Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An "arrangement" to pay the bills

Huffington Post recently posted an article about women working with sugar daddies to pay tuition or other bills.  It's a follow up look at the business Seeking Arrangement which the New York Times profiled in 2009

It seems that the most common demographics on the site are young women trying to pay tuition and older, financially secure men looking for companionship.  Women in the article reported being given between $300-$500 or as much as $2,500 per night for their services.  The New York Times article states that sugar babies out number daddies 10 to 1, not the best odds for a student looking to negotiate a favorable deal, but also quotes monthly retainers of $1,000 to up to $10,000.  Around 30% of relationships through the site have a monthly "allowance" and they average $1-2,000 per month.
Roberts asked 315 college students at a university in London about their participation in sex work. The findings were stark. Nearly 17 percent said they would be willing to participate in the sex trade in order to pay for their education, while 11 percent indicated a willingness to work directly as escorts. A decade ago, only 3 percent answered in the affirmative. Today's respondents are far more likely to have peers who are working in the industry. HuffPo
 In other European cities the findings were even more stark:
In Berlin, a city where prostitution is legal, they found that one in three university students would consider sex work as a viable means of financing their studies. Nearly 30 percent of students in Paris similarly responded in the affirmative. Finally, of the 3,200 Berlin students sampled, 30 percent of students working in the sex industry reported being in some amount of education-related debt.  HuffPo
My guess would be that the correlation between debt and sex work of the Berlin students would also be found in American students.  I'm doubtful that women register for the site purely out of greed for money or fancy presents and that most of them have significant financial hardship they're trying to deal with. 
In fact, Seeking Arrangement pays to have its ads pop up on search engines whenever someone types in “student loan,” “tuition help,” “college support” or “help with rent.” Lola was one of many to stumble on the site that way, when — behind on her rent and tuition and down to one meal a day — she Googled “student loan.” What popped up was hardly what she expected, but she was willing to try almost anything to stay in school. NYTimes

That seems an effective but shady marketing tactic, targeting those who are most likely to be in difficult financial situations.  Some of the women interviewed for the Huffington Post and New York Times articles seem financially savvy and conscious of the risks they're taking.  Others seem less responsible and their quotes seem to focus more on getting the finer things in life and less on making tuition payments or paying off debt.  Both articles emphasize the ambiguity of these relationships and that participants have varying opinions on whether their actions constitute prostitution. But it seems to me that, no matter if the process is legally prostitution, being a "sugar baby" has to be hard on the woman's self worth.  Just the title seems a little bit demeaning.

Plus, as one article notes, it must be hard to go back to traditional work with the significant pay per hour discrepancy especially if you have become accustomed to living significantly beyond your means via gifts, dinners, clothing or other areas paid by the sugar daddy.  It makes me think that the whole process likely significantly hampers instead of improving a young woman's odds of success financially and in the work place.  The significant bias against these relationships would probably blacklist women from numerous companies or industries were her "side income" to come to light publicly.  There are also significant health risks if the women are not insisting on protection.

What do you think?  Does the opportunity to make an extra $1-10,000 per month (tax free) out weigh the psychological, health, moral or career consequences?   Do you think these women are putting the money against educational expenses or new clothes?

If you like this please Link Back to this article...

Related Posts by Categories


  1. As far as I'm concerned people can pay back their student loans with whatever income they'd like. If that means resorting to prostitution...well, it's probably not the preferred method but it gets the job done.

    It's probably not healthy, emotionally or otherwise, but is it really all that much worse than working a retail job for 100 hours a week to pay the bills? That has to be just as unhealthy, and it requires far more time.

  2. You know, honestly, it's really easy for me to say that I wouldn't do that, because my university tuition was about $5000 (CAD) a year, which was the same as the tuition at every university across the province, and I went to a very good school.

    If I was staring down the barrel of $40,000 a year in tuition fees alone, I might have a different perspective. I can't even imagine shouldering that kind of debt to get an education.

  3. I think that in the short-term they might see it as a legitimate option, but over the long run they'll be worse off for it. Just not a wise move for their long-term self respect and view of the world, despite how it might seem ok at the time.

    Maybe it's better to make strategic choices about taking on college debt, choosing the right school, etc.

    I know many won't agree with my view, but that's ok...

  4. Wow! I guess sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Although it's not something I'd ever see myself doing...okay, I might consider it for $100,000. Aside from that, I think I'd rather do what needs to be done without such measures. It just seems like something that would get worse over time. Crazy stuff, but everybody should be able to do whatever they want as long as nobody is getting hurt or super-illegal. I don't know.?

  5. Seems like it's just asking to become dependent or abused ...

  6. I think it's fine if they like the arrangement. For example, if they wake up in the mornings and feel ashamed, then it's probably not worth it. If they are perfectly happy with their "job", then more power to them. I rather blog for cash, lol.

  7. A former co-worker had a very wealthy (and married) sugar daddy who paid for her child care, rent, clothes, food, manicures, took her out to lunch 3-4 times a week and weekends away on his private jet. This lasted for 3 years.

    She finally broke up with him when he refused to marry her. She said the perks were nice, but love would have been nicer.

  8. Although a transaction may benefit both individuals, it does not follow that such an activity should be sanctioned.

    If sexuality is nothing more than a commodity, then it would be absolutely no issue to finance debt through prostitution; this is the libertarian way. I understand the economics of the argument, but we cannot analyzing this situation in a vacuum (i.e. X job = Y money = less loans). Removing the humanity from the situation would give license to actions that most society would agree was wrong.

    For instance, permitting a minor to buy drugs - from strictly an economic standpoint - would benefit both the seller (monetarily) and the buyer (the high). Few would argue though that a society should accept this transaction.

    Of course not - such transactions are imbued with a moral element. If, however, we accept the possibility that there are moral parameters by which we, as humans, ought to govern ourselves, then prostitution could be seen as crossing the line.

  9. Sex work as a means of funding your way through education has been glamorized in the UK in recent years. A PHD student started a blog under the pen name 'Belle du Jour',entitled 'The Secret Diary of a London Call Girl', detailing her life as a high class prostitute. Incredibly popular, Belle du Jour became a household name. The blog spawned a best selling book and a highly rated TV series.

    There's no question that Belle's story has altered perceptions of sex work and 'funding' opportunities for a generation of female students. I can't imagine that the glamour, the money and the media endorsement this country has inadvertently given this subject, can outweigh the emotional hurt that such a lifestyle choice almost certainly brings with it.

  10. Harri - Interesting! I didn't know the context in the UK. Certainly media attention like that would make the idea much more approachable and appealing to young women.