BYU prostitution rackets

Recently I was chatting with a young man who as thinking about attending BYU, and a third person chimed in to let him know it wasn’t all purity and goodness there, and told the following tale:

At BYU, there were some female students who ran a brothel out of their dorm rooms (usually identified as Heritage Halls). They would signal their availability by putting a tennis racket in the window, leaning one way to show they were currently with another client, the other to show they were available — a cunning secret code.

I’m prepared to stand corrected, but I’m pretty sure it’s a BYUrban legend. I often heard it when I was a BYU student, and I’ve seen reports of it having happened in the early 1980s … yet my mother reports having heard it as well back in the late 1950s, and she specifically identifies it with Heritage Halls, where she was an RA. For the unzoobified, Heritage Halls are dorms which are ‘apartment-style’ with no centralized, closely observed entrance, and in the 50s and 60s they were only for women. If the story originates in the 1950s and was specific to Heritage Halls, perhaps the original intent of the legend wasn’t just lascivious wishful thinking — it was also motivated by an anxiety about female students living in (relative) independence.

Here’s my own connection with the legend: when I lived in DT, we decided to put a tennis racket in our window, changing the position from time to time, to see if we got any response. We didn’t expect a trail of women (or men) to drop by for services rendered, but thought maybe some university official might come and tell us to take it down, thereby validating the story to some degree. After a semester, nobody said anything. Our attempt to get everyone in the building to put tennis rackets in their window was met with apathy and stupid questions.

So I assume the story is still around? Are there any variations? Are there any other ‘outlandish sinfulness at BYU’ legends?

Comments

  1. Heh…where is Steve EM when we need him?

  2. I think I heard a variation on my mission, but the location was Ricks.

  3. Eric Russell says:

    Are there any other ‘outlandish sinfulness at BYU’ legends?

    Norbert, one need look no further than the police beat in order to witness the cesspool of sin that has become BYU.

  4. Long ago, I dated a girl in Heritage Halls. She didn’t cost $1,000 an hour, but then our relationship was substantially more chaste, too. No tennis racket. Also, no 2nd date.

  5. The first date with the woman who became my wife occurred at BYU and it involved tennis racquets.

    Make of that what you will.

  6. Peter LLC says:

    She didn’t cost $1,000 an hour

    To be fair, you weren’t the student body president with a need for discretion either.

  7. Tru dat, Peter.

    Here is this week’s Police Beat. It is a scandal rag filled with treacherous activities of every evil. I quote:

    March 13: A female student was cited for shoplifting in the BYU Bookstore. The student stole $3.69 worth of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When asked why she stole them she said that she thought they were overpriced. When searched officers found $72 in cash on her person.

    March 14: A student called BYU police when she noticed three suspicious males walking around a parking lot. When police responded they determined that the suspicious males were actually grounds crew who had been picking up trash.

    March 15: A resident of Heritage Halls called BYU police to report a group of men playing basketball and listening to loud music at 12:30 a.m. BYU police told the men to stop playing and go to bed.

    President Samuelson, shut this whorehouse down!

  8. Steve, contrast that to my first day at Johns Hopkins and the talk we were given by the security officer: “Ladies and Gentlemen: do not walk around or near campus after dark. You will be mugged.”

  9. March 13: A female student was cited for shoplifting in the BYU Bookstore. The student stole $3.69 worth of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When asked why she stole them she said that she thought they were overpriced. When searched officers found $72 in cash on her person.

    Here’s what I love about BYU: even a blurb about petty theft becomes a morality tale.

  10. Totally, Norbert. Although I view her as a crusader. Those Reese’s ARE too expensive. Represent, Reese Girl!

  11. Peter LLC says:

    March 11: A BYU police officer observed a 25-year-old male stumbling across a parking lot near LaVell Edwards Stadium. The man, who smelled of alcohol, said he had not been drinking but when officers asked if he was lying he said yes

    Stuff like this forces my brain into a feedback loop. You’ve gotta be on top of it to be a copper on the BYU beat.

  12. The story I always hear about BYU involves couples driving down to Vegas and getting married so they can get it on, and then having the marriage annulled. I can’t even cite a source for that one.

  13. #12

    Who hasn’t done that? . . . . if you get your entire family home evening group down there you can switch partners the next day. ;)

  14. When I worked for the church several years ago, there was a comment circulated that was reported as having gone around BYU, in which the honorable young men were telling the stupid girls that “oral is moral”… and the girls as having been surprised to be asked to the Bishop’s office a week or two later….

    SL City Weekly also reported fairly recently that boys were asking girls to “float” – [PG-13 description of weird sexual practice deleted], under the guise of still being able to pass muster with the church…

    Real or Rumor? Who knows.

  15. I would just like to thank you all for directing me to such a fantastic source of humor, the BYU police beat. Move over The Onion, there’s a new sheriff in town.

    Feb. 8: A suspicious red vehicle was reported in a parking lot near LaVell Edwards Stadium. Upon being questioned the couple sitting in the car claimed that they were just studying.

    (yeah, we all studied in our cars)

    March 1: A student called BYU police when she observed four individuals at the duck pond attempting to catch ducks in a net. The officer who responded saw the individuals leaving the duck pond and ran after them. After being questioned the students said they were simply hanging out and did not know that they should not tamper with the ducks…

    (maybe they had a witch to try)

    March 10: Officers responded when they received a call that an adult duck was placed in a female dorm in Helaman Halls. The officers captured the frightened duck and returned it to the duck pond.

    (is HH home for those majoring in witchcraft?)

  16. tmi

  17. Not the exact story from the original post, but a guy that lived on the same floor as my brother was kicked out of BYU for being a pimp. He passed out cards that advertised a plan that would have them pay a certain amount to get transportation to a hotel in Salt Lake in which an escort would meet the young man. Then they would “see what happened”.

    I guess he passed out cards to the wrong people, because he was only in business for a couple of months before getting kicked out.

  18. The story I always hear about BYU involves couples driving down to Vegas and getting married so they can get it on, and then having the marriage annulled. I can’t even cite a source for that one.

    Heh. That was my stake. It happened around ’89. (Forget the exact date) I was in the stake a couple of years later but they were still talking about it. I HT the RS Pres of the ward and she was actually in the ward when it happened and all the crap came down.

  19. I should add that I also knew the guys who ran streaking through the tunnels over by Helaman Halls during the hymn singing Sunday night.

    I’ve always been surprised no one recognized them since at least a few of them were football players.

  20. One last “urban legend” I actually knew about. The infamous pillow fight that was broken up by the police around ’87 was started by a missionary companion of mine at DT. He and his friends, who started it all, were bright enough to take off well before the police arrived.

  21. This is a different but related legend. I served my mission in Tallahassee, FL. Prior to leaving, someone warned me that the FSU sororities would seduce Mormon missionaries as part of rush. When I told my friends (not Mormon) about the rumor, they all wanted to sign up for missions!

    For the record, I was not seduced.

  22. This is a different but related legend. I served my mission in Tallahassee, FL. Prior to leaving, someone warned me that the FSU sororities would seduce Mormon missionaries as part of rush. When I told my friends (not Mormon) about the rumor, they all wanted to sign up for missions!

    Hmm, we heard something similar in the MTC. Playgirl magazine had put out a bounty on LDS missionaries. The first woman that could sleep with one would win $100,000.

  23. I know that rumor’s fake, jjohnsen, because that’s easy pickins.

  24. I just assumed it was a ham-fisted way of trying to get Elders to stay away from women. “They’re out to get you!!!”.

  25. I was a BYU Library Security Guard. Yes, I got to wear the covetted blue blazer. It was a fun job (aside from yelling at kids not to bring in their Jamba Juices) Here’s my limited insight.

    The tennis racket thing is a true story (as per a career BYU police officer)

    Men were hooking up with other men on the 5th floor of the library- I talked with one of the officers that was part of the sting to catch the guys.

    During finals week my favorite activity was busting up make out sessions in the study rooms. Every finals week with out fail.

    In addition, it would surprise you the number of men that chose to look at porn in the BYU library, on public computers.

    My question is- if you want to live that lifestyle fine by me, but why try to live it at the Y? Especially when UVSC is within spitting distance?

  26. hawkgrrrl says:

    The exact same tennis racket prostitution story was told at a small private college I worked at in PA. Sometimes they said a lamp in the window, other times a tennis racket. One girl I worked with there said she was low on cash and offered to have sex for $50. No lamps or tennis rackets, just good old fashioned word-of-mouth.

    So apparently great ideas like tennis racket prostitution are inevitable like the invention of the wheel.

  27. A student called BYU police when she noticed three suspicious males walking around a parking lot.

    My Dad works at BYU and tells me that there are always “suspicious individuals” being reported in the police beat, and they usually are just non-white students or workers.

  28. #14

    Just had to point out this example (after having to look up ‘float’ in the Urban Dictionary):


    Ephraim convinced his girlfriend to float for a little while ensuring her there would be no smite from God.

    (Not that it’s really a good sentence. Reassuring her, perhaps. … What is wrong with me?)

    Note: as always, beware the Urban Dictionary!

  29. FHL, indeed!

  30. Steve Evans' Conscience says:

    Interestingly, the submission to the Urban Dictionary actually comes from diabloblanco from good old Utah.

    Floaters Represent!

  31. True Stories of Heritage Halls

    My (former) wife and I were dorm parents in Heritage Halls my senior year of college (1977-78). That put us in charge of 2 halls x 12 apartments per hall x 6 girls per apartment. In effect, I was acting in loco parentis for roughly 140 girls, mostly freshmen and sophomores. I was also the executive sec’y for the branch president, and he used me pretty much as a 3rd counselor, since I actually lived with the girls. So to speak.

    I had the responsibility of going around every evening at curfew (midnight Sun-Thur, 1:30 am Fri-Sat) and (a) kicking all the guys out of the apartments and halls themselves, and (b) making sure all the outside doors to the apartments were locked. In actual practice, I traded off with the husband of another dorm parent couple; we’d take turns doing all four halls on alternating nights. My sleep habits have never been the same since.

    We had relatively few serious problems with the girls themselves. However, two specific instances come to mind.

    The first just involved one of our girls and a guy she was dating. Her roommates approached me, expressing concerns that the guy was somehow mistreating and/or coercing the girl. They didn’t have really hard evidence, and the girl herself wouldn’t discuss much with them, but it’s hard to hide a lot when you’re sharing a small apartment with five other girls.

    That evening, when the young man came to pick up the young woman, I met both of them on the outside front porch of the hall “just to talk” for a minute and raised in very low key terms the concerns the roommates had. It was clear within seconds that there was a real problem here. The girl wouldn’t say much, mostly looking at the ground. The guy was controlled but defiant, with an undercurrent of rage.

    I remember thinking at the time that talking with him was a bit like talking to Korihor. He was glib and denied any problems or improprieties, but there was something very wrong, and it was clear that he had a lot of hostility towards me, towards the girl’s roommates, and possibly towards the girl herself. The longer we talked, the greater the rage I could sense. This wasn’t the indignant anger of the unjustly accused; it was a really nasty emotion coming off of him. But he denied any problems or improprieties, and she wouldn’t say anything at all. After 30 minutes or so, we ended the conversation, and they left.

    I conveyed my concerns to the branch president, and he brought her in for an interview a few days later (the guy was from another student branch). She pretty quickly broke down and acknowledged everything that the roommates had feared: emotional abuse bordering on the physical at times, along with sexual activity that she didn’t really want to go along with but felt that she had to. She ended up dropping out of BYU and going home to get away from him; he ended up getting kicked out of BYU.

    The second instance was a whole apartment of girls gone bad (so to speak), using a mutual code of silence to protect themselves. Seriously, I think they were out to see how many different aspects of the BYU Honor Code they could violate. My wife and I knew that something was not right there — as a dorm parent, you get very good at picking upon the ‘spirit’ of a given apartment, and there were some strange incidents that happened with that apartment. But there wasn’t much we could do other than relay our concerns to the branch president.

    A few weeks later, one of the girls went in to see him, and pretty much spilled all that had been going on in the apartment. She was genuinely worried about what the other girls might do and asked to be transfered not just to another apartment but to another housing complex, which she was. The branch president brought in each of the other girls in for individual interviews, but they denied everything the first girl had said. However, a day or so later, a letter came to the apartment for the girl who had left, and one of the girls still there — the one who was pretty much the ringleader of the whole thing — wrote on the back of the envelope, “Bitch! I don’t get mad — I get even” (the first time I think I ever heard that phrase) and left it sitting out in the commons area to be forwarded to the girl’s new location.

    Not a smart move. The branch president called each of the girls in again, telling them about the note on the letter — and the code of silence pretty much broke. The five girls were all moved out of that apartment to other housing locations; I suspect some if not all (including the first girl) ended up going home as their various Honor Code violations were processed.

    The apartment itself remained empty for the rest of the school year (another 2-3 months). I still had to check its front (inside) and back (outside) doors every other night on my rounds. And I’ll tell you — I’m as hard-headed as the next person, but that empty apartment had a very dark and unpleasant feel to it. It was on the top floor of one of the halls, and I did not enjoy walking up the outside stairs at 2 in the morning to check its back door; my skin would just crawl.

    But the rest of the girls were a delight. :-) ..bruce..

  32. Ever been to Juicy Campus?

    Just let your skin “crawl” with lovely tidbits from the BYU section.

    It’s not just an Mormon Urban Legend….

    http://www.juicycampus.com/

    (*Warning* Site takes forever to load)

  33. Jennifer in GA says:

    “This is a different but related legend. I served my mission in Tallahassee, FL. Prior to leaving, someone warned me that the FSU sororities would seduce Mormon missionaries as part of rush. “

    Dude! I grew up in FL and went to college there, and I heard this rumor about certain FSU sororities, too! I heard it from both LDS folk who lived in Tallahassee, as well as a non-member high school friend who went to FSU. Never heard it about any other Florida school, though. Just FSU.

  34. fred giorgi says:

    I knew 2 men who were participating in 58-59.

  35. The tennis racket thing is a true story (as per a career BYU police officer)

    Sorry, not convinced. Cops don’t engage in legends?

    During finals week my favorite activity was busting up make out sessions in the study rooms. Every finals week with out fail.

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. (Ahem.)

  36. Peter LLC says:

    I’m with Norbert on the tennis racket–pics or it didn’t happen. If it did, the 5-0 was no doubt in cahoots (remember, power corrupts).

    if you want to live that lifestyle fine by me, but why try to live it at the Y?

    Checking out teh pr0n in the BYU library is a “lifestyle”?

  37. John Deacon says:

    When you place thousands of 20-30 year old males and females into one area and expect nothing untoward to take place then this is a great folly. Even if the students are generally obedient, temptation creeps in. Why does BYU have rules stopping members of the opposite sex in each others dorms and have the necessary security measures? Because the leaders know that this stuff will happen!!

  38. Why does BYU have rules stopping members of the opposite sex in each others dorms and have the necessary security measures? Because the leaders know that this stuff will happen!!

    On the other hand, forbidden fruit is always so much sweeter, isn’t it. It could also be argued that making extensive and often arbitrary rules regarding interaction between men and women creates an atmosphere of even more sexual tension. What do you expect if you tell kids you expect them to fornicate when they’re together?

  39. RE: Seducing Elders. This profile of Mormon missionaries from the University of Michigan campus paper includes a story, related by an Elder Stoker, of missionaries in downtown Ann Arbor being “chased by bikini-clad mud wrestlers.”

    It’s a very interesting read.

  40. John Deacon says:

    (What do you expect if you tell kids you expect them to fornicate when they’re together?)
    Its not that this is or should be accepted however it is in reality EXPECTED to happen. The phrasing of Matt G’s statement is that we tell all these kids we expect you to fornicate so here are the rules!! This isn’t the case – as with all commandments and even guidelines they are there to protect and guide.

  41. Why does BYU have rules stopping members of the opposite sex in each others dorms and have the necessary security measures?

    Well, one of the unintended consequences is the undying gratitude of the roommates. I did my undergrad at a different university, and I was sick to death of my roommates letting their slobby boyfriends move in. I didn’t want to live with a guy, even if my roommate did. (Maybe I would have thought differently if I had a boyfriend. I hope I wouldn’t have been that thoughtless and selfish, but maybe I would have.)

    Moving to BYU was great. The guys went home! And they kept their food in their own fridge! And I didn’t have to try to sleep with a roommate three feet away in bed with her boyfriend!

    I loved the Honor Code rules about getting the guys out of the apartment by curfew.

  42. I agree with MattG’s comment #38. My son is a college freshman in a coed dorm (which includes fully coed bathrooms). Almost because of the constant proximity to each others’ most intimate personal movements (bowel and otherwise), his coed lifestyle almost serves as “chastity insurance”. As an added bonus, the LDS Institute program there is fabulous, he has a bunch of other Mormon froshes with whom he hangs, and he “seems” to be right on-track for a mission. His parents wouldn’t trade his “secular school” experience for anything BYU has to offer, and I as his Dad am a proud BYU alum.

  43. Re #31- That last apartment didn’t happen to be Maeser 71, did it? ‘Cause I lived in that apartment a while back and there was some WEIRD @#$% going on. Didn’t have anything to do with the roommates… the apartment itself had something freaky goin’ on.

  44. I don’t know how young ladies at Heritage Halls found the time for bad doin’s. In my era, we were kept so busy with weekly apartment inspections, waxing the floors, stripping the wax (“because the floor is waxed too often”), cleaning the door hinges with Q-tips. Perhaps my dorm parents detected a dark spirit of resentment . . .

  45. One last “urban legend” I actually knew about. The infamous pillow fight that was broken up by the police around ‘87 was started by a missionary companion of mine at DT. He and his friends, who started it all, were bright enough to take off well before the police arrived.

    There is a guy in my ward who claims to have been one of the instigators (I’m sure there’s about 1000 of them.)

    I heard the tennis rackets were in play at the apartment complex across from the tennis courts.

  46. David S. says:

    While at BYU I did hear some variant of the Heritage Halls prostitution legend (around ’96 or ’97, I think). Sadly, my memory is a little fuzzy; I know there was some kind of signal supposed to have been placed in the window, but I can’t recall what it was (but tennis rackets don’t ring a bell, so I think it must have been something else in the version I heard).

  47. Oh, and DW says that there was a lot of sex around Branbury. From what she’s heard, of course. There was a girl affectionately named “Socks” by local residents because that’s all she wore at night, with the blinds open…

  48. Which Branbury? The one over by 24 Hour Fitness or the one over on 6th North?

    Oh, regarding the pillow fight, he did have photos though. He said they planned the whole thing and planned getting out of the area.

    Anyone remember when people got busted at BYU football games for throwing taco shells? LOL

    What’s funny is that while there definitely were problems around campus (there were women attacked on the hill and in the library – the Brent Snipper joke at the Student Review was unfortunate because they didn’t know what wasn’t being reported but what was going on there) the facts is that BYU is remarkably safe and tame.

    Yeah there’s sex and drugs around campus. But the level of wildness compared to any other campus is remarkably low.

  49. Ah, the Branbury! “The sacrament trays come back full at the Branbury.”

    Normally you hear stuff like that and think “Whatever,” but that apartment complex actually did lose BYU approval for a year around 2005 because the student ward there had so many issues.

  50. shut this whorehouse down!

    All in favor manifest by raising the right hand.

    Any opposed may also so signify.

  51. theirongiant says:

    I’ve got a story from my freshman days at Deseret Towers. It’s about two guys on my floor who were quite fond of living the high life.

    I was up late, around 2AM, when I decided to go wandering through the halls. The doors were very poorly insulated for sound, so you could always hear people walking up and down the hallways at night. Well, I tiptoed down toward a friend’s room, when I passed by a door and noticed a peculiar smell. Something that I hadn’t really experienced before. It was like smoke, but not cigarettes. It was… sweeter…and strangely intoxicating.

    I got the R.A. to come check it out for himself. He took one whiff and knew it wasn’t good at all. He immediately got on the phone with the cops, who showed up about 20 minutes later. We stood down the hall and waited for him to get inside. The two boys were escorted out the building about 10 minutes later.

    They had indeed been smoking marijuana in that room. Our R.A. told us later that they had constructed a crude ventilation system with garbage bags and a desk fan, in an attempt to suck the smoke out the window.

    The police found them with enough to earn a misdemeanor possession charge, and of course, an automatic dismissal from BYU.

  52. StillConfused says:

    What does “floating” mean?

  53. One last “urban legend” I actually knew about. The infamous pillow fight that was broken up by the police around ‘87 was started by a missionary companion of mine at DT.

    I was there, not in the crowd, but I arrived back at DT after a date to find the place covered with feathers. The building was locked so the RA could indentify who was involved when they straggled back home. Fortunately I knew the RA well and she believed me when I said I wasn’t involved.

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