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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Excuse Us, Dear, While We Discuss Prostitutes

Oh! What fun to be female in Russia! The time you get to sit around listening to men talk about their good times with prostitutes is a joy you'll simply never forget as long as you live.

Chances are that it won't actually be your boyfriend you're listening in on, or the boyfriend or husband of any of your friends, either. But they'll all be sitting there, nodding and laughing, occasionally mustering up a look of general disapproval for your benefit, as the lurid tale gets told, usually by some third party -- recently divorced, as a rule, or about to get married -- on whom they will later cast dispersions. "He's not really a friend of mine," they'll say. "I think he's actually Vanya's friend."

Hash out the semantics as they will, the fact still remains that spending time with prostitutes is almost an acceptable form of male recreation here. Not only for wealthy underworld types who need an expensive ornament to complement their lifestyle, but for fairly regular kinds of men as well. No plans for Friday night? Why not get a couple of the guys together, find a few girls to snimat' -- "renting" is a lovely way of putting it -- get drunk, etc.? It probably doesn't differ all that much from what these men do with their regular girlfriends. Prostitutes don't appear to be a replacement for steady relationships as much as a respite from them, only there's likely to be less nagging and hassle. But then who's going to make you breakfast in the morning?

Big social questions aside, this scenario is still troubling for a handful of less significant reasons. What these men are thinking as they go about their weekend planning is certainly their business. What they are thinking when they then re-create their adventures for their acquaintances later is another question altogether. I am no doubt a victim of American prudishness, but I can't decide what is worse: the rental shenanigans themselves, or the absolute relish with which these men trumpet the highlights to anyone who will listen.

Well, not just anyone who will listen. If he suddenly found himself addressing a roomful of women, the topic would probably be switched to "My New Stereo System" or "How Good I Am at Darts." Still, there occasionally occurs a moment when the men in the room outnumber the women by a percentage sufficient to suddenly render the women invisible. I haven't done any quantitative research, but I'd say the ratio is about five males to each invisible female.

Once this imbalance is attained, the conversation changes its tone, and the female may even choose to leave the room. Not because she's necessarily so offended, I'd like to add, but just because these stories are invariably so boring. Lurid was perhaps the wrong word to use -- self-congratulatory, perhaps? Even stories about prostitutes end up being just more stories about men, it seems.