NPR: Corruption Blurs The Lines Of China's Mistress Culture
Anthropologist Tiantian Zheng knows first-hand what women go through to become mistresses. She spent two years studying sex workers in China and wrote the book Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Post-Socialist China. To gain their trust, she herself worked as a hostess in karaoke bars, which in this context are essentially brothels. Zheng didn't offer sexual services to clients, but the other hostesses did.
"In the [hostess] world, being a mistress is one step up," Zheng says. "It is a dream ... to be kept as mistresses or to marry the clients, eventually."