There was an interesting article posted on the HuffPo detailing SeekingArrangements.com, a website pairing “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies.” The sugar babies are overwhelmingly college aged women and recent graduates saddled with a variety of financial obligations, and the sugar daddies are your typical wealthy older men who have a fixation with women young enough to be their granddaughters.
Inspired by the article, I began to wonder if I knew anyone who may be a sugar baby, or would consider being one. My friends and I are generally middle to upper middle class with college degrees, and many of us have, at the very least, student loan debt. None of us ever talked about finances in college, but once we graduated, it became a lot more common for us to occasionally freak out about the debt that we’ll eventually have to pay back (yay for deferment options!). I couldn’t think of anyone I know who would seriously take up being a sugar baby, and a huge part of that has to do with our privilege. We come from middle to upper class households. We have parents who are able to support us while we’re still trying to stand on our own feet. We know we’ll never have to starve, that we’ll always have a home to go to.
But not everyone has access to familial support. Whether their parents can’t afford it, or refuse to, some women are left with extremely limited options. And I can understand the temptation to go into sex work, when you’re wondering how you can pay your rent, let alone any kind of other debt. One of the most common responses to that sentiment is to get a more respectable job. To work as many jobs as possible to make ends meet. But on a purely economical standpoint, sex work is incredibly effective. Let’s say you’re working 60 hours a week at a slightly above minimum wage job, say, $8.00. Pre-tax, that’s $480. Whereas in a sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship, one could easily receive $300 for two hours of work. Theoretically, the choice seems rather obvious. But our society has decided to deem sex work as completely amoral and disgusting. Whether this is because of a general proclivity towards slut shaming and misogyny, or a Puritanical religious bias could be debated for ever, the truth remains that women who engage in sex work are overwhelmingly seen as dirty and worthy of scorn and disgust.
I can’t help but feel immense sympathy for these women. Sex work is difficult. It offers no security. The risks are great. The stigma attached would make it so difficult for a woman to turn to most people for support. I know that there are some women who go into sex work completely by choice. They do it to have access to lavish shopping sprees, to an extravagant lifestyle filled with unnecessary luxuries, not because they need to scrape by. And I don’t even see the point in harshly judging these women. If they want to get paid to spread their legs, that’s their prerogative. As I’ve said before, I don’t find slut shaming to be acceptable in any context.
Yet the discussion rarely turns to putting the focus on the men who choose to buy sex. Especially in the case of older men paying younger for sex, the exploitation here is so blatant. Men are the reason why sex work continues to exist and thrive. They are the overwhelming majority of consumers. Why don’t men receive the same scrutiny and disgust that the women do? Is it because they are the ones holding the privilege and the power? I find the dynamics of sex work, the intersection of gender and class and the fact that the majority of sugar babies are under 25, to be far more interesting than the knee-jerk reaction that “girls who have sex for money are dirty whores.”
But what do you think? Is it ever acceptable to have sex for money? How would you react if one of your friends told you she was a sugar baby? What are feasible alternatives to paying for overwhelming expenses?