Mother Jones recently raised an interesting, and what seems to me, an ongoing question among feminists: Is prostituting yourself to pay the bills selling out?
In her first person account, Nicole McClelland “test-drove“ SugarDaddyForMe, an online service that pairs up young women struggling to pay their bills with rich men who want an extramarital affair or “just love to pamper a special someone.“ The 27-year-old McClelland — although she knocked four years off her age to catch an online sugar daddy — learned about the service through friends who were supplementing their incomes with it.
Initially, she could not see herself sleeping with the man she found on the site.
Few things are less appetizing than a man four years my father’s junior, a dumpy, pasty, greedy-eyed man in a gray suit who says he doesn’t care to screw fat women because they’re harder to overpower, asking me over a big bowl of warm apple crisp if I like anal sex. But since he’s just offered me $3,000 a month plus perks—gifts, dinners, shopping sprees—to get naked with him once a week, I keep my tight young ass in its place, laugh politely, and pick up my fork.
Sure, the men are disgusting and misogynist such as SugarDaddy.com owner Steve Pasternack who in this article nonchalantly commented, “It’s just natural for guys to want to take care of women and women to want to be taken care of. It’s hard to find a nice guy that’s successful and so isn’t gonna split the bill at McDonald’s.“ “Nice guys“ cheat on their wives online? What a creep.
But as McClelland depressingly pointed out, what if you had no money and these guys were willing to pick up the tab on your rent? In this case, the women came off as sympathetic rather than gold-diggers. Plus, it appears that sites like SugarDaddy.com are perfectly legal — so what’s the problem?
“Under California law, solicitation is to offer or accept anything of value for sexual services,” says former San Jose police chief and Hoover Institute fellow Joseph McNamara. “But this is right on the line. If the relationship exists for some time and the guy is mega-rich, he can give you whatever he wants; it’s not prostitution anymore. Let’s face it—a lot of relationships are like that. It’s a common thing.”
My friend of the disheartening post-graduate-school job search initially scowls when I tell her what Daddy No. 2 offered me. When I point out that it took me two days to get two offers that pay more than my job at Mother Jones, that I could make $9,600 a month—$115,200 a year—and the average starting salary for someone with humanities masters’ like ours is $39,808, she sighs, “I really don’t know if I could stand banging some disgusting creep for money. But there are really some pretty compelling reasons to try.”
It is the same sentiment that I’ve elicited from a lawyer, who says, “I paid 100 grand to go to law school, and I could make more money on my back,” the same response I get from an executive assistant, a service-industry worker, and a teacher, who hold five degrees between them. Even Rosen, after asking me how much I’m “worth,” exclaims, “That’s a lot! Think about your income. Think about mine. I’m not advocating this; I’m just saying I can understand the calculations.”
Of course, what these young women may not be thinking about is they won’t be able to pay their bills this way forever. Eventually, their online sugar daddies — more like creeps — will find out they are 27, or GASP, in their 30s. Then what? Perhaps that $30,000 a year job isn’t so bad after all.
Also, I disagree with Pasternack that this “trend“ — his site boasts 200,000 users — means young women simply want to be “taken care of.“ Rather it is emblematic of the sad situation that an increasing number of college students are graduating with debt and unable to secure jobs to pay for it. Then there are these creepy old guys online exploiting the situation. This is my read on it.
But I do not begrudge the young women who are simply trying to stay afloat.