SEX FOR SALE
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- American culture is giving me whiplash. On one side I see right-wingers teaching abstinence to horny teenagers, denying condoms to Africans with AIDS, refusing to fill women's birth control prescriptions and, in general, acting like moralizing, self-righteous jerks. And on the other hand, in what I like to think of as the real America, the newest - as well as actually the oldest - trend appears to be sex for money, sex for sale.
Sex always sells, but even in these post-Clinton, Bush-league years, our country has been expanding its definitions of acceptable sexual activity. We've learned that a whole generation of teenagers believe that having oral sex isn't really having sex. We've learned that many African-American men, on the "downlow" or "DL," think that liking anonymous sex with men doesn't mean they're gay. We've read about women in Hollywood who have plastic surgery on their sexual organs to make them look more like the airbrushed ones in Playboy.
In the same vein, so to speak, sex for sale, once considered a guilty secret, has now entered the mainstream. The back pages of every alternative newspaper in the country feature men and women who will discretely come to your home or hotel room and have sex with you for money. Failing that, they'll do it on the phone. Stripping is now considered a career choice.
The porn business is booming now that people don't have to hide in dark theaters with sticky floors to watch it. Out in Hollywood, pole dancing has taken the place of Pilates as an afternoon exercise class. A cartoon in The New Yorker shows four businessmen around a table in a bar. "I admit it," one is saying. "I started paying for sex this summer, and it's surprisingly affordable."
And one of the hottest stars on HBO right now isn't Tony Soprano, it's Isabella Soprano, a hooker - sorry, "working girl" - who's on the astonishing "documentary" series "Cathouse," basically a half-hour infomercial for a legal whorehouse just outside of Reno, Nevada. The show is on every Thursday night at 11 p.m.
Isabella is the girl next door, a bright -eyed shinny penny, the best friend you've always wanted - and she only costs about $1,000 an hour. She likes men - they're "interesting," she says - women, and men with women. And she's not even the star of the show. That honor goes to a wild blonde with breasts the size and shape of party balloons named Air Force Amy. Amy's prices are negotiable, but you can "party" - the Ranch euphemism for a word I can't use in this column - for 24 hours with her for just $10,000.
Yes, even though she has to split the take with the brothel 50-50, Amy makes more in one day on her back (or on her knees, or running around a room with a whip and a leash) than many of us make in half a year by sitting at a computer. Amy and her colleagues are nothing if not the kind of industrious capitalists who should make Republicans proud. They pose for porn pictures, make porn films, have Web sites, rent themselves out as escorts and "party" for money at the Ranch. They're one-woman synergy conglomerates.
Air Force Amy came by her name honestly. According to her Website (airforceamy.com you have to be 18 or older to enter), she really was on active duty in the Air Force. She even won several awards. She also organized orgies and had sex with "hard-bodied young men and older distinguished officers." Needless to say, she loved the military, but the bright lights of legalized prostitution called. What does it take to "party" with Amy? Only "an open mind and lots of credit or cash."
Amy is the star worker at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch (bunnyranch.com), run by the man you love to hate, "King Pimp" Dennis Hof, a large, ham-fisted type who has mastered the art of delivering outrageous lines to the camera with wide-eyed, deadpan innocence. Hof can't keep his hands off the merchandise, and he likes to brag. "I've had sex with Air Force Amy, and let me tell you, you have to bring your best game," is a typical line from him.
The fact that "Cathouse" is now in its third year on HBO gives me hope that America has not completely disappeared down the rathole of moralistic posturing. Prostitution, after all, is the world's oldest profession. Remember when Jesus threw the moneylenders (that would be you, American Express, Visa and MasterCard) out of the temple and protected the prostitute? "Cast the first stone" and all that? Amy, bless her hooker heart, knows she's part of the American culture.
"Mainstream America has accepted and embraced me as their most endearing, and enormously entertaining, identifiable professional sex worker ever," she says. "I've made a career out of having and giving a whole lot of extreme xxx fun in only 100% legal and safe environments available in America for well over a decade. All the while remaining reachable, approachable, teachable, humble, insightful, considerate and grateful."
If sex for money is now acceptable, it only boggles the mind which one of our treasured cultural taboos will be broken next. The only certainty is that it will happen, and that it will happen soon. In the meantime, even though I'm just a poor freelance writer, I too remain "reachable, approachable, teachable, humble, insightful, considerate and grateful."
Just bring an open mind, lots of credit and cash.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.