How Dumb Can You Be?

Susan Estrich's column is released once a week.

Susan Estrich

I went to a strip club once. OK, maybe it was twice. The guys were going; I was curious.

It reminded me of the first time I walked into a casino, in a hotel in Reno where I was staying on business. I expected glamour, James Bond look-alikes in dashing tuxedos. I found sad-looking seniors throwing away their Social Security money and standing in line for cheap buffets.

Even "high-end" strip clubs are full of sorry women.

Having taken gym at a public school, shared communal bathrooms at a women's college and belonged to endless health clubs in my never-ending efforts to shape up, the sight of an unclothed female body doesn't do anything for me. So, when faced with strippers hoping to chat up customers between sets, I did what I usually do: chat, ask questions.

Treated like human beings, the strippers I met responded that way. They told me about the kids they were trying to support, the husbands and boyfriends who would beat them if they came home empty-handed, the dream that one of the jokesters tucking a bill into their G-string would make them a star.

When I had a radio show, I would periodically interview prostitutes from Nevada, where they conduct their business legally. No Julia Roberts-like "Pretty Woman" there, either: glazed eyes, bad bleach jobs, too much silicone, faces hard beyond their years, and bad boyfriends, greedy bosses and kids at home they were trying to support.

After a while, it got pretty boring.

I get it. These are girls, and women, who can make more selling their bodies than selling soap or flipping burgers. They tell themselves stories — like the Colombian "escort" making the rounds in today's papers, who is insulted that people would call her a "prostitute," explaining to a reporter that an escort is someone "a man can take out to dinner." She insisted, "It's the same, but it's different. It's like when you buy a fine rum or a BlackBerry or an iPhone. They have a different price."

The Secret Service agents (and, apparently, military personnel) who brought as many as 21 "escorts" back to their hotel were not coming home from a nice dinner with women who expected payment unbeknownst to them. At least one of the stops that night was the Pley Club, a striptease/brothel joint whose owner told reporters that if the men had met the women there, there would have been no debate as to price — because they would have charged "the gringos" at the bar before they left. The fight was not about whether the man involved was willing to pay; it was about how much. He thought the woman was worth $30. She had a higher estimate of her worth.

I've yet to see any reports about whether there were any women in those Secret Service or military details. But I've been around enough bad behavior in my professional career to know that if there were, they probably are used to doing what I've done in such situations: Eat at your hotel, watch some television, and go to bed early.

Talk to some women who've worked in the boom-boom rooms on Wall Street, and they'll explain it to you. I get that, too. You don't get ahead by acting like a "prude." The women who sell their bodies, and the women who work with the men who buy them, all have pretty easily understood economic reasons for doing what they do.

What I've never really understood are the men.

It can't be glamour, because there is none. Ego? That a woman will have sex with you when you're drunk out of your mind and paying her? Risk? Even for daredevils, there have got to be highs with more upside and less downside. The downside here, obviously, is that you disgrace yourself and your country and possibly endanger the president, not to mention STDs, HIV and the rest. For better or for worse, there usually are women who are willing to play and who pose less of a risk.

So what's left? I know: Men are animals.

As an animal lover, I don't buy it. Based on what we've learned so far, it's an insult. These guys were definitely dumber than my dogs — and much more dangerous.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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