Why do men pay for sex?

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In the midst of the recent Spitzer scandal, my wife asked me a particularly interesting question. During a discussion of the Governor's dual life, her boss asked why men would go to prostitutes in the first place. My wife had no idea, and passed the question on to me.

I would like to point out, for the record, that I have no professional knowledge of prostitution, from either end of the transaction; apart from a brief stint as an artists' model in college, I have never taken off my clothes for money. However, I do read a lot, and have done a fair bit of research into sexual politics and theory, and own a copy of Xaviera Hollander's The Happy Hooker. That having been said, I also wandered all over the internet!

Although there are numerous reasons for hiring a prostitute, most of them seem to fit within three key categories:

Dueling Lives: Many men visit prostitutes because doing so allows them to express a portion of their personality that they are not able to indulge at home. Part of this is the Madonna-whore Complex, which afflicts many men, particularly those raised in a traditionally religious context or those reared by a cold and distant mother. Sufferers of the Madonna-whore complex often regard sexual urges as base, unclean, or animalistic. In this context, it is difficult to associate one's wife -- the mother of one's children -- with sex, particularly when it comes to unusual or "kinky" behaviors. One solution is to seek the services of a prostitute, which makes it possible for the individual to engage in sexual pleasures without compromising his respect for his wife.

An analog of this is the desire to indulge pleasures that the prospective "john" would be too embarrassed to discuss with his wife. For example, Samantha Waters, a former professional "escort," noted that "one guy asked if he could dress up in women's clothes and requested that I call him Christine instead of Chris and paint his toenails." For men who can afford it, a prostitute offers the option to live out a fantasy while maintaining a comfortable marital relationship.

Scratching an Itch: For some men, prostitutes are simply a way of releasing tension. Many clients seem to cite the ease and clear-cut nature of the prostitute/john relationship. Separated from the context of a permanent relationship or marriage, prostitution transforms sex into a simple, straightforward transaction, rather than a small part of a much more complex relationship. Also, because they pay prostitutes, clients can view this as an economic transaction, rather than as an infidelity.

Thrill of the Transaction: Some men cite the "thrill of the transaction." This may be related to the illicit nature of prostitution. As most 21-year-olds will attest, drinking is a lot more fun when it's illegal. Similarly, the fact that prostitution is illegal in most of the United States can make it extremely attractive to a certain segment of the population.

Another aspect of the sexual transaction is the power that it gives the purchaser. Waters notes that wealthy clients "are very arrogant, and they bring their power in society behind closed doors with them. The more white collar gentlemen want the risky behavior." This fits the profile of Spitzer, who allegedly asked his call girl to perform "unsafe" acts.

There has been considerable internet speculation about the exact nature of the "unsafe acts" that Governor Spitzer engaged in. At this point, I wish to end all speculation: Spitzer's notorious "unsafe act" was hiring a high-priced call girl while posing as a crusading statesman!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Even if he could afford a prostitute, he's way too "frugal" to waste the money.


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