Super Saccharine: Seekingarrangements.com April 17, 2009Posted by Onely in As If!, Dating, Food for Thought.
Tags: Beth Bailey, feminism, heteronormative, power dynamic, Ruth Padawer, seekingarrangements.com, sugar baby, sugar daddy
Lisa 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?
P.S. post-posting update: Anxious Black Woman actually also wrote on this topic. Check out her terrific analysis. . .