Harsh truth of ‘Happy Endings’
PEOPLE cheat, it's a fact of life. I'm not trying to downplay this issue, but we need to be more aware of the topics surrounding infidelity.
You can turn a shoulder and think it will never happen to you, or you can open your eyes and work on what needs improving and discuss what needs to be addressed.
For a recent podcast exploring sex addiction, I found myself at 12pm on a Thursday at a local massage parlour in Sydney, and I'm not talking about a plush day spa. I have previously visited a high-class brothel, but there was something different about this place and the volume of people that frequented it. At the brothel, it was very discreet and felt like those who were in the rooms were there for quite some time.
At the massage parlour, even though I couldn't see the client's faces, I could hear the phone constantly ringing, the buzzer from the door going as each new customer walked in and could see the outlines of bodies from the security cameras in the office where I was hiding.
Men were walking in one of two entrances like they were picking up a snack from the local cafe at lunch. While I don't have a problem with transactional sexual contact (paying for pleasure), some facts got under my skin.
Ronny, the woman who manages this particular parlour during the day informed me that, "Days are all cash, work that out. And nights are credit cards. That's obvious. Is that because they don't want the 10 per cent surcharge? No, they can afford it, they are living within their means. It's because there is no paper trail."
Ronny also later informed me that 80 per cent of these day clients were either in a relationship or married. In the time I spent hiding in the office or sneaking around the many rooms, I couldn't help wonder about the men and their relationship status and if I might know their partners or wives.
How does it work? Ronny explains, "We are a massage parlour. We offer happy endings, playful touching and erotic massage. We are different from others because we also legally carry a brothel licence. We have eight girls on at one time, eight girls only and out of the clients that we get in here, 50 per cent of them are doing extras in the room."
By extras she means either oral or penetration sex.
The million dollar question has always been why people cheat. Are men in relationships just not getting sex at home?
"I think there is a combination" confesses Ronny.
"I get a lot of men here when their wives are pregnant and I find it funny that they are then quite happy to tell me that. That's the bit I freak out about. I freak out that they can pull out photos of the kids and start talking to me about their children.
"Some just want more", Ronny continues. "They are not getting enough in general. If you have a couple that is doing a lot of sex, they might both show up here.
"I have had this happen a few times. He's not going to make out that he's been coming here but he's going to put it in her head, let's do something different, let's go to a massage parlour. I've had to play the game where a client has called me saying I'm coming in with her but pretend you have never met me. They come here to have a woman involved, to have a threesome."
Before I walked through the doors of the massage parlour, I chatted with Ronny a few times on the phone. I remember the first conversation. She was talking to me, and also talking to two men in the waiting room about the services they were after.
She asked them in a casual conversation if they were married and I could hear them hesitate. She told them she wasn't judging. She also gave them relationship advice - happy wife, happy life. It felt ironic. It was almost as though what happens in this building has nothing to do with their wives or their relationships and was just about a service.
I also briefly managed to speak to one or two clients. One was married with children and had a job on the side to fund his sexual habits without anyone finding out. Another single man did not hold back telling me he thought some men were there because their wives were not as attractive anymore and not giving them enough sex at home.
At some point during the visit, I started to feel defeated. I felt that as a woman there was this pressure to get married, have children, look amazing after children, take care of them and a partner and still have the energy to have lots of sex. Otherwise, a massage parlour is where a partner might end up.
From the many conversations I heard, it felt like it was a man's right to have sex and if he wasn't getting it at home then it was OK for him to be there.
There are no moral police in a massage parlour which makes it feels like there is a certain level of acceptance for infidelity. It's not that those who work there are not caring, but at the end of the day they are there to make money, not to judge people's behaviours.
One of Ronny's last comments that stayed with me longest.
"I don't have a short-term business, I have longevity. I have known a lot of these clients for 15 years."
Was this a place of infidelity or was this a place that was keeping some marriages alive? Was that saying true - if they are not getting it at home, they are getting it somewhere else? And what is better for a sexless marriage? Not having sex, an affair, or something transactional?
What I have come to realise is infidelity is complex.
There is never one reason, there is never a straight forward answer and those involved are not always devious villains. We demonise people who cheat because it separates us from them and their behaviours. But these behaviours are more common than you think and common in both genders.
What's the answer? There isn't one. But articles like this should make you aware that conversations around infidelity are important.
You can listen to Nikki's podcast Sex and Life here