by Niall Doherty

She was shy and with friends. Good signs, I told myself. I struck up a conversation with her, made her laugh, danced a bit, bought her a drink. She was half Burmese, half Thai, petite and lovely. I’d been hesitating to ask her what she did for a living, afraid of what her answer might be. But I knew I’d have to ask eventually. And so I did…

— What kind of work do you do?
— [leaning in, whispering] I fuck for money.
— Oh, well that’s unfortunate, because I don’t pay for fucks.

She stepped back and studied my eyes for the glint of a tease. Finding nothing of the kind, she turned on her heels and walked away from me.

I’ve had several such interactions now since moving to Bangkok a month ago. Meet girl, think girl is cool, find out girl is prostitute, game over.

I see endless dudes out in the clubs who apparently have no problems paying for sex, but I’ve never seriously considered it myself. Not because of morals or anything. Perhaps I’m naiive, but I get the impression that many of the working girls in Bangkok could make decent money working at restaurants or department stores. It’s not like it’s prostitution or bust. Many of them simply choose to go out every night, rub up against some white dudes, and sleep with the occasional stranger for cash.

I don’t mean to suggest that every prostitute enters into the sex trade willingly. Of course there are far too many women out there who sell their bodies out of desperation. My point is that there are also many women, especially here in Thailand, who freely choose to forego regular employment and sell their bodies instead. And when that’s the case — both parties get what they want, nobody gets hurt — I can’t really see any moral issue with the whole dealio.

But it’s still not for me. I’m all for casual sex and I don’t treat intercourse as some sacred act that should only be performed between soul mates, but I still like to know that a girl is with me for who I am, not for the contents of my wallet. I can’t imagine enjoying sex with the knowledge that I’m just another paying customer to the girl, that a million other dudes with the right finances could get with her.

(Then I read back between the lines of the above rationalization and find myself wondering if the guys who pay for sex have superior mental health. You could say that they’re just looking for sex, while I’m looking for approval. Hmm.)

Additionally, I tend to view paying for sex as a lazy cop out. Instead of working on yourself and becoming sexually attractive to women for reals, you skip all the struggle and growth and splash the cash instead. You might get laid, but it’s not just at the cost of a prostitute. Your character and self-esteem also take a beating, as you send a message to your subconscious that women will only have sex with you if you pay them.

At the same time, I see that it’s a messy line. What constitutes as paying for sex and what doesn’t? What if you spend big bucks on a fancy new shirt and haircut so you’ll have a better chance of attracting female attention and getting laid on your next night out? Isn’t that just paying for sex in a roundabout way?

Back in Kathmandu I was seeing the same girl for a few weeks before I left town. We got along pretty well but she was broke and so I happily paid for everything when we went out for food or drinks or to the cinema. I told myself that the money was no big deal to me so I’d be an asshole not to pay for her. But you could make a good case that I was paying for this girl’s company. If I didn’t pay for her, I doubt she would have stuck around for very long. Or at the very least, she couldn’t have accompanied me to a nice restaurant or to watch a movie.

Dan Ariely would tell us that the distinction here is between paying for something directly, versus offering a gift in exchange. Society usually deems the latter as perfectly acceptable. Think about how your mother-in-law would react to you bringing a $30 bottle of wine to her home-cooked meal, versus you slapping down $30 in cash on the table once you’ve had your fill. She’d be grateful for the wine, yet offended by the greenbacks.

So yeah, it’s all a bit messy, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Going to leave the comments open for this one. Would love to hear your take on…

  • Is prostitution immoral if both parties have chosen freely?
  • If you’ve paid for sex before, how did you feel about it? Much different than “free” sex?
  • What constitutes as paying for sex and what doesn’t?