Are you a rich man looking to have sex and other companionship with a beautiful girl or woman? Are you a beautiful woman looking to have your school, clothes, rent, and/or vacations paid for in exchange for sex and companionship? Fear not, there are many options for you: sugardaddie.com, sugarbaby4u.com, seekingarrangement.com, sugardaddyforme.com…and more.
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.
I think the most disturbing quote I found on the link was the belief by one of the “sugarbabies” that these sugar daddies “respect her.” It really emphasizes how important it is for people to internally recognize and claim their own human dignity…..
Hi Charles, I got to your post via Jana Bennet. I study sex and religion within evangelical Protestantism so am always looking for a good conversation partner. I had some thoughts on this post–the first is that my understanding of hook-up culture is something that is a “no-strings-attached” kind of situation which has different social and ethical ramifications for different sexes based on our assumptions of who should and shouldn’t be sexually active. I draw this from Donna Freitas’ work on sex, religion and college students. The relationship you are describing here seems to me to fall more into the category of of the sex-trade–it’s a long-term economic arrangement which hook-ups are not. Which takes me to my second thought: for much of human history marriage *was* a long-term economic arrangement. When I read about this couple, it makes me grateful that we now have more just marriage practices and are working to make them increasingly so. But I am not convinced that these “sugarbaby” relationships don’t still function as part of some marriage relationships. Here’s a question to you, if this couple were legally married would this change the nature of their relationship? A question I’ll be pondering today.
Hi Sarah, thanks for engaging. As I’m sure you are aware, the hook-up sexual culture goes well beyond the college context. Though it is obviously a diverse phenomenon, the basic idea of this culture (which is now mainstream) is that sex is a transaction in which one uses one’s partner merely as a means to an end. That end could be sexual pleasure, social status, money, companionship for an evening, hope for a future relationship, etc. There is nothing about a hook up that means it must be short-term…indeed, one could have a hook-up buddy for many months or even years…even while seriously dating someone else. Likewise, there is nothing about sugardaddy/baby relationships which imply they must be long term (though it could be)…it is just that it is explicitly about money as part of the exchange. Indeed, many are short-term. A traditional college hook up relationship could last longer than that of a sugardaddy/baby hook up.
It is difficult to compare our contemporary understanding of marriage to the kinds of relationships you describe from history (one of the problems that some run into when they try to describe marriage as “always” been the way most of us understand it today). In light of this, and even beyond the fact that these relationship are not long-term, I do think it is difficult to understand these sugardaddy/baby relationships as anything other than an extension of the hook up culture. This guy, Tommy, had six other women who were also playing the role of sugarbaby in his life. The two women profiled also had multiple sugardaddies at various times. In my opinion, it isn’t analogous to marriage (at least as most of us understand it today) at all.
This sounds suspiciously similar to prostitution… Or the mistress concept…