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Super Saccharine: Seekingarrangements.com April 17, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Dating, Food for Thought.
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images1Lisa found an interesting New York Times article by Ruth Padawer about a web site that hooks rich men up with young, beautiful, financially strapped women, often college students working their way through school. The Sugar Daddies provide their Sugar Babies with money, gifts, trips, and swank (often under the euphemism “mentoring”) in exchange for companionship, sex, and arm candy. 

Before I read the article, I thought I knew how I felt about this site, Seekingarrangements.com: Yuck!  But the piece includes some very interesting quotes from users of the site, Seekingarrangement.com, that shed new light on the practice of being a daddy or a baby. After reading the article, my feelings about Seekingarrangements.com were: Still Yuck!  

Whether or not you think this site amounts to prostitution (I’m not sure), it is undeniably perpetuating a sexist power dynamic. As Padawer says, “The ‘baby’ is the one who regulates her appearance, schedule, behavior and emotions to make the payer feel special.” (The baby is overwhelmingly female, and only one percent of the sugar daddies are actually sugar mommies). 

I’ll paste a couple of the more interesting quotes from Padawer’s article below and let our Copious Readership weigh in. What do you all think?

How different is it from dating, really?:

Most [users of the site] go to considerable effort to distinguish between “sugar” and prostitution. (Legally, at least, they are right; since the 1970s, courts have ruled that as long as the woman is paid for some service besides sex — housecleaning, companionship — the arrangement is not the equivalent of prostitution.) They say being a sugar baby is no more an occupation than dating is, especially when the goal of dating is to find a rich boyfriend or a wealthy husband. They routinely turn down creeps interested in nothing but sex.

‘You know with a sugar daddy that they’re spending a lot of money on you and they clearly want something in return, but is that really any different than how it is with a boyfriend?’ –Seekingarrangements member Mercedes

 Um, pretty different, actually:

In interviews and on the blog, the site’s members parse the nuances of the sex and money transactions. “I read on a post about asking 10k if you’re model material . . . so because I ask for so little, am I ‘on sale’?” wrote one woman.

But it’s not easy to categorize relationships–and we at Onely profess to support a wide range of relationships that fall outside of the (heteronormative) man-woman-marriage model.  The problem is, Seekingarrangments follows exactly the historical heteronormative man-woman-marriage model that set women up as the comforters and financial subservients of men. Sometimes it’s not so easy to distinguish Seekingarrangements from marriage:

Some sugar babies also insist that wives who stay in miserable marriages for an American Express black card, mansion or country-club membership are more like prostitutes than they are. 

Is that a progressive view or just a way or rationalizing away feelings of prostitution? The article quotes Temple University historian of courtship Beth Bailey, who like me had an initial feeling of “revulsion” for the site, but then “reconsidered it within the historical context of dating”:

Heterosexual relationships, including marriage, have long involved economic transactions, but Bailey points out that when men provided financial security, they traditionally did so in exchange for a woman’s sexual virtue (and potential to bear and rear children), not for sexual thrills. For that, they often turned to prostitutes and mistresses, involving a more frank money-for-sex exchange. It’s only in the last century that money has been traded — albeit indirectly — for sexual attention from “respectable” unmarried women. 

Thoughts, anyone? Seekingarrangements.com: Gross or enlightened? 

–Christina

P.S. post-posting update: Anxious Black Woman actually also wrote on this topic. Check out her terrific analysis. . .

Comments»

1. Lauri - April 17, 2009

Definitely not enlightened. Gross? perhaps. Sad? Yes.

You have to wonder how a woman (Mercedes) was raised, and how her life has been going, if she thinks regular dating and having a boyfriend means that you put out and he puts down.

I agree that it is perhaps no different than a large number of marriages, but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t agree with those marriages either. I don’t believe that one partner in any marriage should financially benefit from the hard work of the other, even if it’s not “traded” for sex. Where I come from, that’s called mooching.

There are few female stereotypes I hate more than the gold digger, yet it is still so pervasive it’s shocking. In addition to the gold digger, these women are enforcing the stereotype that women don’t like sex- they have to be compensated for doing it, it’s a job.

I find nothing less appealing than the sugar daddy situation. I have been on and off online dating for the past several years, and the numbers of emails I have gotten that suggest the partnership are ridiculous. You don’t need this particular site to find a sugar daddy/baby, trust me. Since I was 24, the vast majority of emails I’ve gotten from men on normal online dating sites (match, yahoo, okcupid) have been 45-65 year-olds. Usually these older men stress in their emails that they have a good a job, a house, a nice car, etc., and that if I want “live the good life” I should go out with them. I have gotten so mad at points I’ve written back and told them to find a woman their own age- I have my own job, house, and car, and I also already have a dad.

2. autonomous - April 17, 2009

Having grown up in the sin-state: my take on this is that it is HONEST. Is it just the sex factor that bothers? What if it’s great sex? So here, at this sugar web-site, the parties on both sides enter into an arrangement in which the expectations are known up front and the scales are balanced. I am not bothered by this. Excepting that it does reinforce other gender stereotypes, who cares? It’s like someone in Russia looking to marry in the U.S.- they make a trade for a better life opportunity.

So, my view is that if a person desires a lifestyle that exceeds what they can attain at a $10-$20/hour job and they do so by being supported in exchange for fulfilling certain obligations, that’s their choice and they must accept the possible consequences that go along with it.
All choices have benefits and consequences. I nearly made this choice once, but wasn’t willing to accept the consequences of losing my integrity/self-worth; loneliness; future divorce mess etc. I won’t cast stones on people looking for security. It’s fear driven and I understand it even if I’ve found a different kind of self-reliant security.

Seriously, for a great many people it’s more degrading to flip burgers and live on the edge of poverty than to “date or marry up” or work in certain “professions”: I knew a girl in Houston who was putting herself through med-school by dancing. She freely admitted that she wasn’t willing to give up the $10K per month for a retail job making beans because she wanted to achieve her goals while maintaining her personal comfort- she said she handled the degrading atmosphere because she didn’t take it personally and she was simply driven. I always thought of her as more empowered than a victim.

People marry/date up: always have, always will. I don’t think it’s the same as Mooching when there are two consenting individuals to an arrangement. Moochers take advantage to the detriment of another, and no, I don’t respect that.

Of course I don’t condone in any way the degradation and abuse that often goes along with prostitution, stripping, what have you (here, the ranches are much safer), but that happens all too commonly in traditional marriages and families- how many of us have been on the receiving end of ugly words, a back-hand or fist from a boyfriend, a husband, a parent?

Healthy respect and expectations should ultimately be desired regardless the nature and parameters of any human relationship. If two parties agree and each benefits without hurting the other, where’s the harm? It does fall in with right-living as I understand it.

3. bobby - April 18, 2009

It can be a tough call. I usually say live and let live if all parties concerned are happy and consenting with an arraignment.

This is one of those areas where points can be made from many perspectives. I’m neither enlightened nor grossed out.

4. Singlutionary - April 18, 2009

Gross if these women feel that they have no other option. Enlightened if the power dynamic turns them on. Sad because this furthers the cultural bias that a woman’s worth is in her beauty and youth and a man’s worth is in his money and success. Beauty and youth fade and then women are left value-less.

Although money and success are fading pretty quick these days too.

Christina39 - November 5, 2011

This is where Women’s Lib has brought us. I could see it coming! When you break down tradition, you break down tradition.

5. Special K - April 23, 2009

Like most organizations, this one is out to make money, but I appreciate the face validity of their arrangements. I am a proponent of legalizing prostitution, actually. We’d be able to place some healthy guidelines on the transactions and procedures and give the women access to more benefits. There are many men and women who use sex for monetary sidekicks…let’s be honest. There are many marriages that still are functioning based on economic need. and I want to suggest that this isn’t necessarily unhealthy per see….but certainly not an arrangement that would be healthy for me.

onely - April 23, 2009

Good points, K. Particularly about marriages being created for economic/social convenience. How could people not grativate toward marriage, when it’s loaded with so many tempting benefits and safety nets? The natural outcome of that (which singles blogs mention all the time of course) are unhappy marriages, the natural outcome of which (can be) alternative ways of meeting needs that an unhappy marriage–or a marriage based purely on legal and social logistics–doesn’t meet.

Hm, yes. Trying to articulate late at night. . . difficult. . .
CC

6. trauma queen - April 24, 2009

interesting points everyone has raised…but I am curious..how young are the sugar babies? legal age limits? I just think it’s a bit sad because whatever said and done..younger people are typically made use of….and that’s what’s happening here..and that’s just sad…

are there any sugar babies who are men? yes..the gender stereotypes are a tad bit disgusting too… and creepy…really creepy…i will pay for your college ed if u sleep around with me.

how can the babies be sure they will be paid once they enter this ‘arrangement’?

onely - April 25, 2009

ooohh interesting! I was getting all obsessed with the gender dynamic, but really, if you think about it, there is also the young-old dynamic, which we haven’t really talked about. I’m sure that the babies are *supposed* to be 18, but how to ever really know, right? I guess it’s similar to how can the babies ever know they’ll really be paid, unless they get the check *before* the date/hookup. Good point.

The article said that the site does contain some men babies, sponsored by the relatively few sugar mamas on the site or the (also relatively few, I think) homosexual sugar daddies on the site. I think the numbers of these people are so small that we can’t rationalize away the sexism of the site by saying “Oh, but there are also male babies!” You know.
–Christina

7. Libertarian - April 26, 2009

As long as everyone involved with seekingarrangement.com is an informed and consenting adult, and as long as the activity is legal, I have no problem with this website.

Christina, I don’t see anything sexist going on. To me, sexism requires a double standard: something that is ok for one sex is not ok for the other sex.

From what I can tell from the NYT article, no one is forcing these men or women to register for the site. And no one is preventing a sugar mommy from enjoying the equal opportunity to hire a male baby.

So where is the double standard? I can’t see one.

I have no idea why there are so few sugar mommies on this particular website, but I suspect this has nothing to do with sexism and more to do with marketing.

Don’t believe me? A quick google search reveals a plethora of websites:
EliteMeeting.com
http://www.sugarmomma.com
http://www.seekingsugarmomma.com
http://www.cougarmingle.com
http://www.sugarmommydate.com

Etc….

So the evidence for sexism simply isn’t there.

8. Singletude - May 24, 2009

I guess the way I see it is that most relationships involve some kind of trade-off. Very few people can bring the “total package” to the table, so we make use of what we have to attract others. Maybe that’s youth and looks, maybe that’s financial success, or maybe it’s something else like fame, talent, popularity, or who knows what else.

These are among the more shallow trade-offs one can make. Of course it would be better if the only trade-offs we made encompassed traits that were more than skin deep such as extroversion/introversion, spontaneity/stability, or rationality/emotionality. But I don’t think we can deny the physicality of the human condition and the physical needs that accompany it.

9. therise02 - March 6, 2010

so i was in a relationship with a girl i thought was going to one day be my wife. To make a long story short, we eventually broke up because of many reasons, but i had the pleasure of finding out AFTER we broke up that WHILE we were going out, my girlfriend at the time was using seekingarrangements.com. How did I find this? Oh you know, she decided while it was in progress to blog all about the experience. Great! Let me just say I dont think I have ever been as mad, and betrayed as when I found out. I wrote her a very long email – just stating that you said all these things when we were going out, and now I find this…..your a liar. If I had found this out while we were going out, I think I would have dumped her on the spot. This girl had just turned 21. We were living together, and I was paying financially for most of the bills, groceries, accessories, leisure activities, etc. Im sorry to say this, but when a girl stoops to the level of finding a “sugar daddy” instead of getting a job – 1. I think your a whore. (im sure im not the only one who thinks that, and in reality…you ARE a whore. | 2. You give a very bad name/image to those confident, strong women, who do the ‘right thing’ to make money, and support their children or whatever it might be.

In closing, please, to help those guys who are looking for wholesome women to marry and have children with and a wonderful life (we need good mothers these days more than ever) If you wanna be a whore, be a whore and stay away from having a monogamous relationship, filtering out the good women for those guys who are looking for substance.

Onely - March 7, 2010

I’m sorry to hear that your girlfriend did that to you. What a gross betrayal. I would caution against calling all women who use the sugar-daddy service whores, though. If it suits their purposes and they’re not betraying anyone else (as clearly wasn’t the case in your situation), then I wouldn’t necessarily automatically classify them as unwholesome. I’m not comfortable with the fact that those women are helping to perpetuate the harmful, sexist dynamic of “powerful male/young beautiful female”, but “whore” is a tad perjorative–especially because we don’t have an equivalent word for the men who pay the women, nor for young men who rent themselves out to sugar mommas.

Christina

Onely - February 2, 2010

Issue 1: I am addressing the sugar-mama/daddy issue, not the age-gap issue. The site commercializes relationships, which given the world’s current gender power dynamic invariably favors men–hence the large number of sugardaddies as compared to sugarmamas. (But sugar mamas are as disturbing as sugar daddies.) I’m all for older women dating younger men. I am not for people buying other people’s company. That is what I was trying to structure this post around–not so much the older woman/younger man thing.

Issue 2: Where is the male equivalent to the term “cougar”? I am not comfortable giving older women who date younger name an animal-name label. I think it perpetuates the “othering” of older women-younger men relationships.


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