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Sex on Main Street: The Policeman's Duty

Dan Dunn

I opened the pages of the Cambridge Chronicle this week to discover that two "massage parlors" operating this side of Central Square were actually fronts for prostitution (One of the businesses was at 905 Main St., and the other at 238 Broadway). The article provided hours of entertainment.

According to the article, the clubs would check out all potential customers by remote camera before they opened their door. They also searched the lockers of clients for police identification.

The businesses' care in determining the occupations of their clientele paid off in the end. The customer would rent a massage room for $90 for an hour. The sex cost more: $50 for a "hand release" and $100 for sexual intercourse.

The article made me realize all over again that I just don't know all that much about Cambridge, the town I have lived in for years. I find new restaurants, bookstores, and bars all the time. But I have never found an establishment like this.

I guess that part of the reason that I never heard about it was their poor press. They need a new ad agent. They have no listing on, the Phoenix, or anywhere else I've seen.

We just lost an option that we never knew that we had. Tired of your problem sets? Exam period got you down? Old solution: trot your tired body down to Tosci's and buy a large frappe float with orange chocolate ice cream. New solution: walk a few doors down, and buy what the Chronicle called "manual release" for just $50.

These gentlemen were also paying for the right to be recorded. It doesn't seem likely that the customers knew about the "elaborate electronic eavesdropping system." Somehow, I don't think this was one of those roller coaster buy-a-momento-for-your-girlfriend setups. I think the regular customers probably ended up paying more than they intended to suppress certain recordings.

And what about Cambridge's finest, and their investigation? The places had been operating for more than 5 years. Once the investigation began, it took them a year and a half to "complete" their investigation.

Why did it take so long? Just how "complete" was their investigation? Oh, get your mind out of the gutter, gentle reader! According to the Chronicle, "Detectives did not engage in the acts,' [Police spokesman Sgt. Paul] Ames stressed. That would have been above and beyond the call of duty.'"

Interestingly, none of the johns were arrested, only the working women and their employers. They didn't even stop the "older gentleman who popped his head in the door, saw us, ran into a Lexus and screeched away."

The woman running the business was charged with "keeping a house of ill fame." Ill fame? Can the police spokesman say that with a straight face? Then again, right down the street, Women's Independent Living Group is classified by Cambridge as a brothel, a definition slapped on any residence that has more than a certain number of unrelated women living in it.

The whole investigation strikes me as a bit odd. It took so to start, it took so long to run, it was selective in who it punished, and it relied on some pretty archaic rules.

I suppose that updating the sex laws is not high on the agenda of the Cambridge City Council. But "house of ill repute?" I think they can find the time to update that title.

So what is the moral of the story? I'm really not sure. But I will be reading the signs on Main Street a lot more closely.