The young women in my neighborhood fix their eyes straight ahead as they pass me, their faces as blank as rocks. They are hoping, I think, that if they give me absolutely no indication of interest, I will let them pass unmolested.

I can’t blame them. Though this Hong Kong neighborhood is dominantly Chinese, it’s just a few short blocks from an area packed with over-priced, over-themed bars that cater to the most feral mass of drunken westerners this side of Key West. And down that street, the behavior is pretty much anything goes.

A girl who couldn’t even be in high school saddles up next to a man at a bar and tells him she needs a drink. At the strip clubs, the dancers stand outside and grab any man passing by, literally pulling them into the place. To the men who frequent this area, Hong Kong is a smorgasbord of the feminine, from the underage to the well-experienced, all to be had on the cheap.

Of course, it’s easy to tell the difference between these hustlers and the women who are just trying to go about their lives. But even easy things take some thought, and I don’t see too much thinking going on around here. A twenty-something crew-cut plops down next to me at the bar and, before he even has his drink in his hand, announces loudly that he’s “just an American businessman looking to get his rocks off.” His words are received with a cheer.

His voice faltered just a little on the last couple words. He must be new here, because the more experienced, with their rugged, beach-town-alcoholic looks, would have made no such hesitations. I can’t decide which is more offensive: those that have made this their lifestyle, or those that just take a vacation from their moral values. And good taste. How many drinks would it take this crew-cut to even approach a woman he felt was on equal standing with himself?

With all this in mind, it’s easy to understand why the girls of my neighborhood fear contact with me. I suspect that starting years before puberty even knocked on their door, they’ve been under constant assault by the whimsical hubris of western men like myself. And I don’t even want to think about how aggressive some of them must get.

Half-awake yesterday morning, stumbling down the street, my gaze falls for just a second upon an attractive woman in a business suit. She’s waiting for someone by the entrance to the subway. As she catches my glance, her eyes widen slightly and she shakes her head: no. This early in the day, I’m just trying to get to my first cup of coffee. But I guess it’s never too early, or too late, for one of my ‘type’ to be out on the prowl. Still, I find myself offended at her assumption, that I’m just like the rest of them.

But I guess that would be her complaint, too.