Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Male bonding with prostitutes

At the Cape Town and Durban dockside nightclubs, prostitutes not only entertain sailors with flirtatious companionship (and sex afterwards), they also enable a fundamental social need of shipmates: male bonding.

Recently: Chinese crewmen celebrate their last night ashore. They've been in Cape Town a couple of weeks now, partying at the clubs every night. But tonight, they gear up for another voyage to the deep. Tomorrow, they'll sail to the South Atlantic fishing grounds for another 4 months of trawling.

The 16 of them are festive and friendly. Dozens of beer cans litter their table with more arriving all the time. The ladies fetch 6-packs for them, pocketing the change in the process. The girls don't interfere with the bonding, but spice it up a bit, boosting the guys' sense of pride, confidence, virility, and masculinity. The women play an important supporting role in this ritual.

Every few minutes, after some conversation and a speech, the Chinese stand up to toast each other. Then they sing karaoke, dance, and caress the ladies who've latched onto them. On other nights, these activities might be followed by a sexual rendezvous.

But tonight, they're more interested in raising their fellow-feeling before their journey. They've had 2 weeks to release whatever frustrations they had from the previous trip. Soon they'll be stuck together again in the dangerous, monotonous, stressful, and confining "total institution" of the sea-borne ship. So tonight, they need to reaffirm their commitment to each other as brethren of the sea. They'll sail better together for it.

Club pros have learned how to deal with male bonding imperatives. They don't interfere so much as accommodate their solicitous behavior to this unique context. Tonight with the Chinese, they do what they can to inspire male bonding, all the while encouraging them to part with their last rands before they leave.

This is one of the key differences between dockside prostitution and other sex sectors. There is no similar need for male bonding in the streetwalker, brothel, truck-stop, courtesan, or agency trades. The johns of those environments usually run solo.

Every nationality has its own style of male bonding at the clubs. Each incorporates the ladies in different ways. And the women quickly learn what behavior works with each ethnicity. They gauge their success in a number of ways: by how well they entertain the guys; how well they bring the guys closer together; and, of course, by how much money they can hustle out of the guys before they leave.

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