories to the clients to calm them down and get them to sleep.” – Kimchi.
Why would people even pay to use this service?
As Kimchi currently also works in customer service, she’s received tons of feedback on why people use their services:
“Most of our clients have stated that they have trouble falling asleep and need someone to talk to, and they reach out to us as they have difficulty talking to other people in real life.
They rather pay someone to talk to online or even confess something. Everyone has their reason for choosing our services.” – Kimchi.
In a way, we found what Kimchi was telling us kinda similar to the Befrienders, as both provide a platform that is willing to listen to everyone’s problems while maintaining anonymity. To a certain extent, social escorts can advise their clients to seek proper professional help after their session, pushing them to take care of their mental health.
As society progresses, there is always a demand for various services that may seem a little strange. But it seems that this industry is filling a growing void for people to anonymously express themselves or pay for small human interactions online, as Kimchi has also received clients from countries outside of China.