November 01, 2006
Kiss & Tell
What do you think ladies, can money buy you love?
In some cases the answer is yes, or at least the facsimile thereof. And I'm not talking about the wealthy women on the hallowed village lanes who have been known to secure the affections of workmen or waiters through expensive gifts and vacations. This is about a pure cash transaction, and these men aren't kept, they're just rented by the hour. While the thought of a woman buying a man's attention may seem abhorrent to some, it is liberating for others.
A new documentary by Jake Clennell uncovers the captivating world of "host clubs" in Japan where women pay thousands of dollars in a night to have an attractive man lavish them with attention which can range anywhere from compliments to carnal knowledge. Think guy geisha. The Great Happiness Space bears the subtitle, "Tale of an Osaka Love Thief," which pays homage to the price these women pay for their pleasures, which, by in large, are emotional rather than physical.
While they're perfectly aware of the fact that a bill is presented at the end of the night and how much they spend on Champagne will determine the amount of time a host spends with them, these young women still confess to falling in love, especially with the charming owner Issei.
The hosts in turn are happy to take the yen, earning up to an equivalent of $50,000 a month, yet they still believe that they are honoring a duty, "healing" these women as they put it. They perform for them emotionally. Once the relationship is actually consummated, the host believes he will potentially lose a consistent client so the dance draws out over time. The women like this world because it is not only their happiness space but a safe space. Strict rules of conduct govern their encounters. Each woman chooses one host from the face book, and he becomes her escort. Other hosts can't poach his client. If one of his regulars arrives then may the woman with the deeper pocketbook for Champagne win. At the end of the night of drinking and dancing, the woman is assured her host will get her home safely in a cab.
While western women have yet to infiltrate these host clubs as clients (language differences notwithstanding) they are presented with a new opportunity in this country, Heidi Fleiss' Stud Farm, set to open outside of Las Vegas, is the "first licensed luxury brothel where women can pick and choose the man of their dreams." The going average rate will be $250 an hour which the gigolo will split with the house 50/50. It is not a wonder that many in her stable are unemployed actors as their skills of faking it will be tested not only physically (with the help of Viagra supposedly) but mentally to make the woman believe somehow he is actually interested in her.
Male escort ads traditionally emphasize their conversational abilities and social graces as well as their abs of steel. As "Aristotle" from Brooklyn put it, "I will be the guy your friends get jelious about." If he's as good as he says, I'm sure they will be jelious.
But at the end of the day, are women comfortable with the notion of buying love? One sexologist thinks not because "women haven't been educated to see men as objects." However those who can't wait for the Stud Farm to open are lining up for the opportunity to "have it be all about me." Whether it's more about the marble bath tub and the foot rub and the adoring (albeit insincere) praise or just about a pure physical act will be the question and, of course, HBO will be there to document that experiment.
But for the hosts in Japan, the one thing they agree upon, as we see them stumble out of the club each night, is that pleasing women, even for pay, is exhausting.
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