Racy China esports cafes where servers in French maid outfits kneel to feed guests, ‘derogatory to women’s dignity’

Kneeling while serving tea, providing food, offering massages, and playing games with customers are some of their services.

The service was denounced by the Chinese authorities on April 15, who demanded that the implicated cafes modify their business operations.

In certain cafes severs kneel to serve male customers their meals and beverages. Photo: Weibo/CCTV

Authorities slammed the employers for not having effective prevention systems against sexual harassment, resulting in some female staff being targeted.

China’s state media wrote on Weibo, “A single knee-bending action can greatly devalue women’s dignity and bear an intense sexual implication.”

In 2022, a man named Wu found an esports cafe known as Sweet Maid Cafe, where he asked a maid-waitress dubbed Yaoyao to game with him.

Yaoyao was raped by Wu in an esports-themed hotel, leading to his subsequent sentence to four-and-a-half years in prison.

In August 2021, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, several instances of sexual harassment involving minors occurred after they were recruited to work in maid-themed cafes.

There has been a recent clampdown on esports cafes known for providing dubious services.

Consequences have comprised fines, demolition of promotion materials, and closing of establishments.

The service practice has generated active discussions on mainland digital media platforms.

One internet observer suggested, “These cafes should prohibit physical interactions between customers and waiting staff.”

Another remarked, “Regardless of the context, I believe maid culture is demeaning towards women.”

Maid cafes originally appeared in Japan as a component of anime culture, where it was meant to reflect politeness and submission through role-playing.

Most of these cafes ban casual physical contact between employees and customers.

In recent times, authorities on the mainland have been taking action against venues offering such services. Photo: AFP

As the popularity of Japanese anime culture spread to China, the concept of maid servers was merged with the idea of in-game companions at esports cafes.

A game companion is a platonic escort during gaming, which might include casual conversation and collaborative gameplay. It’s a service designed to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve the gaming experience.

Butler cafes, designed especially for female patrons in China, feature young male waiters who serve beverages, engage in conversations, and play board games.

One female customer expressed on Weibo, “In the cafe, I felt honored. Conversations with the young men were relaxing.”

“Endorsing both maid and butler cultures as part of niche societies is positive. As long as they are legal and bring joy, they should be cherished,” opined another online observer.

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