What's worse: An affair or a prostitute?

Lisa Daily, Click by Lavalife
Seeing a prostitute is a business transaction.  No feelings are involved. However, an affair, especially an emotional one means it's more than just sex. (Courtesy of Lavalife)

Seeing a prostitute is a business transaction. No feelings are involved. However, an affair, especially an emotional one means it's more than just sex. (Courtesy of Lavalife)

The Elliot Spitzer scandal touched a nerve with men and women all over the world.

And while many of us were aghast at the idea of spending $80,000 on sex (hell-o! That's a new car! Or a couple of years worth of mortgage payments!), others believed sex with a prostitute to be more palatable than an ordinary affair.

A recent Lavalife poll of more than 6,000 daters revealed that 61 per cent thought an affair was worse than a prostitute. In fact, only 34 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women thought sleeping with a prostitute was worse.


Lucia, host of the Los Angeles-based TV talk show, The Art of Love believes having an affair, whether physical or emotional, is worse than seeing a prostitute. She says, "Seeing a prostitute is a business transaction -- pay for play. No feelings involved. However, an affair, especially an emotional one means it's more than just sex. There are feelings involved."

Lucia says, "Men can separate sex from love, while most women can't. Look at it this way: Would you rather your partner have sex with you and be thinking of someone else or have sex with someone else and be thinking of you? It's not about the physical act but where the person's heart lies."

Alan, a publicist, agrees. "I definitely think that an affair is worse. Seeing a hooker is just a one-time thing, like a business transaction -- only it involves sex. There's no emotion involved. That's my take."

But what about a prostitute's repeat customers, like Spitzer, a customer so loyal that he'd earned the obviously affectionate moniker, "Client number 9?" Is it still a business transaction? Closer to an affair? Or somewhere in the middle?

Alan says, "I think it's still business. You have a favorite restaurant that you frequent? You like the restaurant, the food, the atmosphere. But is there a relationship between you and the restaurant? I don't think so."

Abby, a dater, disagrees. "Prostitution is much worse, if only for the risk of dangerous diseases. A personal, emotional affair, on the other hand, can actually be a healing experience, allowing a frustrated person to re-evaluate how the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the hill."

Jenny Gardiner, author of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver says, "Both are deal-breakers for me. An affair is a huge betrayal of trust, and once trust is broken it's irrevocable. Sleeping with a prostitute is a huge betrayal of physical safety, which to me demonstrates incredible selfishness on the part of the partner.

"Either way the person has severed the trust that must come with a relationship or marriage. Personally I'd kill my husband for either betrayal -- I'm not that forgiving!"

Elizabeth, a former sex industry worker, disagrees.

She says, "In fairness to pros, it's actually quite common knowledge that most working girls -- particularly those at the level of Spitzer's favorite, Ashley Dupree a.k.a. "Kristen" -- are meticulous about safer sex. True, one might be taking a risk with a crack addicted girl on the street, but when talking about higher levels of sex work it could be argued and has been by many, that one is probably safer going to a pro with a sophisticated knowledge of safer sex practices than to say, Molly in accounts payable."

Although Molly in accounts payable might (or might not) be a more likely carrier of crabs or HIV, sleeping with her probably isn't going to get your mug shot on the 7 o'clock news, or provide an up-close introduction to the wonderful world of pimps.

Either way, there is a certain degree of risk. But why someone, especially someone like Spitzer with so much to lose, gamble everything on sex?

A groundbreaking book, Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, written by two evolutionary psychologists, Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, both men, claims that we should not be shocked that male politicians are willing to risk their careers for sex.

In the book, Darwinian historian Laura L. Betzig offers this explanation: "Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it."

Ah huh, right -- the whole reason to become President or Governor or Prime Minister in the first place is for the chicks.

Female politicians, on the other hand, rarely risk their careers for sex, according to the authors. While there are hundreds of incidences of male political sex scandals, the female sex scandal is a rare occurrence.

In fact, I could only find a handful when researching this story: a Taiwanese councilwoman (sex tape), former Charlotte, NC mayor Sue Myrick (affair with her future husband while he was married to someone else), Idaho congresswoman Helen Chenoweth (affair) and Utah congresswoman Katherine Bryson (affair). Granted, there are many more male than female politicians.

Far more men than women pay for sex in general (of course). According to Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry by Ronald Weitzer, a 1994 national poll found that 18 per cent of American men and 2 per cent of women had paid for sex. The book also reports a study in 2000 that 10 per cent of British men under age 35 had "bought sex from a prostitute" and 7 per cent of Canadian men reported they had "paid for sex."

Columnist Lisa Earle McLeod, author of Finding Grace when You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear comments, "Powerful women don't have the time, energy or brain-power to have sex with their own husbands, much less start trolling for someone new. No smart woman in her right mind is going to waste a bunch of money or shut-eye time on meaningless sex when she can get it at home for free."

McLeod adds, "The reason women don't pay hookers is because we know that can get more lasting satisfaction from expensive shoes."