By John Dentinger


[January 16, 1992: I had another nightmare about Caltech last night. It was located in Catalina, along one long north-south edge of the island; I was living with my parents on the hillside on the other edge of the island. I was my present age, and my parents were taking me to register and re-enroll, after all these years. There was another element to the nightmare: I had been making some sort of elixir out of my semen which could increase people's IQ's by at least 30 points. Now it had lost its potency, and could barely increase it by 5 points.

Caltech, which had been a big customer for the elixir, was now putting out a competing product. The most nightmarish element was being helpless and being forced to start over. Tech was tolerable the first time because I had a long future ahead of me and I didn't know what all it would bring. But at the age of 39 -- to be surrounded by teenagers looking askance at me, the old man, while I struggled along, starting down the same hard road, but with no shining horizon there to urge me on when I felt like laying down my burden.]

* * *


Being left-handed and a math nerd was basic training for being gay.

Our society polarizes people's sexuality. Practically no one, straight or gay, believes that there is any such thing as a true bisexual. If you are bi, there is pressure from both sides not to talk about it.

From straights, this arises from their hostility toward gays, or from their squeamishness about discussing homosexuality and possibly discovering their own.

From gay men, this arises because we think that most men claiming to be bisexual want to have sex with other men without admitting they are homosexuals. "Bisexual" is what we called ourselves when we were only halfway out of the closet.

A subtler polarizing factor is that if predominately gay men do not express sexual desires they may have toward women, then a certain element of inter-sexual rivalry and tension disappears.

For example, I have one woman friend with whom I could easily have an affair, except for a couple of factors. The least of these is having AIDS. More important is that it would change our relationship irrevocably, putting me in the category of another boyfriend to be discussed, rather than the confidante. More important still is that I'm married. I never felt any responsibility to warn tricks at the baths of this fact; if they were especially hot, I'd even tell them my lover, whom I could point out to them, was a hot lay. The context made it unlikely I would break any hearts.

But women take sex more seriously than men. For me to indulge in an affair with a woman would lead her to hope for quite reasonable things, like spending the night. But there are already two in my bed at night, and I like it that way. I would never spend the night with anyone but my lover. Sleeping together, with or without making love, forms an emotional attachment -- and chisels away at existing ones in a way that merely "being unfaithful" does not.

So I never admitted these feelings to my woman friend, going only so far as to tell her she was a great catch, and that if I were straight, I would probably be dating her. Thanks to our rigid conceptions of sexuality, I flatter her without chancing risky change in our relationship. So my relative lack of heterosexual experience, while stemming largely from lack of interest, is completed by an emotional risk-aversiveness.

I didn't always back away from taking emotional risks with women. When I joined the sexual revolution, I pulled out all the stops, blasted through all but the two worst taboos (fucking your mother and being a faggot, respectively) by this one cliched but awful act.

I had an affair with my best friend's wife.

C could have done better in the best friend department, but he was shy and unassertive, and I was the friend closest to both he and his wife.

At the time, all my other friends approved of the affair. What were marriage vows in a post 60's world? And I did it all without personal risk; C was thousands of miles away, in Germany, in the Army.

C and I had known each other back through high school. We were similar yet complementary, like a comedy team. We took elective classes together. We commuted down to college together. As bright science students, we were nerds of a feather. And the first Christmas after I went away to Caltech, I came home in order to visit and to be in C's wedding party. The night before C's wedding, instead of a stag party, he stayed with his parents, and I stayed with him. He had a pleasing deep voice, and he was taller than I was, dark-haired, with a shy, sexy look to him.

We had a great deal to drink, and then --

-- and then we passed out, I'm sorry to report. I probably should have fucked him. It would have changed both of our lives. But I had all the gay desires rigidly repressed. Otherwise I would have been bold enough to proposition him or seduce him, yes, even on the night before his wedding.

As for J's and my motivations for the affair, the mutual ones were obvious. We were friends, we were infatuated, it seemed natural. In my case there was also this baggage: it was more than just an affair, it was a diploma in heterosexuality.

The diploma would soon become a worthless scrap of paper. I became openly and proudly gay.

My experiences made me even more sympathetic to the problems confronting women. Sexual harassment, for example. At U.S.C., my boss, a noted physicist named W, was quite an old lech. He was always trying to get good-looking young men drunk in his office and seduce them. Sometimes he succeeded.

There was a inside latch screwed onto his door to prevent discovery by snooping janitors. In his office, he would ) project Super-8 gay porn films onto the wall (these were pre- video days). Once, he plied me with drinks and put on a tape ofMendelssohn's gorgeous Octet. Aside from his appearance, he smoked incessantly and had a sort of boozy ashtray breath. And there was his personality; he was brilliant, but far from scintillating in conversation. So none of his seductions had the desired effect.

I'd gotten the work with W through an ad he'd run in the national gay magazine, The Advocate. Initially he claimed he merely felt more comfortable working with someone gay. Later he admitted he wanted to find a co-worker cum lover through the ad. I viewed this gay favoritism as an opportunity to get the work experience I needed to get back into a legitimate science career track. I was under considerable pressure to show some longevity in this job. Meanwhile, I was under considerable amorous pres- sure from my boss.

Finally we went on an out-of-town trip that was supposed to be business. There was some business, and there was also some fun; I got a tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator (or, as I called it after the earthquake, the Stanford Slightly Non-Linear Accelerator). What was not fun -- back in the hotel room, he badgered me and wheedled some more. "I'm a world-famous fucking physicist, and nobody loves me," he said in his boozy whine. And I finally figured, oh, what the hell, make the old goat happy. I fucked him on the waterbed. Your tax dollars at work, since a government grant paid for the trip and the hotel room.

When we returned, he assumed this would continue. I told him it had to stop. As subtly as he knew how, he told me that he'd fire me if I didn't continue putting out. I called his bluff. I was prepared to make a stink if he fired me; and I think the physics department personnel knew enough to doubt his protestations of innocence. I should have drawn the line earlier , but at least I drew it now. And he backed down.

By the time he eventually did phase me out, I'd gotten a job with the department teaching undergraduate physics labs. I was just a T.A. and the pay was not exorbitant. It was then, in 1978, while complaining of money woes, that a friend suggested I work as a call boy.


From 1978 until 1980, I taught physics labs at U.S.C. during the day; at night I supplemented my meager earnings working as a call boy.

Two journalists writing on the drug war in the March, 1992 issue of Playboy prefaced their article: "We watched the so- called experts on `Nightline,' ... and we realized that the most significant people in the drug wars were on the front lines. They were also the most silent."

The same thing goes for the war on sex. I've been on the front lines of both, and the time has come to break my silence, to strike at some of the myths of pop culture regarding prostitution, drug dealing, and other supposedly nefarious activities.

In order to illustrate that perfectly respectable people get involved in these activities, let me preface my criminal credentials with an account of my "legitimate" activities. This involves a certain amount of bragging. Bear with me.

By age 19, I was teaching university level physics to students years my senior. I was finishing up my three years of college with a double major in mathematics and physics. I was going to add in chemistry as well, but I was advised that people only had triple majors because they were confused. I was offered a fellowship to attend Columbia graduate school, and other financial aid to enroll at Stanford. I decided on Caltech, where I started with a fellowship and later taught mathematics. Later I worked as a scientific computer programmer and taught physics at U.S.C. Subsequently I became a consultant to a "Star Wars" defense contractor for a number of years; I had no difficulty in obtaining a secret level security clearance from Uncle Sam.

After six months of writing full-time in 1985, a national political magazine asked me to write a monthly column for them. After another year, Playboy asked me to write for them.


I had taught America's sons and daughters physics, helped design our nation's defenses, and written for magazines that you can buy in your corner drug store.

On a parallel track, I became an outlaw. I didn't merely make occasional forays into the front lines of the sex and drug revolutions. I worked there.

Let me describe the sex, first.

From age 26 to age 28 -- while teaching undergraduate physics labs at U.S.C. by day -- I was a call boy by night. I had about two or three hundred clients during that time (more than I had students).

You don't hear much honest talk about sex. This is just another example of your extortion -- er, tax -- dollars at work. Just consider that if it weren't for statutes of limitations, the above admission could put me in prison for hundreds of years.

Now, let's deal with the stereotypes.

Being a call boy wasn't a line of work I advertised widely, although the stigma for male prostitutes is a great deal less than for the female counterpart. To the extent that there is negativity ("He's just a gigolo," or "He's just a kept boy,") the source is primarily envy, which is flattering. More usually there's a certain admiration that you were able to sell a commodity that normally only women can sell.

This is particularly true for fast-lane urban gay men, for whom hustling is only a short step beyond their every day life- styles. When female prostitutes get dressed up for a call, they wear a "tarty" getup and have a lot more sex, with a much greater variety of partners, than the typical heterosexual woman. When male prostitutes get dressed for the street or for a call, they dress much the same as any guy in a gay bar, and they don't have sex with a greater number of partners than their non-working counterparts.

Usually when I tell someone that I'd been a call boy, the response is not, "Ooh, what a whore," but, "Oh, John, how exciting." It's not a nightmare to most gay men; it's a fantasy.

There are some other differences between male and female prostitution. Men, more than women, need to husband their sexual energies carefully (gotta be ready for the next client). That's why it's high flattery for a hustler to say, "I'd fuck him for free."

But because male prostitution is so invisible, so far from mundane experience, people often don't even think to apply their pre-conceived stereotypes to male prostitutes. This is just as well, considering the myths and confusion about female prostitu- tion.

Stereotype #1, the commonest, is "Prostitutes are ignorant bimbos." The real whores, it strikes me, are the Hollywood writers and directors who, without exception, perpetuate this stereotype.

In "Midnight Cowboy," the Jon Voight character was presented as violent and stupid. Even "Pretty Woman," another dishonest movie, shows that while whores may be depicted as manipulative and shrewd, they're never never allowed to be seen as intelligent. Or as being honest; they're always shown slipping someone a Mickey or picking johns' pockets. To the extent they're shown as having any brains at all, it's always "street smarts." The same with drug dealers, though all the ones I've dealt with were honest and intelligent.

Stereotype #2.: Prostitutes are always shown as going into the life because they can't do anything else. To say they couldn't do anything else is like saying that people don't go into nuclear physics because they're all too dumb to do so -- even, presumably, me -- since I went into non-nuclear physics.

Even feminists push the "can't do anything else" line, so that they can say, women's opportunities are so poor that they're forced into prostitution. But this ignores the fact that for many women, the pay and the freedom from wage-slavery simply makes the proposition so attractive that it is greatly preferable to any alternative. Such as teaching physics.

Stereotype #3. is related to #2. It is that prostitution is inherently degrading -- unlike, say, selling used cars or writing for the National Enquirer. Amongst two or three hundred clients, I felt degraded on only two or three calls. Compare this to corporate employment, where a large portion of every day is spent on bureaucratic bullshit, of having your nose rubbed in your subservience to jackass bosses. This sort of thing is why well- paid staff writers and editors will take a pay cut in order to freelance. They don't have to eat as much shit. Same thing with prostitution.

Mostly the work was extremely pleasurable, with exciting variety. One client, urbane and articulate, a music professor, flew me up to Edmonton for a week -- the only time I ever flew first class.

The same was true of a number of the clients. One of the other call boys said to me, "There's always something wrong with them. If they're good-looking, then they'll be a little crazy." But I didn't find this at all. About a quarter or a third of my clients were good-looking guys who either lived in outlying areas, or had more money than time to cruise -- so they did the rational thing and sent out for it.

So there was a lot more on-the-job satisfaction than wearing a suit and shuffling papers.

In fact, I often compared hustling and drug dealing, with being a hit man: (a) you get to set your own hours; (b) as an independent contractor, the tax benefits are substantial; and (c) you always know the customers will derive pleasure from your work.

Stereotype #4.: prostitutes are always dirty and diseased. Bullshit. Like other guys working for the service, I never gave a client a venereal disease (or even a hickey); nor did I ever contract V.D. while hustling. This is better than I can say for when I was giving it away.

My clients were probably less likely to live a "fast lane" lifestyle than a random trick at the baths. Why, after all, would a client pick up tricks at a bar, when they can just send out for it? It seems that both prostitute and client at a middle class level show more concern for sexual hygiene than those giving it away. (Working for a service, even if you didn't care about the clients or yourself, you would hear about it in a real hurry if you gave a client V.D. There's a real financial incentive to get regular checkups.)

Stereotype #5. is that of prostitutes as helplessly dependent on some violent pimp. I was far from helplessly dependent on mine. Rather, I considered that he (a) protected my privacy, so I wasn't answering the phone to what might be jerkoff calls, cops, or practical jokes; (b) protected me from overly weird clients. I contributed to and benefited from a pool of information on all repeat clients of the service. I have an agent for selling my articles and books, and I had an agent for selling my body. It's the same thing: in neither case was I dependent; I was simply buying a service.

I kept seventy percent of the fee charged to the client, plus a hundred percent of the tips, which sometimes were in the form of hundred dollar bills. I enjoyed whipping out the hundreds in front of the queens manning the register at Tower Records classical section. It was like a badge confirming that I was getting away with something illegal; and if they guessed, from seeing me in my muscle shirts and tight designer jeans, just which illegal activity, well -- they couldn't say anything. The customer was always right.

That was the attitude I took with...

* the good-looking blond -- whom I later met at the gym -- who arrived red-faced at his door (tipsy?) and said his lover was on his way home. He paid me for the entire session plus a hun- dred dollar tip -- all of which, with this guy, I would much rather have earned the old-fashioned way.

* the paraplegic in the downtown hotel.

* the guy who'd done time for embezzling from Elvis's entourage ("Kinda sleep with one eye open," J -- my pimp -- admonished, leaving little promise of sleep at all.)

* the weird guy in a townhouse on Fountain in West Hollywood, with the great big dog. I finally had to ask him to remove the dog from the bedroom. I commented on the unusualness of allowing it into the bedroom, and he said, "Well, I'm not your usual person." He gave me the creeps to the extent that I asked him to put away his cigarette to make sure there weren't any accidents.

* the truck driver out in Alhambra

* the dark-haired young bodybuilder at UCLA that saved up his fee for one hour in small bills; he had a bit of a complexion problem, but an excellent body. He had always fantasized sending out for a hustler, and now he'd done it. Being a student, he was pleased to get a smart one.

* the hot, well-hung young man from Pasadena who had a thing for hustlers ("When I go to Numbers [a local high-class hustler bar], I have a hard time convincing the hustlers I'm willing to pay for it.") One of the advantages for both hustler and client was that neither feels compelled to make nice talk, to tell their respective Stories. Another advantage: the hustler doesn't have to concern himself with coming (unless the client wants him to); in general it's preferable for him not to, so as to be up for the next client as soon as possible. Also, you don't have to worry whether what you're doing is getting your partner off; he's paying for it, he'll tell you. And the client may be less worried about going beyond what would be acceptable for an unpaid trick. Mr. Pasadena was so well-hung that when he got me in his bedroom, on my back, it was about all I could take. It took a little getting used to. Would I have done it with him for free? Well, I would have required more warm-up time. Some guys might not have done it at all.

* the bondage fantasy at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

* the country western singer at the Sunset Plaza Hotel.

* the guy down in Lakewood who was into verbal and some physical humiliation.

For my first 19 years, I had been a virginal little egg- head. My mind would have boggled if had you told me that some day I'd reach a point where, if someone asked me how many people I'd had sex with, I'd have to estimate, using the same sort of multi- plication as a crowd estimator...("the parade route extended a mile, with people an average of five deep on each side of the road...") Or that, asked how many drug trips I'd taken, I would have to make a similar, if much smaller, estimate.

Proceed to Part Four

Return to home page