Sexual harassment allegations have exploded in the past few weeks. Victims are more empowered than ever to tell their stories and seek justice. From various Hollywood producers to political figures, many have been accused as perpetrators. However, many are quick to dismiss the victim’s claims on the notion, “Well, they asked for it” or “She chose to play along.”
Many victims are not only seeking justice, but more importantly want to change how society objectifies women and simplifies their bodies as sexual instruments. Women, especially in work places, want to be respected and evaluated on their intellectual and artistic abilities to get the jobs they deserve. Yet, how is society supposed to change its views on power and women, when it aides in the growing popularity of “dating” sites such as Seeking Arrangements. For those unfamiliar with Seeking Arrangements, it is an increasingly popular Sugar-Daddy dating site. Below is a screenshot from the site, detailing its purpose.
It is evident that this site aims to attract college students by offering to cover their college tuition and substantiate a luxurious lifestyle. Moreover, when the site states it will help with a woman’s career, the naive question left to ask is how? The same way Harvey Weinstein alleged to help an Actress land a role if she did one thing for him? Although the site emphasizes forming companionships and “caring friendships”, what percent of such arrangements are truly friendly and not intimate?
The creator, Brandon Wade, himself said, “About 40 percent of the users on Seeking Arrangement are married men… and, as a guy, you need to get your outlet somewhere else. You have your sexual needs and wants, and the website provides a service to keep the family together.” While he, himself, characterizes this monetary transaction “as morally wrong” he justifies the service as a means to “keep the family unit together” and provide financial stability to the Sugar Baby. Brandon Wade argues that the ends justifies the means; but do we, as society, agree? Should society be allowing such dating sites to exist, knowing that it is perpetuating the idea that women’s bodies can be exploited as long as they are compensated? Some may even go as far as to say these sites provide a legal form of prostitution.
Of course, consent to engage in sexual activities is not a requirement to be on the site, but does this not mean that men do not expect it? In an interview with a College Sugar Baby, conducted by Angela Almeida, the NYU college student states, “ sex is pretty much a given.” When further questioned what an “ideal sugar-daddy would be?”, she responds with, “Obviously, one that wants me as his arm candy. One that pays me a monthly salary between $1,000-$3,000 a month. One that expects me to do fun, expensive things that I otherwise couldn’t afford. A partner in activities, without sexual encounters…but that’s impossible.” This further coincides with Brandon Wade’s view that 40 percent of the men on this site have “sexual needs and wants” they are willing to pay for. At the end of the day, this is a business that sugar-coats prostitution.
As with the recent sexual harassment scandals in the media, many will ask why women sign up to be Sugar Babies? “It’s their choice,” many will say. Yes, women and many female college students are choosing to seek a Sugar-Daddy, but why? In the same interview conducted by Angela Almeida, the college student states, “With a sugar daddy, you meet 4x a month and you can make $2000-$5000. It’s not enough anymore to wait tables and hope that your tips might pay the electric bill. Tuition rises every year, and every year, I don’t know if I will secure enough financial aid.” It becomes apparent, rising costs of tuition, rent, and cost-of-living give women a push to join such sites. Knowing this, what steps should society take? Is is enough to shed all of the responsibility to the women and their right to do whatever they want with their bodies? Perhaps, we should think about what policies should be set in place to offer women financial support, in order to deter them from sites such as Seeking Arrangements? Lastly, should sites like these even be allowed to exist?
Despite the controversy and constant criticisms, it is evident that a growing number of people are signing up. Knowing this, it is imperative to explore what emotional and physical damages this type of “dating” can inflict. Future research should be conducted to investigate a woman’s motive to joining such sites and the health and gynecological needs of women who do join. Most importantly, however, research should be conducted to determine if any of these women experience resulting traumas reminiscent of those who have suffered from sexual abuse when prostituted.
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