Professor arrested for creating safe, user-friendly website for prostitutes

Pin it

Fairleigh Dickinson University physics professor David C. Flory has been arrested for running a "cyber-pimping" website. But it's not nearly as sleazy as it sounds. 

Flory was allegedly running a site called "Southwest Companions," which was home to around 1,400 prostitutes and johns. As Gawker inimitably put it: "Think Facebook+eBay+AdultFriendFinder." But Flory allegedly told authorities that profit was not his motivation for setting up the site — he did for love of the game. 

"He [Flory] flat-out told us his thing was he wanted to create a safe place for prostitutes and johns to get together. He called it a hobby," Albuquerque Police Lt. William Roseman told the Associated Press. 

Flory lives and works in New Jersey, but keeps a home in New Mexico. Southwest Companions was organized by three levels of membership: probation, verified, and trust. Roseman:

"In order to get off probation you had to sleep with one of the prostitutes on the website and she in turn would tell the moderator (Flory) what acts occurred, how much they got paid and any comments. That opened you up to verified status. Once you got into verified status that opened you up to different girls available. Then, some would e-mail the moderator, 'This is the act, this is how much he paid, these are my comments about it.'"

Flory apparently took a real, boots-on-the-ground approach to the site: Jersey newspaper The Record reports:

"He took down an advertisement he believed was too graphic and told the prostitute to rewrite it, according to the arrest warrant. He posted tips on how not to get caught and removed profiles of people who had been arrested or were suspected of working with police, the document says."

Roseman notes that Flory was caught because he used his university e-mail address to start the site, which is either shockingly stupid or admirably bold.

Personally, I think this is really, oddly commendable. To so love the idea of people casually and safely paying for sex that you would set up a user-review-driven site to facilitate it — that takes commitment. And furthermore, it's a great idea. Regardless of your uptight American views on prostitution, it happens, and when there aren't safeguards in place, bad things can happen — there have been a plethora of murders related to Craigslist prostitution. So I applaud you for taking one for the team, Mr. Flory — your off-hours work was a hell of a lot more interesting than your day job.