Sex: Very Desperate Housewives
LAINE, A SPUNKY 50-year-old manager of a suburban hair salon, says she was almost too nervous about having a strange man in her house to book her massage with Brian. Curiosity got the better of her. “When I opened the door and saw him, though, I trusted him completely. There was this big bodybuilder guy in a t-shirt that said ‘Massage Therapist,’ filling up the whole doorway. It sounds silly, but he looked like such a nice man.” Brian, 39 years old, is enormous in all directions, the kind of big man that even other big men would not want to anger, buzzed bald and dressed simply in shorts and a t-shirt. His voice is mild and friendly, and he’s engaged to a woman in secretarial temp work who’s interested in becoming a massage therapist. Brian’s the sort of archetypal bruiser-turned-teddy-bear that women trust instinctively.
I had originally intended to book a massage with Brian myself and write about the experience. The legality seemed questionable, though, in that hair-splitting, ambiguous way that would probably be nothing to worry about if I weren’t planning to write about pleasing hands. Brian himself says the legality of his massages is “sort of in a gray area.” The police department’s take seems equally ambiguous. Sergeant Irvin Riley of the Philadelphia Vice Enforcement Unit told me: “A massage becomes prostitution when an extra sexual service is offered for extra money. If the massage costs the same amount with the sexual element as it does without it, that’s considered to be the business of two consenting adults.” The department’s public affairs division, however, took a harsher view, calling paid-for massages that become sexual a form of “prostitution.” Legal or not, I was too chicken to go through with it.
Not so Mary, a 47-year-old college administrator who hired Brian after her marriage of 22 years fell apart. “I wasn’t comfortable dating yet, but I thought that this was something I could do for myself,” she says. After a moment’s hesitation, she adds, “My husband never touched me down there. Every time I’ve had an orgasm, I did it for myself. It was hard to get used to the idea of anyone else even trying to give me one.” While Betty the candle-lighter is still married and intends to stay that way, her story is similar: “I got married for the wrong reasons, as a lot of women my age have. You get to a certain age, your friends start getting married, you meet someone who seems like he’d make a good husband … and then the rest of your life happens,” she tells me over the phone. She’s not complaining; her voice is matter-of-fact. “My husband is … ” she begins, and then pauses to think. “My husband is my husband. It’s not that he’s a bad person, but sex is very simple for him, and he can’t exactly grasp that I might want something more.” Brian’s clients naturally encompass other attitudes toward his service. For example, Molly, 48, says that for her, Brian has been a “natural adjunct to a very satisfying sexual relationship with my husband of almost 15 years, who is completely aware and supportive.”