Hooked follows a group of middle-aged men as they visit the many brothels of an unknown cosmopolitan city. What starts as something of a boys club soon begins to feel compulsive. When one member is wracked with guilt and wants to confess to his wife, things get messy for all parties involved. The book raises questions about sexuality, monogamy, shame, and sex workers. But also the powerful urge to come clean. We created this forum for you get your dirty secrets off your chest.
When I was writing Hooked, I wasn’t thinking of and did not have a sense of what the audience might be for such a story; indeed, I think that issue of audience is still unresolved. More women than men buy books, I knew. I couldn’t even imagine what a woman even remotely resembling one of the wives in the novel would think of it. Through a bit of luck, I’ve been able to speak with one such woman, who recently discovered that her husband had occasionally visited prostitutes over the course of their entire relationship. Here is what she had to say. –John Franc
-The philosopher Bertrand Russell couldn’t comprehend why we were unable to “distinguish sexual intercourse from marriage as a procreative partnership.” Or as one writer said, “simply wink at the former and carry on with the latter.” Even Jimmy Carter famously admitted that because he’d looked on a woman with lust, he’d “committed adultery in [his] heart.” There’s a feeling in Hooked that the characters are visiting brothels almost compulsively. What are your feelings on monogamy in the 21st century?
My feeling is that long-term monogamy in any age or culture is very difficult, and that here in America we make it a lot harder than it has to be. Just in the past 35 years or so, we’ve begun to hold up the life-long, monogamous marriage to one’s best friend as a cultural ideal. Despite what the social conservatives would have us believe, this is the first time in history we’ve asked so much of an institution that historically has been about economic and political advantage. It’s just that making it a reality requires a whole lot more intimacy, compassion, acceptance, and sacrifice than we’re led to expect, and perhaps more than most of us are capable of. It’s beautiful ideal, though.
Here’s a biological reality that I think most women ignore: the need for sex is a fundamentally different experience for men - more constant, more insistent, and crazy-making if it goes unfulfilled. I do truly believe that men need sex as much as they need food and sleep. This is a tough one for a lot of women to grasp, I think, myself included. As much as I rationally accepted the idea, it wasn’t until I read an interview with Chaz Bono (the biological daughter of Sonny and Cher, who became a transgender man), where he said that the biggest change he noticed after testosterone injections was how much more he needed and wanted sex. That was a big ah-ha for me - hormones are something I can relate to completely.
On the other hand, I think men bear an equal share of the responsibility in the willful ignorance of their wives. I don’t think most men are particularly honest with their wives about their sexual needs. Why have a difficult, potentially awkward series of conversations (fights), when there’s an easier, time-honored-if-expensive solution?
I could go on and on; it is a lot easier to talk about monogamy and marriage in the abstract than to get right into the specifics of one’s own relationship.
This is more open-minded and unlike anything I thought I might hear. Do you have a sense of yourself as different from other women, or do you feel that other women share your understanding? And, along those lines, it’s my understanding that you are coming from a dynamic not entirely dissimilar from the wives in Hooked. How is your dynamic distinct from them, and how is it similar?
I can’t really speak for other women (that’s an awfully large group), but some women surely must.
Attributes that might make another woman more likely to share these views:
a previous marriage
infidelities of her own
years of therapy
a fondness for men
I held exactly none of these views when I got married the first time. I had always told myself (and my husband) that I’d leave before I’d cheat. Also that I wanted to be married for a lifetime. (Though who gets married thinking it isn’t for good?) What actually happened was that I cheated, and then I left. What else was I capable of? And how had I been so wrong about things I’d been so absolutely sure of?
But don’t mistake open-mindedness for acceptance. To get back to your question about how my own dynamic is similar or distinct from the wives in Hooked: we share the fact that our current husbands have paid for sex, in secret. Apart from that, it is difficult to say what the various dynamics of the Hooked marriages are, because there is very little reportage about what sex is like within the marriages, or even what the wives know or don’t know about their husbands’ extra-marital activities. We know that in captain’s case, he’s only had sex with his wife twice in six months, and his wife is realistic enough to know that in that case captain must be having sex with someone else (and drunk enough to mention it). If the husbands know what their wives are thinking and feeling about their marital sex lives, they aren’t telling. But my sense of it is, they don’t know, because it’s been forever since they asked. The alternatives seem to be either full confession, or continuing on as before in secret, but never a viable third option: giving up the brothels, going back inside their marriages, and starting an actual conversation with their wives about sex.
Maybe that’s the point - the men aren’t really all that interested in their wives as people any more. They love them in the way we love our biological families - because we’ve known them too well and for too long not to love them. But I really see no more than a passing curiosity about what the wives’ interior lives (and exterior activities, for that matter) might be like these days.
I’m judging them harshly though, as only a person early in a marriage can. I know from my own experience that patterns ossify; certain conversations that would be awkward early on become downright dangerous later… still, if a person, man or woman, wants back inside their marriage after a long hiatus, wants the emotional or physical intimacy back, he or she can’t just go in guns blazing with a full confession, however laudable the impulse. Just because the state says you are married doesn’t mean your spouse owes you anything. With a priest or a therapist, you know exactly what the contract is - with a spouse, you negotiate it one conversation at a time.
There is no better way to understand what is going on in ’Hooked’ then to revisit some of the sources of inspiration, and so I went back to some of the guys who helped me formulate a vision for this book, and asked them some telling questions. Here is what they had to say.–John Franc
The philosopher Bertrand Russell couldn’t comprehend why we were unable to “distinguish sexual intercourse from marriage as a procreative partnership.” Or as one writer said, “simply wink at the former and carry on with the latter.” Even Jimmy Carter famously admitted that because he’d looked on a woman with lust, he’d “committed adultery in [his] heart.” There’s a feeling in Hooked that the characters are visiting brothels almost compulsively. What are your feelings on monogamy in the 21st century?
-While I believe in monogamy as an exclusive, enduring partnership with a spouse, I have also experienced (more than once) that the female side of the partnership demands loudly the fulfillment of their emotional needs but disregards coldly the fulfillment of the male’s sexual needs. Therefore, there is no other choice than to suspend monogamy on the sexual front, so long as this does not extend into the emotional realm.
-I believe the issue here is basic evolution. We may walk upright, talk, wear clothes, create works of art and build wonderful ‘things’ – however in terms of our overall evolutionary development, since crawling out of the oceans, the time-gap between where we are now to when we still sniffed each others buttocks to say ‘good morning’ is little more than the tiniest of dots. The point? we remain at best animals of slightly more sophistication than those we pretend to be superior to – evolution still drives us; and our primary role is perpetuation of the species, which we do through fornication, which the male human leads the charge on. Monogamy fits our idea that we have evolved, however we are not as evolved as we delude ourselves into believing we are. Fornication with as many women as possible fits evolutions plans far better than monogamy, hence the majority of men cannot seem to find true satisfaction, at least physically, with one women.
-In a time of the pursuit of constant gratification and the provision of abundance, physical monogamy is possible only for those who can and want to shut themselves off from their true desires. Who are these people? From my experience, it is people who are terrified, depressed beyond belief, or convinced of a future that holds a judgment day. Maybe too it is people who want to hold themselves up as superior creatures. I think also in this kind of discussion there must be something about separating the physical from the emotional, but I’m not sure that is what is being pointed to here. “Procreative” seems like a pretty cold term.
-My question is, does monogamy exist in any culture?
Do you think casual cheating is a uniquely male pursuit?
-No. Otherwise, whom would we cheat with? Women appear to need the feeling of newness with their lovers so they seek sex outside the marriage.
-Not uniquely, but primarily. In our species the male pursues a mate, hence in accepting the evolutionary theory that we are still driven by the basic animalistic need of furthering the reproduction of our race, it is logical that the ratio of men who cheat is higher than women. Women cheat to feel good about themselves and prove they can still attract a mate; some men have the same rationale, however men mainly cheat because we enjoy it. Nature made us enjoy it so we would do it as much as possible. QED.
-No. I’ve seen it from both sides. And both sides wrestle with its self-destructive and self-loathing qualities.
-NO, I know there are female casual cheaters, you just have to look harder for them and the ultimate cost of time and energy is much more than a professional.
In your mind, is Hooked a moral tale?
-No. It is simply a story that reflects the reality of guys living and enjoying life where there are brothels.
-Hardly. It allows people to partake in a journey with a group who have fallen more than most do, but all would, given the circumstances.
-Yes. It seems to want to say, Don’t do this, because if you do you will end up having it destroy you on some level, no matter how much you get away with it.
-Moral, Shmoral. I am sure that if you ask someone who has been with a professional it will be nine times out of say ten, good and not bad at all. In fact, upon leaving the professionals business, one feels elated, taller, relieved.
Do you think men consider the repercussions on their families if such a secret got out?
-Sadly, the wife would not understand and would perceive it as a threat into the emotional realm
-When in a heightened state of arousal and ‘on the hunt’ (so to speak) men seldom spare much thought for the consequences of any of their actions.
-All the time.
-NOT AT ALL. The secret is safe with men in all sense of the words.
Can professional sex be a replacement for sex at home?
-No but it must be a compliment to bring enough quantity and quality
-Actually no. Although professional sex addresses certain male needs, the needs to feel loved, wanted, admired etc remain and can only be fulfilled in a ‘free’ relationship. Hence in loving ones wife a degree of physical intimacy is essential for it to be credible in the mans mind.
-Kind of, in that you can get the fantasy, but you still want the reality. It can’t replace the sex at home, but it can supplement it in such a way that there is more joy and pleasure in life.
-Lets just call it Male Psychological Therapy, (MPT). Everyone needs some sort of therapy in their lives. Case in point, [various recently exposed actors]!
Does one love one’s wife any less after sex with a professional?
-Not at all
-Not at all, few men are deluded into thinking there is anything more than physical with a professional, love does not enter into it, hence it cannot have any impact on feelings of love towards the wife. In fact perhaps men love their wives more, appreciating their ‘realness’ as a balance to the pure physical.
-Nope, not even remotely.
-Not as long as the professionals are available. I mean, bottom line, a professional in the sex trade is no different than someone selling shoes or washing dishes in a retail establishment. The pros make a choice as to where to earn a living.
Do you think professionals are a financially viable alternative to romance?
-Absolutely. You know how much it will cost to get sex and have the certainty that you will get it. Romance is financially risky
-Only if one defines romance as something where the only goal is to get the subject into bed; and dinner, roses, chocolates and a movie are a means to that end (again, so to speak). If that is ones modus operandi then yes going straight to the brothel will ultimately be financially more efficient.
-They can be, if romance means physical intimacy/physical pleasure. But not if it means real affection. Sometimes some pros offer real affection, but it is hard to imagine that being as long in duration as real affection can be.
-Financially, yes. Psychologically, yes.
Do you think pros are a more honest way to have sex than a long-term affair?
-Yes, as they do not cross into the emotional realm.
-’Honest’ is difficult to define in this context. It is certainly financially a more attractive approach (see the previous question & answer) and certainly it is also less complex. In the case of a long-term affair being discovered however, where clearly intimacy, discussion, time spent away from home and much treachery and deception have been involved, it is hard to plead a defense of ‘it meant nothing’ or ‘it was ‘only’ sex’. Thinking in those terms we can deduct that a man caught having sex purely with pros has a broader range of emotional excuses at his disposal to appease his distressed spouse. Neither is honest, but surely the pro approach can be arguably less offensive on several levels?
-No such thing as honesty in this realm. Isn’t it all duplicitous? Do you mean being honest with the spouse or honest with the partner? If the latter, then yes, definitely, it is honest indeed. Almost too honest, whereas affairs can either be grounded in or move toward a deeper emotional commitment that might not be possible to really pull off. If you mean the former, like being more true to the spouse, than you are deluding yourself.
-For men that are in a committed relationship and partake of professionals, who’s to say what is really honesty. Long term and short term affairs are nice to have but may be emotionally challenging in the end for one or both parties.
-Most guys don’t consider meeting up with hookers as cheating, more as needs fulfillment. Cheating has an emotional aspect to it, is longer term, etc.
I’m not an alcoholic, but that didn’t stop the judge from assigning me AA meetings for 6 weeks. When I quit smoking, the best thing I could do was find a different addiction. Applying the same logic, following AA I started visiting the Asian nail salon a good friend once told me about.
“Those girls,” he’d say, “don’t need skirts that short to do a manicure.”
After two pedicures, my feet never felt better, and I finally worked up the courage to ask about other services while politely pointing at the closed-circuit cameras mounted on the walls. I was handed a business card with very few details and was told to return later that evening. The woman at the front counter pointed out the subtly hidden doorbell outside near the electric meters. I knew what I needed to do.
Later, when I took a seat in one of the dingy rear rooms, I was introduced to Molly. She didn’t pronounce it normally, but I didn’t correct her.
“That skirt sure is short,” I said. She smiled and it dropped to the floor.
I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I had found my new addiction.
My wife and I are both Scientologists. She recently found out my Thetan count is immensely lower than I’ve claimed for the decades we’ve been married. She’s since started brazenly sleeping with other, better-endowed men. These guys are wealthy, powerful men with bank accounts, resumes, and Thetan counts they don’t have to embellish. It’s humiliating, and the worst part is that I can’t do anything about it. We both know I’ve been lying, and we both know she’s been lying. But if I acknowledge it, I also have to acknowledge my inadequacy. I can’t look her in the eye and tell her I’m not the man I claim to be, even though she already knows.
I always thought if she found out, she’d leave me for one of those guys, date them publicly or immediately marry one. I actually thought, best case scenario, she’d feel sorry for me and pity me the rest of our lives together. That would be excruciating. But she doesn’t look at me with pity. She doesn’t even look at me.
I think I might deserve it. I mean, I first lied about my Thetan count to get laid and just never stopped. It’s hard to reconcile one lie against another. But I’ve watched through a partially rolled-down limousine window while my wife gives a handjob to a man I know personally and sometimes answer to professionally, and all I felt was revulsion at my own infidelity. It hurts me to see with other men because I think her actions are just betraying my own lie, which was deeper, and more crucially duplicitous. I don’t dare go elsewhere for sex, lest she start to spread the truth about our situation. I’m trapped, and I’m not strong enough or smart enough, or anything enough to escape.
My husband’s college roommate came to stay with us some ten years after they had graduated together. I had heard tales about how much of a playboy he had been and was prepared to dislike him right away. Over dinner, he leered at me when my husband wasn’t looking. I was flattered. It had been awhile since anyone had looked at me like that.
I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink and found “Robert” masturbating in our living room. He didn’t stop once he saw me in the doorway, but rather motioned for me to join him.
The sex was fantastic. He never stayed with us again.
My first wife died in a car wreck when I was in my late twenties. Things got dark after that. Outside of going to work, I didn’t leave the house for the first six months. I couldn’t even begin to look at another woman. But as the anniversary of her death approached, I began to get these thoughts about her that I couldn’t keep down. I ended up going to a hooker. Made her wear my wife’s clothes.
Flash forward ten years. I have remarried. Have two great kids. Am happy. But every year that old feeling comes back. I fought it at first, but eventually there was just no stopping it. It is just how I deal with it.
During a recent conversation between myself and a friend, we came to the realization that neither he nor I had ever been in a relationship of longer than six months in which we hadn’t cheated on our girlfriends. Granted, we set the bar for “cheating” pretty low. Any lip-to-lip contact was game, and no allowances were made for intoxication. But still, we’re guys in our mid-twenties, and we’ve both been interested at certain points in maintaining healthy, monogamous relationships of greater than one half-year’s duration. Our track record is not promising. We are both currently single.
I am so glad I found this site and on my walk home I am going to buy this book. I live in the midwest fairly large city. I have always had a very high sex drive. I have always had flings, arrangements, and other ways of getting sex. This, to me, is just for me. I pay for private schools, live in a great part of town. My wife doesn’t work so this is my outlet. The only thing I do feel guilty about is having and sex for payment with one of her former students. She is 19 now I am 41 and we meet a few times a week for lunch, sex and shopping. I have plenty more stories and would love to get them off my chest like having a 3 yr affair with a married woman who live 4 houses away.
Last year, my wife lost over 60 pounds. She started exercising and cooking right. She dropped the cigarettes, cut back on the beer. Her family was amazed. My friends thought she turned into a fox. I was horrified.
I am a small guy. Skinny. Short. I could play a jockey in a movie. I never got any action during high school, but in college I found that overweight women were attracted to me. Maybe they understood how desperate I was and in that desperation how willing I was to overlook their heft. Whatever the reason, I was able to lose my virginity and had a good run with fat women for most of my twenties.
After she lost the weight, my wife became more vigorous in bed, but it was just the opposite for me. Her newfound looks made me more aware of my own faults. I recoiled. I found myself lusting over every obese woman I saw. Unable to cure the urge through porn, I began frequenting a prostitute who weighed over 200 more pounds than me. I see her almost every week now.
My wife has kept the weight off. I am not sure we will last.
I want to say it didn’t happen, but it did, several times. We were very young, barely seven, but the clumsy liplocks and under-clothes touching between cousins undeniably occurred. We have never talked about it since, it’s as if it didn’t happen at all. Does she even recall these events? Because I do. There’s nothing strange about our relationship now, we’re just cousins, but those few occasions are still imprinted on my mind. A cruel reminder of youth’s ignorance and experimentation.
For months and months when I was 19, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about my adopted brother, who was about three years younger than me. One night I got us both drunk as skunks playing that stupid party game “Pass Out.” I told him he needed a hug. On the couch. One thing led to another and before you knew it we were having about the worst sex I’ve ever had before or since. Seriously, it was like kissing your brother.
I thought a lot about the Anthony Weiner-texting-photos-of-his-cock thing. I mostly thought it was a stupid story, symptomatic of a media engaged in sanctimony for profit. It should never have become as big a deal as it did.
The reason it did, I’m afraid, is because men think like Weiner all the time. They really do believe, for crucial stretches of time, that women want to see their junk. They engage in pornographic fantasies, which involve sex, but mostly have to do with power. The two are all mixed up together at this point, for obvious bio-evolutionary reasons. After all, from the genetic point of view, the more seeds planted, the better.
I thought of all this, as well, in relation to the men who inhabit Hooked. The book is haunting for the same reason the Weiner story is haunting: because it lays bare the masculine weakness for self-destructive conduct in the erotic realm, the basic confusion between desire and decency. I say this without a trace of contempt. When I think about the guys in Hooked, or Weiner, my first thought is pretty much, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Their sins are ones that every man has committed in his imagination. It’s merely a matter of who gets caught, and who confesses.
Lately I miss the sex I had as an escort. I miss the foreplay I had as an escort. Do you think that the whole hour is spent rutting? No one can fuck for an hour straight! It’s the foreplay, the sensuality, getting really close to someone really quick and compressing the whole getting to know you phase into about 45 minutes, 10 minutes for the actual sex, obligatory going over time by about 10 minutes to make awkward small talk, dress, and say our good byes.
I don’t miss the double life. I love that I don’t have to keep what I did a secret from my fiancee (who has never seen an escort, and so doesn’t doubt my word about how it was)…. but I miss the sex and foreplay.
Sometimes I fantasize about going under the radar and having a few clients on the side, while he’s at work or on business trips. Who needs an affair when you know you can get paid quite well for it? I learned how to fuck around on the side from the best: upper middle class married clients who took great pains to hide my existence from their wives and girlfriends.
… but I just don’t think that I could lie to someone who knows me so well. The guilt of cheating would tear me up, and the fear of discovery would surely ruin my mental health.
I still fantasize and remember vividly though. And miss the foreplay and slow sensuality of sex that I experienced with most of my clients.
I’ve been with my SO for about 5 years. Year One: went on a camping trip with three “old friends” and ended up having sex with all of them. At the same time and separately. Year four: went back to a motel room with a grad school classmate after a conference and had sex because drunk logic said it seemed less awkward than staying the night and not having sex. Year five: had a two month affair with a married person almost twice my age. I might still be having it, but we’ve both been out of town for a month and well, I’m letting the married person come to me. I tried to feel badly about these things. I just don’t.