Published in the University of New Mexico’s student newspaper, the Daily Lobo, on Oct. 6, 2011.
Prostitution and New Mexico have shared some headline space recently.
The most notable cases include the 2009 West Mesa murders, ex-UNM President F. Chris Garcia’s arrest in July on suspicions of involvement with the online prostitution ring Southwest Companions, and Judge Albert Murdoch’s arrest, also in July, on suspicion of raping a prostitute and intimidating a witness.
Garcia’s case was postponed until the District Attorney’s Office re-files. The Murdoch case was dropped, but could also be re-filed.
I am not saying what Garcia did was okay. He knowingly committed a crime, but Southwest Companions is the only case that, as far as we know about the ongoing investigation, isn’t linked with violence or the death of a human being.
So what are some reasons, aside from the obvious one, for people to go to prostitutes?
There are several reasons someone might solicit a prostitute that are often overlooked. Someone with a disability may have trouble finding a sex partner, so having someone who is experienced, patient and understanding may let them have fulfilling sex. People whose spouses are terminally ill might see a prostitute (maybe with permission) so their sexual needs can be met while continuing to be their spouses’ caregiver.
Sex workers provide a service for which there is a demand. Many sex workers treat their job like you might treat yours, with respect, but of course there are some bad apples, like in any professional service.
The rest of this column looks at prostitution from the perspective of a sex worker advocate in Albuquerque, a clinical psychologist, two vice-unit detectives and a professional dominatrix in Seattle.
The Sex Worker Advocate
Sera Miles is the New Mexico organizer for a national sex-worker-safety event called Red Umbrella Day. Miles said the investigation into Southwest Companions was larger than the West Mesa murders, which is frustrating to those whose family members were found buried in the West Mesa.
“I think the local sex working community feels that in the wake of the West Mesa murders still being unsolved, and there not even being a suspect, it is shocking that APD has the resources, and financial resources, to come down on this web escorting ring, and it seems really squanderous.”
David Ley, a clinical psychologist in Albuquerque and UNM alum, has practiced sex therapy in New Mexico and Nevada. He said men have innate desires that prostitution, porn and strip clubs can satisfy.
“Prostitution looks like it is just about sex, but the reality is that prostitution is about a lot more than that, it’s about some of the struggles that men have,” Ley said. “For some men it is about an intimate relationship where there is not a lot of pressure or demand.”
Ley said certain characteristics such as high testosterone levels, job success and even a deep voice might increase a man’s chance of wanting to visit a sex worker.
“Those same qualities predict greater infidelity … The same things that got them to that position (of success) are the same things that lead them to respond to those temptations.”
Ley said he sees couples who have marital arrangements where one or both parties can go outside the marriage to satisfy sexual needs, if need be. Some couples go by the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and others enjoy extra-marital relations as a couple.
“The reality is, and it’s uncomfortable, that there are core differences between male and female sexuality,” Ley said. “And level of libido and level of interest in variety is something that is far more prevalent in men than in women. On average women’s ideal number of sex partners is around two or three, men’s ideal number ranges from 12 to 60.”
Ley said members of Southwest Companions took several precautions to try and avoid their reputations and family lives being disrupted.
“You have to look at it (Southwest Companions) and say at least that it appears they were pretty responsible in the way they went about it,” Ley said. “They weren’t picking up prostitutes on the street, and it doesn’t seem that they were using their positions of authority by picking up students.”
The Vice Unit
Jason Peck is the incoming sergeant for the Albuquerque Police Department vice unit. He said Garcia’s actions were in no way responsible.
“I’m not sure what part of conducting or patronizing or being associated with criminal activity is responsible,” Peck said. “A lot of people say prostitution is a victimless crime. … Well most of the johns who patronize prostitutes are married. I would consider their spouses a victim.”
Matt Thompson was the previous vice sergeant and retired in August. He said while he can see Ley’s point of view, the bottom line is that members of Southwest Companions committed a crime.
“I would not totally disagree with his comment, and he does have some good points, but there are some issues with that,” Thompson said. “Too many times the johns think the girls enjoy it and it’s their choice, and that is true, but there are a lot of them that are doing it for a drug addiction.”
Peck said he has never met a prostitute who enjoys her job and does it just for the sex.
“Whenever you talk to these girls we will ask them, ‘How did you get started in this?’ Not one of them has ever said ‘well because I like sex and it makes me feel good, I get a rush out of it,’ I have never encountered one,” Peck said.
The Sex Worker
Mistress Matisse, a professional dominatrix in Seattle, said the Garcia case was overplayed in the media because the ‘university professor’ did not fit peoples’ stereotype of a pimp.
“The Internet has given a previously isolated group of people — the clients of sex workers — the ability to communicate,” Matisse said in an email. “If you believe that there’s been a rise in the number of women who do sex work as a secondary income or just for a short period of time, it follows that there are also men who will dabble in the administrative side.”
Matisse, who writes a column for the newspaper The Stranger, shares Ley’s ideas about successful men and sex workers. She wrote about it in a column on June 28 about former New York representative Anthony Weiner. Weiner was a representative from New York who accidentally tweeted pictures of his underwear-clad member, then denied it and then admitted to it. Weiner resigned in June.
“Biologically, Weiner — and any other high-profile guy caught with his pants down — is acting exactly as I’d expect him to act,” she wrote. “I’m not saying every male action is prompted by hopes of getting laid. But Weiner has shown us, by running for office, that he is a man who wants power and attention. That desire rarely stops at the belt line.”