06.24.11

Professor Pimp?

By day, a New Jersey physics instructor. Online, police say, owner of a crafty Web escort service that may have schooled johns and prostitutes in safety. Jacob Bernstein reports.

He was splayed on the front page of the New York Post: “The Professor Who Pimped Out Gals on the ‘Net.” For two years, he allegedly ran a website where men made contact with escorts and then rated them online, like wine or cigars.

But if David Flory, the seemingly strait-laced Fairleigh Dickinson University physics teacher who was arrested by Albuquerque police this week and charged with promoting prostitution, is guilty of anything, it’s maybe being a horny doofus—not a pimp.

In fact, the cops who arrested him say he wasn’t even a “pimp” (as the Post described him), at least not by conventional standards. “The benefit of it was sex,” says Sgt. Tricia Hoffman of the Albuquerque Police Department, noting that “the financial aspect of it was very minimal.” (Hoffman says Flory purchased the site in 2009 for $500, and appears to have made little money off it since then.)

Two days later, police arrested three more men, charging them with promoting prostitution, promoting prostitution by procuring a house of prostitution, conspiracy, and tampering with evidence.

It’s a pretty big pickle for these fellows to wind up in, considering that the main thing uniting them was allegedly the desire to get laid. “These were people who did not want to go downtown and pick up a prostitute on the street, so they were getting this community together so they could do it freely and openly on a website,” Hoffman says.

On the website, men would join and be placed on “probation.” To gain permanent access, they’d have to receive a reference from a “verified” member or “companion.” As the johns booked more dates, posted more reviews, and received ratings from the girls on the site, they’d move up to being “trusted” members of the site.

On the site, men had all sorts of lingo and acronyms that they used to review the services of the women they procured erotic services from.

And freely and openly did they post about their sexual escapades, apparently giving the police much randy cyberevidence to sift through. According to the arrest warrant, the website catered to 1,400 johns and 200 prostitutes in the area. The men had all sorts of lingo and acronyms that they used to review the services of the women they procured erotic services from.

FS stood for full service, sexual intercourse. CBJ for covered blowjobs. From there, things only got more esoteric. DATY (“Dining at the Y”) meant male-to-female oral sex. MSOG (“multiple shots on goal”) stood for a girl who let the guy ejaculate more than once. And then there’s RCG (the “reverse cowgirl”), in which the prostitute rides the guy facing away from him. 

Flory allegedly encouraged members to use codes like these to avoid attracting attention on Google and other search engines.

There was good reason to not want to get caught. Back in New York, he lived in a pricey Upper West Side apartment with a wife who's a successful psychotherapist. Flory had daughters and grandchildren that he was reportedly incredibly devoted to. And there was the job at Fairleigh Dickinson. (He’s reportedly on probation while the investigation continues and the university figures out its options.)

Nevertheless, Flory may have provoked the police in more ways than one. Last year, as girls working the site began to get arrested, he and his compatriots turned into online vigilantes, giving prostitutes and trusted johns information about how to avoid police stings. “They were giving descriptions of the vice detectives, down to their tattoos and body burns,” Hoffman says. “One of our detectives has a burn on his arm and they described it on the website.”

“There are boards like this in every city,” says Mike South, who writes an eponymous blog about the sex industry. “They’re mostly protected under free speech, they don’t violate anyone’s rights, but if a guy’s making the police’s lives more difficult by revealing their tactics, their identities, that type of thing, they arrest you and hit you with a bullshit charge. And the problem is, even if it’s bullshit, you can go to jail for it. It gets the police riled up every time.”

Surprisingly, many women’s rights activists say that shutting down this type of website does a public disservice. Sienna Baskin, of the Sex Workers Project at New York's Urban Justice Center, has frequently said that online ratings systems provide a vital safety tool to prostitutes and also enable them to work without handing their lives and their money over to pimps. South, who’s covered the proliferation of online sex for more than a decade, concurs with that assessment. “These sites provide the women with a way to stay in touch with each other,” he says. “They’re independent. They don’t meet guys who don’t have referrals. They don’t need pimps. It’s a good thing.”