How is a brothel for women "progress"?

Pam Corkery's proposed brothel for women--a world first--is another triumph for female equality. Yeah, right

I love an innovator, but I'm not sure why Pam Corkery's brothel for women is supposed to be progress.

Okay, so there has reportedly never been an exclusively female-focused brothel before and Godzone gets to host the first. 100 % New Zealand. Choice. And let's not forget prostitution is legal in this country, so Madam Corkery is not doing anything really shifty here, just morally blurred. Pammy's (cute name, no?) might even spur a little sex tourism of the sort found in Amsterdam and finally put us on the Global Sex Biz Map. In these recessionary times, we don't want to squash a striver, to scythe down yet another Tall Poppy, do we. Right?

I have heard it argued, notably by Pam Corkery in the Listener, that it's about time women had a place they could go to get uncomplicated sex from men, that doesn't involve dressing up for a night on the town and risking your life with a stranger. "Women are ready for it," Corkery says in the current Listener. "We'll be selling the dream date in many ways. No one's going to break your heart. You won't feel demeaned. You don't have to think about anything other than pleasure for yourself."

Interesting perspective, but I think most women's dream date is more about romantic gestures and extravagant surprises. An emotional connection with someone, not a business transaction. I think some of the would-be clients might feel demeaned when it came time to hand over their credit cards.

That's where the notion that this some kind of step forward for feminism falls down. These are the facts as I see them:

* Women deserve to be equal to men, yes. Duh.

* Women are not equal to men in all respects in New Zealand. Pay rates, for one.

* That is bullshit, and extremely vexing.

* However, giving women the opportunity to be as base and revolting as their male counterparts (ie exploiting someone else's body for their own pleasure) is not progress and is no cause for celebration.

I see a couple of other problems with Pam Corkery's business model. For one thing, there doesn't seem to be that much of a market for heterosexual male prostitutes. Annah Pickering of the Prostitutes Collective told the Herald there were just 20 male escorts working in Auckland, and they were aged in their 30s and 40s. Only half of them provided services exclusively to women. So if Pammy's is to cater to cougars with money, as is assumed, it is unclear where the staff are coming from.

Except that the brothel will feature in a reality television programme, focusing on the hiring of hunks to work at Pammy's. Which raises an uncomfortable point--would men sell themselves for money just to make it onto TV? People do strange things for fame, look no further than Big Brother, Fear Factor or The Bachelor for evidence. But are we comfortable with that kind of exploitation? I love to watch drunk dimwits on the brilliant Jersey Shore, but I think I draw the line at watching someone sell their soul. Yes, I have an old-fashioned perspective on sex-for-money. I support its legality because I think it is safer for sex workers, but that doesn't mean I don't think those workers wouldn't be better off in a different line of work.

Last point. The bordello--and isn't that a quaint old world, redolent of Wild West tarts in corsets--will apparently include a spa and bar where clients will "come and either just drink and be titillated, or go the whole nine yards". Hmm, strange that, running an establishment that incorporates a bar when you are a confessed alcoholic who told a national television audience that you were still taking it one day at a time. I'm not judging here, and all power to Corkery for kicking the booze, I just wonder if such an arrangement is asking for trouble.