Heidi Fleiss thinks she's onto something big. She wants to open a brothel for women. Anyone with a prurient memory for juicy facts remembers Heidi, the Los Angeles madam whose little black book, stuffed with the names of Hollywood celebrities, led to the evidence that sent her to prison.
Now she's out of the slammer and wants to open a "stud farm" 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, where, if she can get a license, she will establish the first legal brothel serving female customers. "The pleasure palace will be shaped like a castle," reports Newsweek magazine, "with a marble-floored great room, a spa, a sex-toy shop and secluded bungalows where 20 Casanovas will spend quality time with the clientele (at $250 an hour)."
Women have come a long way from merely challenging "The Feminine Mystique," which Betty Friedan identified as a little voice within that cried: "I want something more than my husband and my children and my home." More is a relative term, of course, and sometimes more is less, and a house is not a home.
The cruelest irony of the revolution that changed the relationships of the sexes is the shortage of eligible men. It's not that there are fewer men statistically, but there are fewer desirable men statistically. A headline in The Washington Post complains: "Disappearing Act: Where Have the Men Gone? No Place Good."
Colleges and universities across the country report diminishing numbers of male students. At Howard University in Washington, for example, women outnumber men 2 to 1, underlining the disparity particularly evident among blacks. When women surpass men in educational achievement, their desirable husband pool decreases. Men who drop out of high school, or who don't go on to college, are likely to earn less than half of the income of educated men. Drop-outs are more likely to be unemployed, homeless and abusive toward women, and they're more likely to engage in other violent crime.
The statistics of vanishing men focuses on those at the lowest economic levels, many of whom wind up in prison, but there's more to the story, and it cuts across all economic and racial lines. The very ideal of manliness and male pride has taken a hit, causing what one female cynic describes as "premature emasculation." No matter how you spin the globe, it's no longer a man's world. Men still dominate business, the professions and politics, but not like they once did, and in the give-and-take of domestic relations, they're the losers. The consequences are sad for everybody.
One of the depressing consequences is that increasing numbers of women find their children at sperm banks. Some are women whose husbands are unable to procreate, but many (and they're not all lesbians) simply don't want to bother with a man in their lives. They think they can do it better alone. By some estimates, the number of single women seeking donor sperm has doubled in a decade. A customer with money confronts no social stigma. The celebrity magazines are awash with stories of women who are "single mothers by choice."
But these designer children suffer just like children without fathers have always suffered. Daughters lack that first male to measure men by, and they are more likely to engage in destructive sexual relations at earlier ages than girls raised with fathers. Sons lack a man to model themselves after, and often never learn the discipline to control male aggressiveness. Such sons and daughters never see how problems can be worked out within a loving marriage, and they descend into the psychological spiral that leads to a succession of failed relationships.
Americans overwhelmingly agree that good fathers are important for children, but you don't need the surveys conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative to see that this is common sense. The first children of donor dads are young adults now, and many agonize over finding their fathers. It's not exactly inspiring to know that Daddy was a no-name number from the deep freeze, and there's another danger: Since such sperm is often contributed by anonymous young men, often working their way through college, the likelihood that a woman could fall in love and marry her half-brother without knowing their blood ties is hardly inconceivable (no pun intended).
Maybe, given the unhappy givens of the sexual revolution, Heidi Fleiss was inevitable. "I've heard from very wealthy, very beautiful women who say they'd be the first in line," she says. No doubt.