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My boyfriend of a year is wonderful, intelligent, kind and hilarious. He told me he'd never been in love until meeting me, and while he'd had more sex partners than he'd like to admit, before me, it was all meaningless. Then I read an article about a prostitution ring, and asked how prostitutes can advertise without getting arrested. He explained how escort services work — with a little too much expertise. I asked if he'd ever paid for sex. He admitted he had, then let loose, saying he'd done it five times over several years; most recently, six years ago. He said it's more common than people think, like paying for a couple dates. He added it was a time in his life when he was avoiding relationships, and considering the emotional cost of one, it was worth the price. Now, I'm finding myself repulsed by a man who, only yesterday, seemed so amazing. Help! — Distraught

Clearly, honesty is the second-best policy, right behind leaping up to get one's jaw wired shut when one is tempted to take a little trip down memory lane — to the corner of it, anyway — and tell the girlfriend about the good old days, back when $20 still bought you somebody.

Your boyfriend apparently got so wrapped up in reminiscing that he forgot to check your face for a look of horror — his cue to start an Olympic-style backpedal: "... and I took one look at that skanky ho, sped home, made hot cocoa and read the collected Beatrix Potter!" Actually, he probably wasn't scoring drive-by sex from whichever meth-head in hotpants was working the alley; he most likely found a number in the paper or on a Web site for an escort — essentially a gold digger with an advertising budget.

Retired escort-turned-author Amanda Brooks explains the difference in The Internet Escort's Handbook, Book 2: "If you are selling your time, undivided attention and the (unspoken) offer of sexual entertainment, you're an escort. If you're selling a specific sexual activity for a certain amount of money, you're a prostitute. If you won't have sex with the man you're dating unless he buys you an expensive dinner, you're a (relatively cheap) prostitute."

The truth is, to a guy, a hooker isn't all that different from a hookup. Men can have sex without knowing where a woman grew up, what her sign is, and all the ways her cat is like a dog. Men ask about that stuff because women typically require some emotional connection before they'll get it on. But, unless a guy's seeking something girlfriend-y, all he really needs to know is: Is she hot, free around 8, and will she take the credit card he gets frequent flyer miles on?

Society and religion say it's wrong to pay for sex, but maybe it's worse to do what a lot of guys do: fool girls into thinking they're up for commitment when they only want to use 'em and lose 'em. Your boyfriend, on the other hand, was honest. He had a need, and he paid to fill it: Cash and Carrie (and Candeee, Tifani and Jazmin, too)!

It's natural that you'd feel threatened. Throughout history, women have made men pay for sex with commitment. If strings-free sexcapades are so readily available to your boyfriend, what hold could you possibly have? Well, just read your words above. Your boyfriend's sex acts six years back don't seem to impact how he lives today, except maybe in how grateful he is for the happy ending — the kind a guy just can't buy, no matter how many hundreds he stacks on the dresser.

Boys 'R' Us

How successful are relationships where the woman is much older? I'm a 21-year-old guy with a 38-year-old girlfriend. I'm frequently hit on and teased by her female friends. They don't seem interested in me as a person but want a younger guy for sex. Being referred to as "the toy" is getting old. — Annoyed

Age difference? What age difference? Meanwhile, your girlfriend isn't sure whether to offer you a cigarette after sex or a plate of animal crackers. It's the rare 21-year-old who has much to tell a 38-year-old, beyond "Your shoulder's putting my arm to sleep." Sure, there are older-younger relationships that work, but you two don't have a relationship; you have playdates. How do I know? Because friends don't hit on friends' boyfriends so easily. Yeah, it happens. But, when it happens with frequency, it's a sign of how your partner feels — and talks — about you. If you want a relationship, that's what you should have. Just find some sweet girl closer to your own age; in other words, somebody more likely to draw hearts around your name than straws to see who's next in line to play with her toy.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com. Read her blog and more at advicegoddess.com.

  • The truth is, to a guy, a hooker isn't all that different from a hookup.

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