Jami Rodman is notorious. Once one of the highest-paid madams in the Las Vegas escort business, the 38-year-old entrepreneur was outed when it was revealed that Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton was working for her. These days, Rodman is out of the escorting game and working on a degree in international studies. She let her alter ego — Haley Heston — out for one last hurrah in her memoir, which details the ins and outs of being a stripper, an escort, and eventually, a madam.
Rodman’s book, The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, The Clients, The Truth, came out in December and will make even the most fervent 50 Shades fans blush a deep crimson. Aside from being an engaging story, the memoir is also an unapologetic exploration of a young woman’s transition from an ultra-religious childhood to the glitz, glamour, and loneliness of selling sex in Sin City. While Rodman is no longer living the high life (these days she just goes to class and hopes no one googles her), she’s still a fountain of knowledge when it comes to issues of relationships, monogamy, and the ethics of cheating.
What has the transition back to civilian life been like for you?
Gosh, that was actually really hard at first, because for my last eight years I wasn’t living a “normal” life. It was very much about multi-tasking. A lot of crises, problems. When I was in Las Vegas, I thought it was pretty normal, but now that I’ve left, I realize people don’t party for a week straight and do that for three years solid.
A lot of the people that we met in the sex industry were dynamic people. A lot of men from higher-end professions and sports. Everybody goes to Vegas and we met them all. I had to spend a lot of time catering to their needs and dealing with problems and solving problems all the time. At one time, I think I had four cellphones and when I stopped doing that and tried to focus, especially on writing a book that would make coherent sense, it was really hard to refocus my thought process. But I think living here [California] helps that a lot. People do go to bed at a normal time and restaurants do close at a certain time, so it’s more conducive to stepping over into a different type of lifestyle.
You talk a lot in your book about the different types of people who come to see you. Some are, as expected, really sad, but there’s a whole range. Couples, for instance. How often did couples come to you?
Quite a lot actually. More than I would have thought when I got into the business. They seek out escorts for different reasons, and spicing up your marriage is, of course, one of those. I think women generally are interested in other women and exploring sexuality with other women. Men, of course, always have that fantasy of two women or seeing their wife with another woman… but as I say, there were lots of different reasons.
Sometimes women would be curious on their anniversaries. Birthday gifts were common. Wives would give their husbands a birthday gift of a threesome. We had young couples that started seeing us every month. It was just part of their monthly date night, and then older couples, too. There was a gamut of reactions to the experience. A lot of times, women were more reserved. You can just imagine the emotions going on in that kind of situation.
Was it ever the case that women were the instigators? Often, what we hear about is the man saying, “I want to see you with another woman,” or “my fantasy is for us to be together with another woman.” Did you ever get women who said “my fantasy is to be with another woman and my husband?”
I think a lot of times women fantasize about it, and maybe they talk about it on their own time. A lot of times, it was the woman who would contact us, and her rules of having a threesome were that he wasn’t supposed to reach out or talk to us in any way before or after. It was all arranged through her. Sometimes, that would work out great for them. Other times, she wouldn’t really anticipate the emotions that would come up, or just things are great in fantasy sometimes, but when they actually come to fruition, it’s a completely different experience.
How often would you say that you were contacted by men or women who were secretly cheating on their partners?
You know, I think most of them were. Perhaps my experience doesn’t fit into the normal demographics of the population. From my own statistics, if I were to study this in a methods class, I would say that most people have cheated or are cheating on their partners.
Why do you think someone would cheat with a professional as opposed to someone who’s a non-professional?
There are a couple of reasons, and I think one of them is because it seems safer. And for the same reason, a guy would pay for the companionship of an escort as opposed to having a mistress or a girlfriend on the side. He’s paying for a service, so as soon as it’s over with, she’s gone out of his life. It’s the same thing with couples. A couple decides to have a fling with their neighbor or the wife’s best friend, now we have a lot of other social issues that could be awkward in the future if things don’t go well, or if they go really well and someone gets attached. But if the fling is with an escort, especially if she’s not from the same town, a lot of that is just eliminated right off the top.
Another reason is a professional is just that. So, she knows what she’s doing when she comes into your room, and there’s not a lot of awkwardness. Threesomes are more difficult than a lot of people think. You have to really pay attention to everyone who’s involved, and if you’re not experienced or if all three people aren’t experienced with that, then there’s a steep learning curve. If they’re doing it for fun, then a professional takes a lot of that learning out of the way.
Based on your experience, why do people cheat?
The biggest reason that I saw men cheating — and I guess women, too — was a lack of intimacy in their own lives. A lot of men bluntly said they wouldn’t be cheating if they had sex at home. They’re not having that connection with their partner. Maybe children have gotten in between their romantic life or they just don’t make time for each other. He’s focused on a career, she’s focused on a career. They grow apart and they form resentments. They just don’t have the intimacy at home and so they search for it. A lot less of the population I saw cheat just because they’re bored or because they want something new. I’m sure that happened, but from my experience, a lot of people do other things. They spice it up with their partner if they’re open to it, as opposed to saying, “Okay, I’m going to go out and cheat just because I want something new.”
Would you consider going to see a professional a form of ethical cheating? What do you even think of the idea of ethical cheating?
When I think of that, I start thinking about open relationships or polyamory or even surrogate sexual partners, which is a form of therapy. It’s really difficult, because everyone has their own concept of cheating and I’ve met women in the past who say that if their husband or boyfriend is masturbating to porn, then he’s cheating on her. I’ve met other women who say, “You know, I give him permission to have sex and hook up with other women when he goes on vacation, and I don’t consider that cheating. To me that’s just we’re sharing an open relationship, and at home, we only have relations with each other.” You have to really start thinking about what cheating means to you and how you’re going to approach it in a relationship so that you’re both on the same page. Who is the cheating ethical for? You? Your partner?
I think if someone is interested in exploring more sexuality when they’re in a relationship and they share that with their partner, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Our feelings and our thoughts, we have the right to them. Even if we’re in a relationship, we’re responsible for caring for the other person, but we’re still allowed to develop our own feelings and thoughts.
When you were an escort and a madam you saw a lot of different people, a lot of different couples. Do you have any relationship advice you’d give people based on your experience?
I would just say listen to your partner and be attentive to their needs, because if you’re not, then someone else is going to be. Just as many people as there are in the world, there’s someone who is eager and excited to step into a new role with that person. So, if you’re not going to step into that role and help them explore their thoughts and fantasies then it’s only a matter of time before they run into someone who will. I think that when we’re in a union with someone, we need to be respectful of that and always do our best to keep that person high on a pedestal, because once that starts to teeter and fall, it’s a lot harder to get them back up than it is to keep them up there.
There’s a lot of stigma attached to being in the sex industry. That was especially true for Suzy Favor Hamilton, who had been an Olympian and a spokesperson for Disney and Nike. Do you think that being in the sex industry contradicted anything else she had done or said something about her values?
I personally don’t. I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me, but I know a lot of academics and professionals don’t disagree with me. We all have secrets and I think that the more someone explores their interests — whether that’s secretly being a dominatrix or secretly seeing a dominatrix, or being a porn star — it actually shows development and growth as an individual. That person is saying, “Hey, this is interesting to me. I’m going to test it out, whether that’s for three months or three years and move into a professional career afterwards.”
I think someone with a diverse background has a greater potential to relate to their customers and their clients and other people than someone who, say, lived a very vanilla, square life. I know it’s really hard for a lot of women to develop a professional career or move on from being in the sex industry, because it’s what do you do after that? If someone Googles your name, no one wants you to be volunteering with them. I can’t work with children, I can’t go into elderly people’s homes. I mean, who can I work with now? I can work with homeless people and prostitutes, because they’re the only ones who don’t care what my background is.
I had to somewhat redeem myself by spending three years writing my story, because if I didn’t, then I would have been labeled this evil witch who coerced this free woman [Suzy Favor Hamilton] into trying something she wanted to try. I don’t think it undermines people’s professional development or values by saying that they’re going to try the sex industry. A lot of men, our clients, were professional career men or higher in their industry, and they certainly aren’t demonized for exploring their sexuality. Why should women be?
Are there any huge myths about sex work that you would like to dispel?
I think one of the biggest myths about sex work is that sex workers are dirty. I’ve heard that before, time and again, and based on my own unofficial knowledge and research, I think sex workers tend to be more safe in regards to sex and sexual health than people, say, going out and having casual, one-night stands every weekend or hooking up off Tinder.
Another issue that I’ve come across a lot is that legalizing sex work would make the sex industry safer for prostitutes, and that gets into a lot of tricky areas, because then sex trafficking proliferates. So, there’s a lot of different, simmering issues concerning sex work that really have to be looked at in more depth with direct knowledge. Maybe talking to sex workers themselves is a better way to dispel myths, but a lot of people don’t, just because they undervalue their opinion or feel that they’re not educated or they’re not worthy of being part of society’s values and opinions.
From reading your book, it sounds like if you’re going to be with all of these diverse clients you’d better be educated and yet the way we think about people in the sex industry — even when they’re at your level — is as uneducated, abused girls with daddy issues.
Exactly. Guys of that caliber aren’t going to hire women that they can’t engage with, because they can spend their time and their money elsewhere. Many women in this industry do have well-rounded histories and personalities and behaviors and they are educated, they’re knowledgeable about current events. If they weren’t, then they would be out of business.
You’re also saying that the idea of decriminalizing prostitution is going to be controversial and personal for every sex worker. Not everyone wants to have it decriminalized?
There are a lot of studies that show decriminalizing sex work actually increases the risk to women. So, it really depends on the demographic of the population, the history of the area. There are a lot of other factors to consider. There’s so much controversy and everyone seems to take a side really quickly and say, “This is what I feel, this is what I feel,” or, “I think we should legalize it,” and you really have to take into consideration all the ramifications, and the positives and negatives that come with a movement like that. It’s not black and white.
If you had to make a statement about your past work and how it’s viewed by society, what would it be?
I would say that anyone who’s interested or been affected by the sex industry, whether it’s a wife who has caught her husband going out with prostitutes, or anyone who has thought about doing it, there’s no harm in reading about it. Everyone has an opinion, but in order to have one, we have to understand the full ramifications of the business. That’s why I put my story out there. So that anyone who’s interested has a basis of knowledge to pull from.