Lis & the Single Girl: Dating, Nightlife and Casual Encounters

Single and fabulous? Well then this is the column for you!

Ever wish you had your own personal Carrie Bradshaw to answer your questions — not just about what to do if your boyfriend dumps you via text message — but serious issues that confront us? This special edition of “Lis on Law” will address topics that single women are faced with and that everybody wonders about — but no one has time to figure out.

Between work, working out, dating and maintaining a social life, it’s tough to find time to do much else. So, read up and prepare to be fully armed for brunch this weekend with your friends with some super conversation topics! Your pals will be amazed!

This week, we're taking a look at the trials and tribulations of dating. First we'll sort out the legal implications of the old fashioned "Ladies' Night" (is it really legal?), and then we're moving on to nightlife and casual encounters. If you want to do your homework, just check out Craigslist — you'll be amazed. And, to round the series off, we'll discuss what happens when your online penpal turns out to be a frog instead of the prince he described himself to be, and whether you can sue. Here we go ...

Part I: It's Ladies' Night

“Lis, I am totally fed up with Ladies' Night and everything it stands for. It's totally in opposition to equality. If she can get a free drink just for showing up, then I want one too. Or, she should pay, just like me. And maybe my drink will be less expensive. I heard that some brave soul finally did something about this and filed a lawsuit. At last, some decency!” — Todd (Dallas, TX)

It's true; a man actually filed a lawsuit against some late night hot spots for promoting Ladies' Night! You're probably thinking that most men you know would relish the idea of a club encouraging women to stop by for the evening. It sounds like win-win situation. Ladies receive the little added incentive of a few dollars off the cover or shorter waiting times behind the elusive velvet rope while men have the assurance of knowing that they'll be in some good company. But one “solo practitioner” vehemently disagrees.

Manhattan attorney Roy Den Hollander says that by offering Ladies' Night enticements, the clubs violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. His class action suit accuses several New York City clubs of “invidious discrimination” against men in their policies for admitting patrons. Among the defendants, some of the Big Apple's trendiest establishments like the Copacabana Nightclub, A.E.R Nightclub, Sol and the China Club (whose guest list includes the likes of Derek Jeter and Bruce Springsteen).

The legal eagle decided to fight this time-honored tradition after he visited each of these venues on “Ladies' Night” and wasn't extended the same reduced fee or shorter waiting period as the females. In other words, he felt these clubs were violating his constitutional guarantees and felt discriminated against because he was a dude hoping to gain easier entrance. So, does Hollander actually have a case? Stay tuned.

Part II: Is Ladies' Night Constitutional?

Let's pick up right where we left off. Does Mr. Hollander actually have a case against Ladies' Night? Well, maybe.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment says that a “state” may not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” However, the Amendment does not ban discrimination by private parties. Over the years, courts have sometimes ruled that private racial or sex discrimination can be imputed where the private actor is an agent of the government. Hollander claims that nightclub owners who institute Ladies' Night are state actors merely because they're regulated and licensed by the government. The Supreme Court specifically rejected this theory in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, which held that the 14th Amendment did not give Congress the power to regulate common carriers, “places of public accommodation” despite the fact that most businesses were often required to have government licenses.

Hollander recently filed his suit in Manhattan federal court and cites the case of Seidenberg and Decrow v. McSorley's Old Ale House, Inc. as precedent. In McSorley's, the court ruled that state action existed when the Ale House refused to serve two women. The New York lawyer admits that he faces an “uphill battle,” acknowledging that the Supreme Court has given “preferential treatment” to women when it comes to economic discrimination. But, “If I win, then all other nightclubs have to follow.”

Tim Gleason, general manager of the China Club, called this suit “ridiculous.” I must agree and I don't think Hollander will win any popularity contests if the verdict comes back in his favor. However, as “ridiculous” as this case may seem, Mr. Sensitive isn't the first to bring this kind of lawsuit. Last month, California ruled against a Los Angeles nightclub that refused to give four men the same Ladies' Night discounts as the women. Additionally, in 2004, New Jersey battled over the same issue. The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights ruling declared that Ladies' Night violated state discrimination law. But the Garden State didn't take the ruling without a fight. In fact, the state then passed a law legalizing the practice!

So fear not party lovers of both genders, hopefully the Manhattan Federal court will realize that bars rivaling a Star Trek convention aren't fun for anyone and will leave ladies' and their nights alone! And for men with a sore spot for long lines or cover charges, this may be a battle that you'll one day, in hindsight, thank yourself for not fighting.

Part III: Craig's List

“Have you seen the stuff on Craigslist lately? I'm not referring to the job listings; I'm talking about flagrant prostitution. Thousands and thousands of ads under their so-called Casual Encounters tab. What can we do about this?” — Shelly (Washington, DC)

As I opened the New York page on Craigslist, the free online community with 191 categories of info available in some 300 cities worldwide, I realized this Web site is a giant cyber flea market. Everything is available from selling your bed to a spread of dating accommodations. Buyers beware! I also noticed at least eight different categories under the personals section, ranging from “Strictly Platonic” to “Casual Encounters.” But what really caught my attention was the “erotic” page under the services section, where ladies of the night are said to be advertising and apparently prospering on the Web. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize many of these “services” are actually a forum for prostitution. On a typical day, as many as 9,000 listings are added to “Erotic Services.”

So I click on “Erotic” to investigate Shelly's claim, and this disclaimer pops up:

1. I am at least 18 years old.
2. I understand erotic services may include adult content.
3. I agree to flag as "prohibited" anything illegal or which otherwise violates the Craigslist terms of use . Additionally, I agree to report suspected exploitation of minors to the appropriate authorities.
4. By clicking on the links below, I release Craigslist from any liability that may arise from my use of this site.

I'm offered no less than 21 categories for Erotic Services: w4m, m4m, m4w, etc. Confused. I am befuddled and it starts to look more like a math equation or some deeply em”bed”ded code. What do these cryptic search terms mean? I'm guessing that “m” stands for male, “w” for woman, “t” represents transvestite, not to mention the multiplicity of combinations and permutations of these categories.

One message entices with a “Sensual massage by a Japanese Princess.” This Japanese Princess caters to “the refined gentlemen who enjoy the finer things in life,” (isn't that everyman?), but it'll cost you upwards of $200 to exercise this fantasy. Another ad explicitly details how she'll perform her “hot new tricks,” again to the tune of $200. These propositions sound suspiciously like prostitution. Is this legal? Continue reading to find out the answer!

Part IV: The Legal Realities of Craig's List

Last month, cops arrested eight women in Long Island on prostitution charges. They were snared in a Craigslist sting operation conducted by the Nassau County police. The County made approximately 70 arrests over the past year, focusing on this site. This gives new meaning to police deskwork.

And the statistics don't end there. In Cook County, Illinois, the sheriff arrested 60 women advertising on the site, compared with a mere 43 that did it the old fashioned way - “earning” their living while working the streets. In Seattle, 71 men were arrested after police placed a decoy ad and many took the bait. In Jacksonville, Florida, 33 men were arrested for responding to a single ad over the course of three days.

“We do not want illegal activity on the site,” said Craigslist president Jim Buckmaster, who declined to comment on “the specifics” of law enforcement. He noted that its 24-person staff could not possibly monitor the listings at all time, and that he relies on viewers to flag such ads for inspection.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996, designed to promote free speech, protects Craigslist from liability for the content of its visitors. “In general, the Internet is not subject to rules that encourage a closer editing of content; it is a wide-open environment,” said Phil Weiser, Professor of Law at the University of Colorado. “This is an enormous challenge in the information age that we haven't been able to confront.”

The Craigslist Terms of Use page says: “You understand that Craigslist does not control, and is not responsible for content made available through the service, and that by using the service, you may be exposed to content that is offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable.”

And what are the rights of those who get busted in these online police stings? The arrests usually result in misdemeanor charges. That leads to smaller fines and only repeat offenders face the possibility of serving jail time. Craigslist protects itself and so should the cyber surfer. The list serve is not responsible for personal indiscretions and poor judgment.

My take: good for the cops to use the internet to crack down on illegalities… and if you post (or respond) to these personal ads soliciting money for sex-you probably get what you deserve because whatever the name, it's still prostitution.

Part V: Online Dating: Any Legal Remedies to Pictorial Misrepresentations?

“I'm mad. I recently joined one of those dating sites. I paid 50 bucks for the first month. I meet this guy. He looks cute, seems nice, and I agree to meet him for a drink. It's not the same guy as in the picture!! He's not cute, he's fat and bald. Can I take legal action, against that website?” — Kimberly (New York, NY)

For our final edition of the dating series, let's conclude with the most popular form of millennium encounters: online dating.

Even if we're not hitting cyberspace ourselves, who doesn't know a legion of gals who met a guy online (or vice versa), thinking he looked like a ten, only to learn the pic that you swooned over was graphically enhanced. What if “Alphamale106” isn't really a strapping 35-year-old shipping millionaire with the biceps of a bodybuilder? Or that fantasy woman who calls herself “athletic” actually means she's been to the gym once this year?

According to, 24 percent of adults surveyed from a sample of 600 reported that they sanctioned “little white lies” to enhance an online dating profile. So is there any legal remedy for the gal (or guy) that dressed up in anticipation of meeting her soul mate only to discover the mystery date misrepresented his ah, looks? When you subscribe and pay the monthly fee, you've also agreed to a mile-long list of Terms of Agreement. The old adage remains truer to day than ever: READ THE FINE PRINT. As reflected in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (the first real attempt to regulate porn in cyberspace) chances are that you can't shoot the messenger (the Web site). After all, you voluntarily chose to engage in Internet dating.

My advice, ditch the guy whose best picture entails sunglasses and a hat — that's never a good sign. After all what are they hiding? Go with an open mind, a certain measure of healthy skepticism and have a good time. Forget the legal remedies in this arena and rely on your own intuition and judgment.


NY Lawsuit Calls Ladies Night Discriminatory
Kiss Ladies Night Goodbye
Are Ladiess Nights Illegal?
The End of Ladies' Night in New Jersey
Wikipedia - Civil Rights Cases
Ladies' Night and the 14th Amendment
A Prostitute Turns to Craigslist, Law Takes Notice
Prostitution Ring Leads to 104 Arrests
Unwelcome Attention Invading
Teen Suspected of Using Craigslist for Prostitution
Many believe it's OK to lie online in search for love
Background checks split matchmaking sites


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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.