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It begins with a simple search for a housemate, but some call it prostitution. Stephanie Chuang reports.
It begins with a search for housing: number of bedrooms, which neighborhood, and price of rent.
When you notice the price is one dollar, it ought to be the first sign this isn’t your typical housing arrangement.
"Joe” is a 52-year-old film director who asked not to be identified, said he uses Craigslist to find sexual partners, but he is adamantly against one-night stands.
“It’s called an LA arrangement. You’re hiring a wife temporarily.”
He doesn’t list the ad under “Personals,” and instead posts under the “Housing” section of the website, saying he gets better results that way.
Joe said he posts a housing ad with the price of just one-dollar, and the text accompanying reads, ”Single white male looking for single woman to support for financial arrangement.”
Joe said right now he is in the middle of his 11th such arrangement.
“She’s a single mother who lost her job and she just recently broke up with her boyfriend. She’s looking for someone to help take care of her financial needs,” he said. “I’m not interested in hookers. I don’t want to play that game. I’m looking for a monogamous relationship, on a temporary basis.”
“A lot of them don’t want the relationship to end. They want to travel with me,” he explained. “One girl was threatening to commit suicide if I left her.”
Joe described the three “easy” steps he takes to find a woman.
First they send pictures of their face and naked body. If he likes what he sees, it’s time to meet face-to-face to negotiate the terms.
“A lot of times they talk about car payment, their rent is X amount of money a month. The most I’ve paid for, for a woman, is $2,500 a month.”
But the most important term of all, is the sex.
“I’m pretty picky. I have a pretty good sex drive and she’s got to be able to cope with that.”
If you think there’s little chance that young women respond to this middle-aged, balding, five-foot tall man, think again. He claims there’s a long waiting list made up mostly of 18- to 25-year-old college women.
“It’s actually bigger here than it is in LA”
So what about the legality of it all?
“No, it’s not illegal. It’s basically, if anything, a roommate situation,” he responded. “That’s how they look at it. There’s no soliciting on the streets.”
But San Jose police and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office say it’s not that black and white. Technically, under state law, what "Joe" does could quality for prostitution. California Penal Code 647b includes “any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.” That means Joe and his partner could both be arrested for a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Dr. Elaine Brady, who specializes in sex and internet addiction, says the law is having trouble keeping up with the shifts and changes in the sexual culture.
“We live in a day and age where you can get sex delivered to a door faster than a pizza,” Brady said.
Whether it’s about feeling power or a sense of entitlement, Dr. Brady called this an age-old tradition of convenience for both parties.
“We have young college women now setting up their own webcams and charging money because they’re working their side of it, too. It’s a commodity,” Brady said. A commodity that Joe admitted he wasn’t always looking for.
He said he lost his wife of 24 years in 2007.
“That’s when I started the Craigslist dating. I decided I was never going to get married again, after my wife died and it was just too much for me,” Joe said.
Whatever drives him now, Joe said the last five years of this “sugar daddy” set-up have flown by.
He doesn’t see this coming to any sort of end, any time soon.
When asked when he would stop, his five-word response spoke volumes.
“When I’m six feet under.”