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The Sugar Daddy Recession
March 13, 2012 6:02 PM   Subscribe

The bad economy has forced some women into arrangements with less than ideal men.
posted by reenum (54 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have to wonder (quasi-rhetorically) why this article focuses on women staying with men for financial reasons, I'm sure there are plenty of men who stay with women they hate out of convenience and/or economic necessity.

Also, I was surprised to find out that there are two other posts on the blue tagged with "sugardaddy".
posted by MattMangels at 6:07 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Peace activists dress up as soldiers and police officers to beat willing participants with fake rubber truncheons.

Cite, please.
posted by bumpkin at 6:08 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


See also: The last few thousand years of civilization.
posted by phrontist at 6:08 PM on March 13, 2012 [21 favorites]


I have to wonder (quasi-rhetorically) why this article focuses on women staying with men for financial reasons, I'm sure there are plenty of men who stay with women they hate out of convenience and/or economic necessity.


Because women are still economically discriminated against, and are thus feel more pressure to be in such a relationship?
posted by phrontist at 6:09 PM on March 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


Isn't the definition of being a "kept woman" (or a "kept man") pretty much that you're in a relationship that might not be a romantic ideal, but that supports your lifestyle desires/needs financially?
posted by trackofalljades at 6:09 PM on March 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Aside from the economic discrimination, women are also considerably more likely to be seriously hurt by someone if they enter into an arrangement for financial purposes and the other party decides to unilaterally change the terms of such arrangement. If everybody's on the same power level, then if you decide to take money for something, well, that's on you and hey mabe the arrangement will work out fine. But people really aren't.

My friend's jobless boyfriend who may or may not see a future in their relationship is, perhaps, with her for economic rather than romantic purposes, but about the worst that's likely to happen there is that she'll dump him and maybe he'll end up moving in with his parents or whatever. It's not that there's no corresponding downside for men, but the facts are that men are less likely to end up in a situation where they have to choose between their food/shelter needs and their ability to decide not to have sex with someone. Women often end up supporting male partners who lose jobs, but they're not especially prone to seeking out men who are already in a bad financial position in order to get sexual favors in exchange for room and board.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:18 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Portland Oregonian Sends Off Dead Editor By Revealing His Infidelity

Bob Caldwell, editor of The Oregonian's editorial pages, was in the Tigard apartment of a 23-year-old woman when he went into cardiac arrest Saturday afternoon.

The woman called 9-1-1 at 4:43 p.m. to report that Caldwell, 63, was coughing and then unresponsive after a sex act. Washington County sheriff's officers and medical personnel responded and transported him to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, where he later was pronounced dead.

The woman told deputies she met Caldwell about a year ago at Portland Community College. Caldwell, she said, knew she didn't have much money, so he provided her cash for books and other things for school in exchange for sex acts at her apartment.

posted by Auden at 6:20 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The tone of this article (and this thread) is just wrong. This is a serious issue. Women earn less than men. And poor women have a harder time finding safe shelter. Women, due to a number of factor, including simple cultural norms, are generally more vulnerable than men to sexual violence.

I'm sure there are commenters in this thread who will request citations, but it's a no-brainer, folks.

Here are a few other articles being published on the interwebs today that do a better job discussing the topic:

- Lack of shelter spaces forces women to resort to 'survival sex': report
- International Women's Day Bulletin documents women's homelessness in Canada
- "When There's No Place Like Home: A Snapshot of Women's Homelessness in Canada"

Here's what the YWCA report says:

In large Canadian cities, 25 to 30% of people living on the streets and in shelters are women. It's time to sound the alarm. When women and girls are homeless, they are not safe."

Teenage girls make up one-third to half of homeless youth in urban centres. "As many as 60% of homeless girls have been sexually abused," says Ann Decter, Director of Advocacy at YWCA Canada.

posted by KokuRyu at 6:21 PM on March 13, 2012 [36 favorites]


If there was ever a time when love wasn’t for sale, it existed before Craigslist met the credit crunch.

I'm not an historian but I have a feeling this might be an understatement.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:23 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


bumpkin: Peace activists dress up as soldiers and police officers to beat willing participants with fake rubber truncheons.

Cite, please.


Eehhh, never bet against people having strange sexual proclivities.
posted by gilrain at 6:25 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"In large Canadian cities, 25 to 30% of people living on the streets and in shelters are women. It's time to sound the alarm. When women and girls are homeless, they are not safe."

I don't want to quibble, but I don't think anyone who's homeless is safe.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 6:30 PM on March 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Also, I know from friends (some who made bad choices out of need, one who I dissuaded) that it's easy for young women (and young queer folks) to get into situations that they don't know how to handle. If you're young and too good-hearted, it's easy to believe a dude when he says that it will just be sex, or you can leave any time, or you don't have to do [sex act or unsafe thing]. Or you can lack the social skills and self confidence to negotiate good terms and/or leave, plus if you're in that situation you are less likely to have a network of friends with enough money and skills to help you. And then, whoa, surprise, the type of guy who wants to take advantage of a naive young person for sex turns out to be a creepy, skeevy user asshole.

And it is taking advantage - most of these young folks end up with way less money than an actual sex worker would earn, and much MUCH less safety and autonomy. A guy who pays a sex worker reasonable amounts for agreed-on stuff I can respect; a skeevy exploiter who takes in some desperate young person I cannot.

(This whole 'survival sex' thing isn't precisely new for queer and trans folks. I also have to wonder if this isn't one of those "it's news now that it's happening to young white co-eds" stories. Not that young white women should have to rely on skeevy dudes for college tuition or whatever.)
posted by Frowner at 6:31 PM on March 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Peace activists dress up as soldiers and police officers to beat willing participants with fake rubber truncheons.

Cite, please.


Site, please.
posted by holdkris99 at 6:32 PM on March 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Whatever happened to charity? If you wanna feel like a big man, give struggling students money without expecting a blowjob for it.

Likewise, if you're having trouble finding people to sleep with, it might be because you think that human relationships are business transactions, and others can smell that on you.
posted by edguardo at 6:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I don't want to quibble, but I don't think anyone who's homeless is safe.

Yeah. There's no excuse for any homelessness in a country like Canada. None.
posted by smorange at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sugarmomma's charity had its limits. He is back living with his parents.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:43 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Call it what you like — an arrangement, a delicate excuse for sex work or modern love at its most upfront
I'll call it what it is: prostitution. (Not that that's a dirty word, necessarily.)

And wait a tick, isn't this how love used to work before we let women own property and vote and such? What's so "modern" about indentured lovers?
posted by deathpanels at 6:45 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


No mention at all of houseboys being kept by sugar daddies, but I'm sure the downturn has had the same result for them, too.
posted by hippybear at 6:45 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder (quasi-rhetorically) why this article focuses on women staying with men for financial reasons, I'm sure there are plenty of men who stay with women they hate out of convenience and/or economic necessity.
This isn't about women who stay with men out of convenience or economic necessity, though. It's about online ads and dating sites that cater to men who are seeking to give money and other financial assistance to poor women in exchange for sex and "love", and the author explicitly says that most of these people are straight men. It doesn't sound like she's ignoring ads from women, and the head of the agency says that not very many women sign up.
posted by craichead at 6:46 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I totally agree with KokuRyu about the tone. I was put off by the casual/playful way the author described the means by which people get tricked into (at best) prostitution, and at worst, sex slavery. I mean, tons of responses were from people with intentions to lure people into the sex trade, and you write a light-hearted article about it? Really?

I can't find this amusing at all. Thousands of girls in the US are being trafficked into the sex industry, and millions worldwide. And predators who mislead vulnerable women (and children, if it's a single mother) into a situation she can't easily escape is, and should be, really fucking disturbing.

I just found the whole thing really depressing. Sorry if I'm overreacting. I work with teenagers and I can't stop picturing this happening to them. It scares the shit out of me.
posted by guster4lovers at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Dear women of the world: please dont blow neck-bearded IT workers (or really anybody, but especially neckbearded IT workers) in exchange for money. It makes all of us feel depressed. kthnx
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the flaws in the article, though, is that she has no idea whether anyone is actually doing this and if so what their motivations are. It's all from the point of view of the men, probably because that's who she could easily get access to.
posted by craichead at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, the income disparity is a real thing, but people looking for and willing to provide sex in return for money are also a real thing. The subject of prostitution (and this is prostitution) is a touchy one, but there's room for both the admission that some people are forced into it and the acknowledgement that paying for sexual contact is something people have been doing for a long, long time.

What about the inherently patriarchal nature of this sugar daddy stuff? In this case, it's really more of an income advantage than one based on gender. These guys aren't 30-year-olds who are spending their "being male" money on prostitutes. They're wealthy guys who want to buy love.

Is it healthy? I would say that the sex market will be present even among a progressive and sexually healthy population. Not in its current form, but in something more refined, if such a word can be made applicable.

I don't like the fact that there are girls out there who turn to selling their body to pay the bills. But where there's demand (lonely rich people) there will be supply, and over time we can only hope that relationship becomes more aboveboard, more healthy, more well-understood, and to the extent it's possible, less necessary.

Orgy-porgy!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:55 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's really more of an income advantage than one based on gender.

The two are very hard to separate- when the top income slots are mostly filled by men, thus they have the income advantage for reasons including gender, it is money they get on account of being male.
posted by Phalene at 7:59 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This op-ed is all over the map.

However, I don't get the pull quote: where's the "force" here? Are we really contending that when the economy slows, women are "forced" to become prostitutes in fact if not name? Isn't that like saying men are "forced" to rob liquor stores? No, that would be silly- they a few may be desperate enough to try this sort of thing, but it's not the same as being "forced". Similarly, homeless women in Vancouver aren't "forced" to sleep with strange men simply to have a bed; they have the same option as homeless men, of sleeping outside or in doorways. And being homeless isn't- as noted above- safe for anyone.

The sex trafficking of women/teenagers/children, while troubling on its own, is not actually relevant to the post, as much as KokoRyu would apparently like to bring in the kitchen sink of women's issues to the thread. While the article's author did make a brief mention that "a few" of the ad posters were pimps (according to her own sex worker friends), in general the article itself seems to be about these consensual but icky (to us) relationships of convenience, among women who are not homeless.

Which... well yeah, that happens even (perhaps even more so?) in good economies, and has for ages. A friend of mine, all of 21, has told me she goes on the sugar daddy websites (I've even met one of her sugar daddies, an aging ex-Microsoftie, which was... odd, but he seemed like a reasonably nice guy). She has a part time job, and also does webcam modeling as a side gig, but she apparently likes being pampered and can. That is only one anecdote, and it's certainly not a relationship model for most of us myself included... but it doesn't mean every sugar daddy relationship is inherently one-sided or abusive, or even strictly necessary.
posted by hincandenza at 8:01 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why does the FPP headline say "less than ideal men" when the original article says "unsavory men"? Most men are less than ideal. Most women are, too. This reframing implies that women shouldn't put up with anything other than perfection; that men who are "less than ideal" don't deserve to have relationships with women. But people connect for all sorts of reasons. It doesn't have to be blackmail and bribery on one hand, and thinly-veiled repulsion on the other.

Attitudes like this are probably why you have desperate men imagining that they can be "sugardaddies". They're saying "Hey, I know you probably think I'm repulsive, but perhaps your desperation will force you to pretend to like me." Part of growing up is learning to live with and love people who are not ideal, and that requires the ability to distinguish between merely human faults and the sort of mutual psychopathy which sees wealth and power as a substitute for personal connections. Reframing the article this way does a disservice both to men in general and to the women who put up with their loved ones' faults as part of a normal, healthy relationship.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:05 PM on March 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


Because slashdot.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:10 PM on March 13, 2012


Wade claims that SeekingArrangement.com has two members of the Forbes top-10 richest Americans on its list, although he will not say which ones.

It's probably just Larry Ellison twice.
posted by braksandwich at 8:12 PM on March 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses??
posted by hermitosis at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the relatively few "sugar daddy" relationships I have seen firsthand in the US have been mostly gay relationships. It doesn't take a gender difference to take advantage of the power imbalances provided by money, age, and class.
posted by Forktine at 8:39 PM on March 13, 2012


Dear women of the world: please dont blow neck-bearded IT workers (or really anybody, but especially neckbearded IT workers) in exchange for money. It makes all of us feel depressed. kthnx

I'll blow whomever I want (presuming they consent, of course!), for whatever reason I want.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:57 PM on March 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


While I don't don't mean to imply that men, including men and youth who identify as gay or queer also are enduring these sorts of situations during tough economic times, the simple fact of the matter is that women in North American society do not enjoy the same status as men.

Here's a few more facts:

• 51.6% of lone parent families headed by women live in poverty
• 41.5% of single, widowed or divorced women over 65 live in poverty
• 35% of women on their own under 65 live in poverty
• 44% of Aboriginal women living off reserve, and 47% of Aboriginal women living on-reserve live in poverty. The average annual income for Aboriginal women is $13,300, compared with $18,200 for Aboriginal men and $19,350 for non-Aboriginal women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:06 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Dear women of the world: please dont blow neck-bearded IT workers (or really anybody, but especially neckbearded IT workers) in exchange for money.

Wait, that is a thing that is possible?

Oh, thank you Jesus, and thank you reenum, for posting this article and introducing me to this beautiful new world.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:43 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And 17 years later, she is still with me.
posted by LarryC at 10:00 PM on March 13, 2012


I wish I hadn't clicked that..
posted by thespiritroom at 10:35 PM on March 13, 2012


[fixed the typo in the post. ]
posted by taz at 10:45 PM on March 13, 2012


MTV has a True Life episode on being a sugar baby.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:02 PM on March 13, 2012


Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed the sudden explosion of "sugar daddy dating" ads on Slashdot or elsewhere in the interlands? It was pretty shocking to me, in the same way that seeing ads for cocaine on Slashdot would be shocking. Like, can they actually /do/ that?
posted by GIFtheory at 11:27 PM on March 13, 2012


I like how it sounds like the women have no other choice but to prostitute themselves. I mean, I know plenty of women (and men, of course) down on their luck financially and struggling, but that doesn't mean they prostitute themselves (or insert whatever p.c. euphemism you'd like here). I mean, it's not like there is no other choice and they're noble heroes doing what must be done to survive or whatever...
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:05 AM on March 14, 2012


This isn't really adding to the discussion, but Anthony Hecht has a line in one of him poems along the lines of

"Bedding with strangers was necessary to make ends meet. And so ends met."
posted by FunGus at 12:20 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess it is no coincidence that the Slashdot front page just presented me with an ad "Millionare Dates - Cheap Guys Finish Last. Date a Millionare today. Click here." Obviously this was not directed to sexy females in bikinis like the one shown in the picture, but still.
posted by three blind mice at 2:00 AM on March 14, 2012


Isn't that like saying men are "forced" to rob liquor stores? No, that would be silly- they a few may be desperate enough to try this sort of thing, but it's not the same as being "forced". Similarly, homeless women in Vancouver aren't "forced" to sleep with strange men simply to have a bed; they have the same option as homeless men, of sleeping outside or in doorways. And being homeless isn't- as noted above- safe for anyone.

Life is fluid, and so is the language we use to describe it. Forced doesn't necessarily mean you had no other choice or there was a gun to your head. It's a turn of phrase that also can mean a situation that puts a previously untenable option on the table. In situations of survival, a person can be blinded by fear, anxiety and pressure. In that moment not being able to see another choice is not very far removed from not having any other choice.

The world in general is less safe for women, and this disparity only grows the further you go down the economic ladder. A homeless woman may have the same option to find a doorway to sleep in, right up until someone else decides they want that doorway, or whatever else they can take from her.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:02 AM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't want to be dismissive of the very real issues raised by the article, but the tone struck me as typical of unnecessary scaremongering and the kind of lurid journalism that's essentially just reliant on titillation under the veneer.

This is so much an ongoing, eternal problem that blaming a temporary blip in the economy seems very short-sighted and sort of negativistic in that, in the grand scheme of things, this kind of thing is hopefully improving.
posted by quincunx at 3:02 AM on March 14, 2012


(Which is not to minimalize it or say that it's not a real problem to be dealt with...just that it's maybe not best encompassed in a short, pop piece like this.)
posted by quincunx at 3:05 AM on March 14, 2012


I like how it sounds like the women have no other choice but to prostitute themselves.
The article isn't about women who "prostitute themselves." It's about financially powerful men who fantasize about using their power to manipulate poor-but-virtuous women not only into having sex with them, but also into pretending to love them. Like I said, we don't know whether any women actually take them up on the offer, let alone what those women's situations or motivations would be.

It's interesting to me that some people see the article as too light-hearted and others see it as too lurid and scaremongering. What's going on with that?
posted by craichead at 6:03 AM on March 14, 2012


While I don't don't mean to imply that men, including men and youth who identify as gay or queer also are enduring these sorts of situations during tough economic times, the simple fact of the matter is that women in North American society do not enjoy the same status as men.

Here's a few more facts: ...


I don't have facts/figures handy, but I'd be willing to guess that gay youth have similarly poor aggregate data compared to older, middle and upper class men, and hence are similarly vulnerable to coercive situations.
posted by Forktine at 6:31 AM on March 14, 2012


It's interesting to me that some people see the article as too light-hearted and others see it as too lurid and scaremongering. What's going on with that?

I would describe it as all three. It was a short, "pop" (aka lighthearted) type of piece that treated a serious, broad subject as almost like a bizarre new trend, or something. At the same time, it's clearly capitalizing on people's fears of economic and moral collapse. The best way I can describe it is that it basically has a tone a lot like those completely made-up trend pieces from the New York Times, which is kind of jarring considering the subject matter, I guess.
posted by quincunx at 7:31 AM on March 14, 2012


All real-world partners are less than ideal.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:43 AM on March 14, 2012


In large Canadian cities, 25 to 30% of people living on the streets and in shelters are women. It's time to sound the alarm. When women and girls are homeless, they are not safe."

But the 70-75% of homeless people that are men are perfectly safe, right?
posted by c13 at 8:15 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, the men aren't safe either. But groups that advocate for funding/awareness try a variety of strategies, including encouraging white knighting, with the justification that the means justify the ends. The poor have always been with us, and mostly invisible; to keep them in the public's mind the media is usually manipulated to write about the new "crisis" from whatever angle the advocates can come up with. I can't really blame them, really, distasteful as it is. Boring, plain truth rarely makes the front page.
posted by saucysault at 9:02 AM on March 14, 2012


The article breezes right past the fact that her experiments don't actually turn up these arrangements that much -- the guys are just trawling for straight prostitution -- and gets into what such a thing might mean if it were actually the trend she cannot seem to confirm through said experiments. It's far more likely that this whole thing is fantasy-journalism tripping off slang for ordinary prostitution.

Survival prostitution, as noted in comments, is a real concern -- way more of one than the fake student-sugar daddy trend. I work for a nonprofit that helps people who often lack food and housing security and have attended a briefing about this very issue. There is really no more coercive, vulnerable context for sex work than using it to secure food and shelter. This makes the situation dangerous for the worker (due to both people s/he meets and police) and uncomfortable for the community (when, for example, local panhandlers offer sex as an option when straight begging fails). It is far more important to deal with than hypothetical down-on-their-luck students.
posted by mobunited at 9:24 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever happened to charity? If you wanna feel like a big man, give struggling students money without expecting a blowjob for it.

You appear confused. Blowjobs are as good for poor students as they are for anyone else. If they're going to get a cash handout, a blowjob will help them keep their mind on their studies, and not hurt them.

What?
posted by Goofyy at 12:44 PM on March 14, 2012


My reaction to the article seems to be a little different. What popped into my head is there is a very fine line to sugar daddies trolling for love on the internet and older men taking out younger women by flashing a lot of cash. I know I had at least 2 dates when I was 19 or 20 where I would not have gone out with the person except that the promise of good time was dangled in front of my eyes. In neither case did I sleep with that person and both times I realized that a dull, unattractive date does not become more attractive just because he spends $50.00 on a theater ticket and another $50.00 on dinner.

However I have had friends and even relatives end up with men that they found unattractive just because the man had money. Hopefully my grandmother's advice (It is just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor man) will eventually become irrelevant. I would like to hope that my daughter and her daughter and all other females will be financially independent. The revolution has really only just begun.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:12 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Likewise, if you're having trouble finding people to sleep with, it might be because you think that human relationships are business transactions, and others can smell that on you.

Or you might be disabled or disfigured.

If prostitution were legal, it would be better.

I totally agree with KokuRyu about the tone.

I enjoyed the tone. It is a serious subject yes, but I didn't think the snide analysis was inappropriate:

"Rian, meanwhile, is definitely 'not interested in a professional -looking for a normal girl…would love to buy you little presents and watch movies together,' he says — before asking for a detailed description of Amy’s physical measurements."

It was a short, "pop" (aka lighthearted) type of piece that treated a serious, broad subject as almost like a bizarre new trend, or something.

It was not framed well, and it's not a new story, but the story here is how these sites facilitate illegal behavior by skirting prostitution laws. Just legalize and regulate it already. People wannt buy it; people wanna sell it. Keeping it underground makes it dangerous for everyone.

If you wanna feel like a big man, give struggling students money without expecting a blowjob for it.

In my (very limited) experience, people offer money to blow me, not the other way around. The invisible backpack works in strange ways sometimes.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:57 AM on March 15, 2012


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