Wham bam thank you man
Women are demanding no-strings sex. Where can they get it? Katie Glass goes in search of Britain’s hidden male brothels
Models pose in uniforms most popular with female clients (Colin Thomas)
How many men do you want then?” asks Becky, the madam. Oooh, I think one will probably be enough. “Right then,” she tinkles, “go to the large Tesco car park then ring me back for directions.” And with that, I’m on my way to Britain’s only male brothel — for women. Inside, a madam is reeling off options. “I’ve got ships’ captains, builders, businessmen,” she coos. “Some women like a bit of role play! Do you have a fantasy?” I’m already living it — I’ve proved the male brothel is more than a myth.
It was an ex-convent girl who first inspired my search for male brothels. Pam Corkery, a New Zealander and a former politician, announced to great hoo-ha last August that in October 2011 she would open the world’s first male brothel, in Auckland. While in Britain it is illegal to run a whorehouse, in New Zealand the Prostitution Reform Act of 2003 allows such establishments to operate relatively freely.
I wanted to know more, so last August I tracked Pam down. “Let me get a supply of nicotine together, then I’m all yours,” rasped a woman who sounded like one of Marge Simpson’s sisters. It was almost midnight in Auckland, the city where Pam was making ambitious plans for a “romance meets finance” model: a six-star, spa-style bordello, with a bar and 28 bedrooms sandwiched between a ground-floor beauty salon (selling blow-dries) and a sixth-floor penthouse (selling blow jobs). The price tag for the latter: NZ$240 (£123) an hour.
Pam’s whorehouse promised to be the first of its kind: a legal place where women could indulge in no-strings, no-romance sex in a way that has previously been available to men only. Her plans quickly became a cause célèbre. Women who wanted to pay to get laid (Pam’s own, optimistic research found that over a quarter of Kiwi women want to) cheered her in the street. Over 1,000 gigolos applied for jobs, mailing Pam pictures of their privates and turning up at her house. Something that began with thrice-married Pam musing, “I wouldn’t mind paying someone to have sex with me, and paying them to go away again,” turned into a political statement. “The male brothel is a massive breakthrough for female sexual freedom. We’re pioneers!” cheered Pam, noting that “New Zealand [in 1893] was the first place to give women the vote, too”.
When Pam spoke, I wanted to applaud. “Our clients won’t have to flatter our men, laugh at crap jokes, feign interest in jobs of no interest, watch the History Channel or contend with poor grooming,” she said. “Our clients won’t have to preen themselves for a night, only to have their hopes shattered and their heart turn that little bit more stony because their bloke drinks too much and can’t perform. They can decide when, where and how they have sex.” It was as if Emmeline Pankhurst had been reborn a nymphomaniac Kiwi.
It was as if Emmeline Pankhurst had been reborn as a nymphomaniac KiwiLast month, the comparison proved prophetic, as Pam canned her plans for the brothel after facing “a year of hard slog against the male establishment’’. Describing how she’d met with a wall of hostility, Pam revealed that a number of leading legal and accounting firms had refused to represent her venture. “The level of gynophobia still running through male-dominated businesses made me want to chain myself to railings,” she screamed.
“If I judge the progressive nature of the brothel by the male enemies it has attracted, then it must be a giant leap forward into an area of freedom long held exclusively by men.”
I wondered if Pam was right. There is certainly a temptation to see the male brothel as the ultimate outcome of The Hite Report. Shere Hite’s ground-breaking 1970s study of female sexuality set the precedent for linking women’s social equality with their sexual fulfilment. It inspired the sisterhood to demand its own right to erotic pleasure: a demand that resulted in ubiquitous Ann Summers stores, Chippendale-style dance troupes, male lap-dancing clubs for women, tantra “yoni” masseurs, and an ever-growing industry of feminist porn. While this was unfurling on the high street, on Britain’s backstreets another trend was gathering momentum.
“Women are probably buying more sex than ever before,” says Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, a reader in psychology and social policy at Birkbeck College, University of London. “The things that tend to make men clients of prostitutes now also apply increasingly to women.”
Women are already frequenters of the sun-sea-sex holiday — particularly in west Africa and the Caribbean. The male escort, meanwhile, is now so commonplace he pops up in Hollywood romcoms (The Wedding Date) and Coronation Street (played by Nigel Havers), while the sexual health charity The Terrence Higgins Trust has noted a rise in the number of male escorts successfully offering their services to women.
But just because women will watch strippers, hire escorts and rent rasta-lovers abroad, are they really ready for the wham-bam-thank-you-man experience the brothel entails? Until now, the male brothel for women hasn’t enjoyed much success. In 1990, Dr Tuppy Owens attempted to list male brothels in her Safer Sex Maniac’s Bible (a kind of Michelin guide to Europe’s sex spots). She found two: Crazy Boys in Hamburg and Jan Bik’s in Amsterdam. Both have since shut down. “I did try to include more but I just couldn’t find them,” she told me. “Instead, I included some romantic hotels, which women liked.”
In 2005, the ex-Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss announced to great fanfare that she was opening “Heidi’s Stud Farm”. The idea petered out a few months later. And in January 2010, the Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada hailed the appointment of Markus, its first male sex worker. A former marine and porn star, Markus likened his arrival to Rosa Parks “when she decided to sit up front on the bus. Or what Gandhi did when he had the sit-down protests”. Weeks later he resigned, after seeing fewer than 10 clients.