Do women want male brothels?

Heidi Fleiss and friends explain female desire to the New York Times.

Published January 8, 2006 9:43PM (EST)

The New York Times on Sunday reported on ex-Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss' plan to open a male brothel in Nevada. The Times is playing catch-up on this story, first reported months ago in the Los Angeles Times. Yesterday, 40-year-old Fleiss told the Gray Lady, "The times have changed so much, with women in control ... Women make more money. They are more powerful. And it's a lonely world. People are tired of Internet dating. It's easier to go to a place where you know you'll have your dream man."

The Times story argues that women already pay for sex, just "outside of the established sex industry, in the more informal, grayer area of a relationship with somebody they trust: a personal trainer, say, a tennis coach or, yes, a pool boy." The question it poses -- and of course cannot answer in full -- is whether they will really "pay for sex as a no-fuss transaction."

At one point, the story breathlessly reveals that these days, "women are ... openly displaying interest in all things sexual, from the groups that gather for sex toy parties in private homes to the ritual of celebrating birthdays, bachelorette parties and even divorces at male strip clubs."


Uh-huh. Reporter Mireya Navarro even went to a male strip show called Hollywood Men, where she found some 19- and 20-year-old women who allowed as how the idea of patronizing a male brothel made sense to them.

But the paper also found reasons for incredulity.

"Hawk Kinkaid," director of an advocacy and education group for men in the sex industry, tells the paper, "Women prefer referrals, somebody safe, more intimate contact" and that they "wouldn't feel an immediate connection with the men they'll be hiring. They want someone who's charming and attentive."

Hey, who could be more charming and attentive than Fleiss' first hired "stud," 37-year-old actor Lester James Brandt, who asserts that "when a woman needs love, understanding, attention and passion, she will look for it."

There's a whole other piece to be written here about how the notion of institutionalized male prostitution rearranges, or confirms, our attitudes about sex work as inherently degrading. For those who feel that female prostitutes are exploited by their clients, the system, society -- do you feel the same about Lester James Brandt?

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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