Mosi Secret, the New York Times' incredibly named "sin and vice" reporter, has found a sex club and lost his innocence. Fortunately, he also found Naiad, a willowy Columbia student who poses as a mermaid from the Hudson and does sex things, to restore his faith in humanity.
The club in Manhattan's theater district, Secret tells everyone, is "known informally as Bliss Bistro [and] is like an underground lap dance party"—but, he adds with a breathless bit of surprise, "For those who pay enough money, the experience is more like that of a brothel." Which is to say: You will get women to have sex with you if you pay them money for said sex.
This requires deep, sustained investigation, Mosi clearly told his budgeting editor:
The New York Times was introduced to the club by its owner's lawyer and was allowed to visit under the condition that Bliss's location would not be revealed and that both its clients and those who worked there would not be identified by their full names. In conversations with patrons and workers during four visits to the club over the course of a month, the reporter identified himself as being from The Times.
The titular lord of this fiefdom of fuck is Tony, "a strapping 24-year-old from the South Bronx" who sort of inherited the business from his mentor, "Chummy," a nickname that seems both comical and ominous in the context of a sex club. Here's how the $30K-a-week biz works:
Men pay a cover charge at the door, usually $40. Women have to pay a $60 tip to the house by the end of the night, but keep the proceeds from lap dances. If they agree to take a man to a private area, they keep two-thirds of what is essentially a rental fee for the space — $200 for every 20 minutes. The women keep 100 percent of whatever they charge for services rendered behind the curtains.
How's that work out for the ladies? Let's check in with one:
On another night, one of the women, a Columbia University student who called herself Naiad after a water nymph from Greek mythology, floated around the room in an airy silk robe over matching undergarments. It was her second night at the club. She asked men, "What's your story?" When they asked her the same in turn, she told them she was a mermaid from the waters of Riverside Park.
"I only grow limbs in the nighttime," she said. "And I enjoy what being a woman below the torso offers, because I don't take it for granted as much."
A man asked her to go to a private room after a couple of dances.
"It was really weird having sex with someone I didn't know and had zero attraction to," Naiad tells Mosi Secret in this, the best of all possible Harlequin novels:
"I was like, 'Oh, my God, what's going on?'" But the $250 she said she had earned helped with her unease; she has since returned.
"I want to eat good food and pursue life's pleasures and have it come from my own work," she said, adding that she did not want to ask her parents for money. As an international student, she cannot work legally off campus.
How's she doing on the pay scale? Better than a low-level VICE writer, it seems, and on par with her peers; a New York-based "self-employed escort can earn $150 for sex and can keep it all, while an escort who uses a "blue-collar agency" gets 60% of a typical $350 charge," according to a 2011 report by Bro Bible, which is as reliable a source as any I know of.
Anyway, it's not about the money! Say the really, really, really rich older men who are coughing up coveted Benjamins to ladies who need it badly enough to manipulate said men's members. It's about a chemical, intellectual connection with these ladies; just ask the "derivatives lawyer from Manhattan" who "said he had talked with a woman who was a student of design and neuroscience":
"Don't put the economic imperative right in my face," he said. "It's all about the je ne sais quoi."