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This morning at the gym I saw a story on Good Morning America in which they interviewed two people involved in this kind of arrangement. Their explanations involved appeals to “choice”, “social status”, “fun” and the fact that what they are doing just reflects what is already happening in our sexual culture anyway.
It is difficult to argue with them on the last point, at least.
The exchanges between the reporter and Tommy, a 63-year-old thrice-divorced sugar daddy (who started “dating” sugar baby Monte when she was 19…around the same age as his two children), were particularly interesting:
Reporter (voice over): [The relationship with Monte] is cheaper than a marriage, [Tommy] says.
Tommy: When you walk into a room and you have a beautiful woman with you, it is complement to you…as a male. It’s like pulling up in a really nice car or something.
Reporter (to Tommy): So Monte is like a really nice car?
Reporter: If there were no sex involved with Monte, would you still bring her and your other sugar babies around for companionship and still give them money?
Tommy: No. That’s a big part of the attraction.
Reporter: Are you paying for sex with a young girl?
Tommy: Well, you know, you pay for sex somehow, someway no matter what it is.
Tommy’s relationship with Monte would be even more sad and pathetic if is he wasn’t (mostly) correct in making his last point. Our hook up culture understands sex as primarily about using one’s partner as a thing or object for some other end, rather than treating sex as mutual self-gift and persons as ends in themselves. Especially when the free market gets involved (as it tends to do with “things” and “objects”) as it has in our sexual culture, it is hardly surprising to end up with Tommy and Monte.
Once again we see that promotion of mere sexual “choice” and “autonomy”–especially when we refuse to examine the social structures framing and coercing our choices, or to have a normative understanding of what a flourishing sexual life looks like–does not lead to anything like authentic freedom. Quite the contrary. It merely re-inscribes many of the very evils (like the sexual objectification of women and other vulnerable populations in our culture) that the promotion of sexual choice and autonomy was thought to resist.