A naked man is scrubbing a pair of dirty coffee mugs in our office’s kitchen sink.
Well, he’s not totally naked.
A loin cloth protects his foot-long dick from the bleach he’s using to clean the countertops while simultaneously protecting the countertops from said dick. The man is bearded and bald — save for a pony tail — and his chiseled and imposing physique resembles that of a middleweight boxer. Stephen Marley’s Rock Stone blasts from a portable Bluetooth speaker. A back tattoo reading “Wet Dreams Do Come True” misses an opportunity to employ the homophonic alternative to “come.” The ink is a play on “Wet Curiosity,” his stripper name and Instagram handle, though he introduces himself simply as “Curiosity.”
“There’s a lot to live up to with a name like that,” he says, humming along to Marley before strapping on a pair of old-timey goggles and preparing to deep clean our chronically filthy fridge.
Spend any length of time in L.A., and you’ll invariably cross paths with a bright pink van with “$99” and “Hot Topless Maids” written across the side of it, along with unforgettable phone numbers like 818–666-HUGE or 844-SO-DIRTY.
I drive by one of these vans on my way to work every day and often glance over expecting to see a tourist or Billy Bush standing in the middle of the street taking a selfie with it. So I was taken aback a couple months ago when I looked over and saw that the brand was expanding.
Wait a second: Hot topless male maids?
The purist in me rolled his eyes, while the homosexual in me leaned in to make sure the number hadn’t changed: 1–844-(Still)-So-Dirty.
I was also curious whether the expansion was related to fact that many of the currently available occupations in America are in the feminized service sector — or so-called “pink-collar” industries like home health care and elementary school teachers.
And, judging from the NOW HIRING placard awkwardly resting atop the pink van, Hot Topless Maids.
I called to see if this was for real. Had men actually infiltrated one of L.A.’s most infamous employment opportunities for women? And if so, had they received many resumes?
The answer was prompt: Indeed, all six (!) male maid positions had been filled, one of them by Wet Curiosity, who I’m told is available the following Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I book him immediately.
Like our office fridge, it’s all so dirty.
Why do we sexualize domestic labor anyway?
Perhaps it began with Japanese Meido or the French maid uniform, which harks back to those worn by actual maids in France in the 19th century, when upper-middle-class families began hiring young women to do household chores.
Despite popular belief and the shelf space of Halloween outlet stores, the outfit was hardly revealing. To protect her black dress from all the shit she was tasked with cleaning, the maid wore a conservative white apron and matching cap, a far cry from the “sexy” French maid costumes of today.
It was also convenient to keep the 1800s French maid in the servant quarters, which allowed her to tend to various chores — i.e., cooking, cleaning and minding the children — and be available ‘round the clock should needs arise. Perhaps not surprisingly, over time, those needs began to include boning the boss in the laundry room, marking the beginning of our contemporary sexual associations with the term “French maid.”
“I don’t know how the French maid trope got started, but it’s been around since the early 20th century,” confirms sexual commentator and columnist David Steinberg, author of This Thing We Call Sex: A Radically Sensible Look at Sex in America. It’s all about the power imbalance, Steinberg explains, particularly when involving racial dominance and a sexual subordination of Latinas, African Americans and other minorities. “The maid is a servant, so there’s this whole thing of being in charge of somebody else and being able to tell them what to do.”
That said, it’s a slippery, sudsy slope between power-imbalance fantasies involving domestic labor and sexual misconduct. Cases in point: The former managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, sexually assaulting a hotel maid in 2012; millionaire Trump supporter John Joseph Boswell sexually abusing a maid at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown D.C. during Trump’s inauguration; and Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering a child with his housekeeper while married to Maria Shriver.
The power imbalance is a major element of BDSM play, Steinberg notes, and central to the sexualization of maids. “You have to be nice to the customer because you could lose your job if you’re impolite. Particularly in a hotel where the guest is supposed to be taken care of and catered to. If an employee doesn’t, they could be in trouble.”
“I suspect if there were an anthropologist present, they would say this goes back to slavery, ruling people and the eroticization of class inequality,” adds Louise Rafkin, a former maid in the 1990s and author of Other People’s Dirt: A Housekeeper’s Adventures from Cape Cod to Kyoto. It’s also much easier for people to say they hired someone to clean their house than a dominatrix or stripper: “‘I called a naked house cleaning service’ sounds a lot more gentle than ‘I called a prostitute.’”
Calling 1–844-SO-DIRTY, on the other hand, sounds like you’ve reached the dressing room of a 1920s flapper. Peppy, clarinet-dominated hold music blares while the call is forwarded to Tony, the chipper booking agent for Topless Maids. I tell him what I’m looking for — a male maid to clean my office — and ask how much it will cost.
Two hours of light cleaning will be $350, he explains, which is $100 more than a female topless maid. When asked why, Tony says something about supply and demand and asks if I prefer the maid to be topless or completely nude—either is fine, but the latter will be $450. I opt for the full monty, and Tony says to expect a text message, which arrives moments later (sic throughout):
hello sweetie this is lucy the receptionist with topless maids confirming 2 p.m. for a nude male maid for 2 hours please send over a picture of your credit card for verification it will not be charged for the service when the nude male maid arrives pay him directly in cash $450 and $50 extra if you need him to bring cleaning supplies thank you sweetie goodbye
A few of days later — and 40 minutes late — an unapologetic Wet Curiosity arrives with Valdesha, his assistant/driver/muscle, in tow.
While he’s getting ready, Curiosity calls me into the bathroom.
“Do you want me erect, or like this?” he asks, lifting up his loincloth to reveal the largest flaccid penis I’ve ever seen IRL — by many, many inches. “While I’m cleaning, I don’t wanna get bleach on my dick,” he explains, covering himself again.
“By all means,” I say.
And with that, Curiosity gets to work.
He’s been with Topless Maids for about a year, he explains while attacking the refrigerator with bleach from an unmarked squirt bottle. Most of his customers are 60- to 70-year-old women, he says. “They like that I’m respectful and that my grandmother taught me how to clean right.”
Indeed: After 15 minutes, the first shelf of the refrigerator is spotless.
And then it’s on to the window sills and floor moldings, each washed thoroughly and with purpose and muscle, effortlessly lifting desks, chairs and lamps to access dust hidden underneath. “Grandma taught me bleach will be your best friend in tight spots,” he says with a grin. Curiosity’s cleaning style verges on OCD, as though everything he touches will eventually need to pass inspection.
All the while, he tells me that he agrees with Steinberg and Rafkin about the power dynamic between maids and customers. “It’s a form of submission to really get in there and get dirty,” he explains, “because we’re doing what you tell us to do. It’s similar to the schoolgirl or schoolboy getdown. Or the waiter getdown. Or the plumber getdown with the pipes.”
In terms of what, exactly, Curiosity is willing to get down with, he’s open to everything as long as it’s set up ahead of time. “We gotta get the arrangement cleared up off the top,” he says, “so everyone’s time and talent is respected.”
Problems arise, Curiosity says, when people start changing the arrangement on the fly. “Like when they slip in certain phrases like ‘I’m horny.’ I look at them and say, ‘You just fucked up.’ Because if you want to inquire on that, then inquire on that straight up and we can make an arrangement. But you need to respect my craft as I’m respecting you. Don’t make me do something out of character,” he says with a scowl, briefly flexing his guns before calmly wringing out a wet sponge.
One thing’s for certain: It’s entirely in character for a man to do a little dusting these days. If the “French maid” is having a renaissance in 2017, it’s in the male form.
To wit: There are three different housecleaning services called “Maid Men” in Brooklyn, Vancouver and Chicago, respectively; Mike’s Male Maids in Santa Monica do household chores in “outfits ranging from tight speedos to fully clothed butler outfits”; Cub Cleaners, Portland’s All-Male House Cleaning Company, “will wear whatever you want (or not)”; NudeHouseCleaners.com were featured in Cosmopolitan; Boise’s Meticulous Man Services LLC makes “a fuss over your dust, so you don’t have to”; Muscular Male Maids in Richmond offers “professional home cleaning by Fitness Models and BodyBuilders”; The Male Maids of Orange County boast of “Five-Star Men” whose hobbies include “getting dirty, then ever more dirty, then insanely clean”; and Jockstrap Maids takes all of the above nationwide — in jockstraps (naturally) — as they’re available in 40 cities nationwide
So yes, that “pink” economy men are entering definitely includes domestic labor. “Back in the day people would say this is a man’s job and that’s a woman’s job,” Curiosity tells me, “but what’s the difference between a maid and a butler? What’s the difference between a maid cleaning a house and a garbage man taking trash away? Now everything’s equal, so if a woman can do the same job a man can do, guess what? A man can do the same job a woman can do. I cook and clean and make sure my sons know how to cook and clean. Because that’s what it means to be a man in 2017: You better know how to clean and be willing to do it.”