On The Ethics of "Sugar Daddies" and "Sugar Babies"

Kelly: Did you hear about this “sugar daddy” and “sugar baby” phenomenon wherein college girls are whoring themselves out through the internet to skeevy rich older men so they can pay for their college educations? It makes me sick to think that for these girls an education costs their bodies. These kids have to sell their integrity just to get something that should be a human right and is, at minimum, an economic necessity. And these rich men who probably vote to defund education get to prey on their vulnerability. It is win-win for these men. They hoard their money and then exploit the desperation of students who enter college broke and forced to come up with tens of thousands of dollars that they couldn’t possibly have from their own labor yet, just to be able to get the degree which is absolutely vital to their ever earning anything. Unless their parents were extremely good about saving up for this and weren’t wiped out in 2008 by Wall Street’s greedy bastards’ market recklessness, these kids are forced with a morally unconscionable choice: a huge debt burden right out of the gate, before they can ever earn anything, or having to pull themselves up by their bra straps as practically sex slaves to their lascivious overlords who would pinch every penny if they came to them for a more dignified job but are more than happy to stuff hundred dollar bills between their rented breasts.

Jaime: Whoah, Kelly! Surely this is not as bad as all that! This is just about sex and companionship and earning a lot of money. These young women are not anyone’s slaves. They are autonomous, sexually liberated women. Many of them come from elite universities. They are smart people making a calculation about what their time and their attentions are worth. Isn’t that what everyone does when they “sell out” and turn their labor—their intelligence, their special skills, their charming personalities, their diligence, their emotions, their time, their ambitions—all for someone else’s projects? That’s what having a job is. It is not always fun.

Kelly: But this is sex! It should not be a job!

Jaime: And why not?! What makes it so holy that it can never be something done for anything but the highest and most personal self-satisfaction and self-realization? We live in an age of birth control, condoms, and demystification of “sacred” things. Why is sex still being put into this realm of things which cannot be commodified without destroying the dignity of the sex worker? Why do we think that when it comes to sex putting your talents to use in order to gain money somehow exploits and degrades people whereas all sorts of other places where we subordinate our personalities and talents to earning a buck are perfectly fine?

Kelly: This is not about these girls exercising their talents for a profit, it’s about reducing them to toys and about turning a deeply intimate, self-expressive act like sex into something where their personalities do not matter. For these girls, in this kind of sex, their desires are basically irrelevant and their real feelings are excluded in favor of patronizing pathetic perverts with whatever niceties they want to hear. This turns an activity which should be the height of authenticity into something cynical and alienating.

Jaime: You don’t think there could be anything reciprocal in these relationships? These are not just one-off, sex-only deals. The arrangement is looser than that. It is technically just about companionship. The men do not even pay directly for sex. Haven’t you seen Pretty Woman?? Maybe these men are charming. Maybe they take these women out and show them a good time and introduce them to interesting people and pamper them with gifts. Maybe all of this makes up for whatever weathering of age on their bodies that might make them not the women’s ideal mates physically. Are you blaming these men for aging?

Kelly: No, I’m blaming them for not growing up. I’m blaming them for not being able to be in real relationships with their equals but instead leveraging their wealth to exploit mere girls who they could not possibly find genuinely interesting.

Jaime: How do you know that?! That’s incredibly condescending to these young women.

Kelly: No, it is incredibly demeaning to all women that men as they age do not find the increasing knowledge and abilities and self-confidence and power of mature women attractive but rather they are only interested in young bodies and inexperience that cannot see right through their piggish lechery. I’m sure these men are extremely “charming” as they go through the paces of pretending to respect these girls. And maybe a few of the girls are suckered into believing that the outward sophistication that money can buy is some indicator of inner-virtue. But let’s not kid ourselves: these men just want access to what they consider “prime meat” and they would skip all the other niceties if these girls from “elite institutions” didn’t need them as part of the deal so they didn’t feel like street walkers.

Jaime: Now that’s demeaning.

Kelly: What is?

Jaime: Putting down all prostitutes like that. These are human beings. They’re not garbage just because they do not superstitiously sacralize sex. It’s just sex.

Kelly: I don’t demean them, exploitative patriarchy and capitalism lead them to demean themselves out of desperation.

Jaime: So you think that it is right that prostitution is illegal?

Kelly: No, that has never made prostitution illegal, just increased women’s vulnerabilities to violence, financial exploitation, prison, and sexually transmitted infections. It should be safe, legal, and happen as little as necessary because we have a culture that gives women far better options. But just because it is better legal than illegal does not mean it is moral or healthy. It is a denigration of sex.

Jaime: Listen to you, “denigration of sex”—sex is many wonderful emotional and physical things but it is not some high and sanctified thing, it’s just sex. And as long as it is consensually agreed to by adults, it’s nothing to be so agitated about.

Kelly: There is no such thing as “just sex”. Sex means things. It is a form of self-expression and you cannot just turn that off without living inauthentically.

Jaime: Again, there are plenty of places in life where we turn off our full self-expression for the sake of pleasing others—even for money! Why is this any different? It’s not like when these young women go back to their boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or wives and have sex out of love that it will not be self-expression anymore. That is like saying I must always do the same activity the same way with everyone. Just because these young women might have to treat sex as a job while “at work” does not mean they cannot treat it differently in other contexts. What makes sex such a big deal to you? What kinds of magical things do you think automatically happen during it?

Kelly: Nothing magical needs to happen during sex. Only normal virtues like self-respect and self-expression and love. To take one of your most precious means for revealing yourself intimately and hock it for money is to say that, in principle, nothing about you is not for sale.

Jaime: So, a woman’s sexual expression is more valuable than her intellect?

Kelly: Where are you getting THAT from? I am arguing exactly the opposite! I want women to be valued for their brains and not just their bodies.

Jaime: If the most valuable part of ourselves is the part that should never be sold and a woman’s brains are the most important thing about her, then why should she ever sell them out? Why should she use her brilliance to sell soap or to sell knowledge? Why, if this is the best part of her, why should she not protect it the most from being a mere commodity?

Kelly: Because in jobs that use her intellect it is her virtue that is being both developed and appreciated. They are about her own flourishing too, not just about her clients or her bosses using her for their own purposes and because she just looks pretty.

Jaime: But these young women—and prostitutes generally—do have to have virtues. They are a kind of caregiver. These are probably pretty lonely men. You have to figure they are not in an optimal situation in life if they have to be paying for intimacy. You don’t know what they are going through that drives them to shell out hundreds of dollars for a little human contact. These “sugar babies”, and even outright prostitutes, are providing emotional comfort.

Kelly: A warm body treated like a toy and paraded like a trophy is not emotional comfort. At best it is ego massage and a chance for the man to have a power trip.

Jaime: Look, we are bodily creatures, human contact is vitally important. Even if it does not come with the sacred perfect love you think it always should, sex and touching and physical and emotional attention can send subconscious messages through those men’s bodies and minds and be good for their well-being.

Kelly: Okay, and what do these subconscious messages tell the woman’s body? That sex is something disconnected from being respected and honored as an equal and loved for her whole self? And forgive me for not being inspired to contemplate women exercising the servile “virtues” of pandering to men’s needs. Those are not the virtues that they should be encouraged to flourish in.

Jaime: So now jobs where you serve other people are inherently “servile”?

Kelly: No, don’t put words in my mouth. We are talking about women not finding avenues to exercise their virtues of the intellect or of leadership and yet finding an ever-present market for putting their own excellence or their own pleasure aside and catering to privileged men’s whims instead. There is always a demand for that. Women’s leadership abilities? Not so much.

Jaime: Well, these are young women at elite schools preparing for those leadership roles once they have the education they need first.

Kelly: Not all prostitutes are so privileged or have such futures ahead of them.

Jaime: Look, not all men are power-brokers either. Who does the hard physical labor in this society? How many men take how many years off their bodies through grueling physical exertion in the service of others—their bosses, their families… It is okay for a man to work like a slave and risk long term injuries and death and wear and tear on his body, but if a woman just has to have some potentially rote sex and has to act all pleasant to help that man relax and get some physical contact and the feeling of female affection, then she has been degraded and reduced to her “servile” virtues only? For most people, male or female, the rule in life is “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. Yes, men and women should both equally have leadership positions too. But let’s not degrade all those who serve others. That won’t make the need for service jobs go away, it will only diminish respect for those who serve others for a living.

Kelly: You make this sound like being a prostitute is being a nurse.

Jaime: Maybe it is! Or maybe a therapist, someone else who is paid for emotional support. Prostitutes report that many men come in who don’t even want sex, they want “the girlfriend experience”. I once saw a TV show which profiled a sad old widower who mourned his wife for years, tried pitifully to date new women, eventually turned to prostitutes to fill a physical and emotional comfort need that was not exactly around the corner for him through more respected forms of dating. Did you ever stop to think maybe some of these men’s motivations might be more rooted in emotional vulnerabilities than in a callous, exploitative attitude that cares nothing about women?

Kelly: I don’t buy it. There are plenty of single women these men’s own ages. If all they really wanted was some genuine human connection and feeling, they would put more effort into reaching out to those women who are their equals in age and experience. But they don’t—they don’t want the give and take of engaging a woman who can give them a challenge and who they have to put effort into earning respect from before getting access to her body. They want the bodies that the media tells them are the only valuable ones and they want it without any of the relationship complexities that come with dealing with another human. They don’t want people, they want fantasies and reassurances of their status and privilege.

Jaime: And younger women, even ones not offering themselves as “sugar babies” are never more interested in trading their youth and beauty for a man with more experience and power?

Kelly: Even if some do, should they really look at these men as sugar daddies? How perverse is this? They are outright celebrating the idea that these are men who are after women young enough to be their children.

Jaime: But they’re not children. These are grown women…

Kelly: …who these men want to infantalize and use as substitutes for women whose maturity, whose womanhood, is inescapable.

Jaime: Or maybe they just want to fulfill a biologically inescapable need, consensually, with someone they find exciting, and without all the complications of involved emotional relationships that maybe they are not ready for—does everyone have to be capable of intense relationships just to be able to have sexual pleasure?

Kelly: “Just to be able to have sexual pleasure”? I must have missed the part where all these men had broken hands.

Jaime: How many times do I have to tell you that sex is not just about genital stimulation.

Kelly: How many times do I have to tell you that?


More debates between Jaime and Kelly:

A Debate About The Value of Permanent Promiscuity

Moral Perfectionism, Moral Pragmatism, Free Love Ethics, and Adultery

A Debate About the Wisdom of Trying to Deconvert People

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Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • EnoNomi

    I think education should be subsidized – a more educated society is better for everyone. I also think prostitution should be legal and regulated.

  • fastlane

    I think Kelly’s a bit of a prude.

  • BFDD

    Emotionally I understand what Kelly is saying. I have the same feelings that sex is some sort of magical thing that should be treated as something special.

    But the reasonable side of me knows that Jaime is correct. It really shouldn’t be treated like some sort of sacred activity. As long as it occurs amongst consenting adults it doesn’t matter why people do it.

    Something about prostitution doesn’t sit well with me, but rationally I have no argument against it. It really is not any different than my job working in a warehouse. I am not respected for my intellect or values. I am simply another tool to get the work done. I am basically just selling my body but somehow it is seen as more respectable than prostitution or being the girlfriend of a wealthy man for an education.

    Why is it that people(including myself) have such weird feelings about selling sex?

    • Daniel Schealler

      For me, it is because in my head prostitution is incorrectly associated with sexual slavery.

      But despite the fact that I intellectually understand that this association is incorrect there is an emotional part of me that still reacts negatively to prostitution because of it.

  • Loren

    I agree with Jamie’s reasoning, but I think a point which should be underlined is the fact that these young women are trading on their youth and their coincidental resemblance to a rather artificial standard of beauty, neither of which is really a talent or virtue which can be developed.

    There’s a certain emotional danger, both for daddies and babies, which comes with valuing something which is so ephemeral.

  • Daniel Schealler

    In previous episodes of “Kelly and Jamie” I’ve been able to substitute either gender in either role – the roles came over as gender neutral.

    For some reason I can’t do that here and make it work.

    Something about Kelly’s argument doesn’t fit my expectations of how a man would argue in favor of her position. I’m not sure why that is.

    Part of it is that she comes over so defensively, as if she identifies very closely with the girls in the original link. But that’s not necessarily the whole story.

    I can still see either a woman or a man in Jamie’s role. But not Kelly’s.

    Is this another example of sexism on my part?

    Or do I have a point, her?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      I try to keep the characters gender neutral. Oddly, the emotional response was based on my own repulsion that these girls could be my students and that drove the Kelly side of me and the protective side. So, it did not come from a particularly feminine place, but that does not matter of course. I am interested in how people come to think of the positions themselves as more masculine or feminine when nothing in the text directly indicates it (in previous posts, people kept assuming Jaime was a he)

    • Daniel Schealler

      I figured you were going for gender-neutral given the absence of gendered pronouns, but didn’t realized it was a sub-experiment in its own right. ^_^


      Hmm. Even knowing the mindset behind Kelly, I still can’t make ‘Kelly’ a male in my mind while reading through the text. Well… I can force it, obviously. But it feels forced.

      By way of contrast, Jamie could be male or female to me – either one feels natural enough.

      I had no trouble gender-swapping both speakers in the the previous dialogues. I wonder what’s making this one stick for me?

  • http://www.aluggageexitinsits.net/ James Davis

    I’d say that it’s important to differentiate between Sexual Slavery, Prostitution, and these money-oriented relationships. If you are going to exchange money for relationship/sex (which is, in itself, neither good nor bad), these types of ‘sugar daddy’ relationships are honestly the ideal. They are entered into willingly, they have immediate and real payout, and they are exited (usually) without much stress or problem. That makes them great, as far as I’m concerned. Were my sisters to do it, I’d encourage them to make sure there were STD tests and condoms and birth control pills involved, but I’d say it was healthy.

    Prostitution begins to get problematic. There, you can’t always get out of the job, and the benefits may not show up. In addition, safety is sometimes out of the question, which is especially worrying.

    Finally, one should condemn sexual slavery, as there the person has not entered into it willingly, has no hope of staying safe, and can’t really ever get out of it except via death. That’s just despicable.

    But here’s the thing, these are different things. One should be illegal, one is possibly immoral but probably no less illegal than any ‘dead end’ job, and the last is perfectly fine, even something encouragable for those who wouldn’t mind doing it.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I agree a little on both sides. I think one thing that could help take the sleaziness out of prostitution is not only legalization, but having a prostitutes’ union.

    The problem with prostitution the way it is currently, is that it’s often a last option for someone with no options. With everyone constantly wanting to run the poor further into the ground, prostitution or selling drugs become the only way to survive (especially if you have kids) or possibly get out of where they are at. The people forced into it by survival are the ones who are taken advantage of.

    College students have options whether they know it or not. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible. I put myself through college on several food service jobs and loans. Yes, it took me 15 years to pay it off, but ultimately it didn’t kill me to take those loans and pay them off. I gave up a lot of things other students had like a car, a nice place to live, and eating stuff other than ramen noodles, but again, doing that never killed anyone. If a college student decides to prostitute themselves, then I don’t see them as being forced into it. They have options like taking a year off and working to save up money, living more cheaply, scholarships, joining the reserves for the GI bill, or going to a lower-cost school.

  • jay

    Very well done.

    It’s a good examination of how one aspect of society decides what sex is or isn’t and decides to push that on everyone else.

    I have read some of the actual advice to ‘daddys’ and ‘babes’ and found it to be quite pragmatic, essentially a contract, with financial and other agreements clearly delineated (this is probably a lot more honest than many conventional dating relationships) Both parties enter this with their eyes wide open.

    Let’s backtrack from the hearts and flowers and look at sexuality from an evolutionary perspective. (I’ve got to start a ways back and work forward.)

    Look at other mammals. Far and away, most female mammals (picture a house cat, for example) are only sexually receptive when they are fertile, awaiting impregnation. As soon as they become pregnant the female wants nothing more to do with the male (yes, ladies, your mammalian sisters are very much into ‘love em and leave em’), in fact, she will actively chase him away. He’d just get in the way, and be a competition for resources.

    Humans behave differently, and the question is: why? Think about this: the mom cat is fully capable of caring for the kittens, 100%. She stocks up on body nutrients which carries her through the short period of time that the young are immobile. She does not need any outside help. Humans are in a very different situation. The young are extremely vulnerable for years. Hunting and gathering by the mother is severely constrained.

    Consider a mutation now: Some human (or pre-human) females *don’t* switch off sexually when they become pregnant, but instead remain receptive through and after pregnancy. Just a small change, but one that can have big results. The male, instead of leaving, sticks around. Unencumbered by the demands of nursing and extensive care of the young, he CAN hunt and gather; and given human capacity for cooperation, this provices substantial resource advantages for the female and for the young. At the same time, since the survival of the young is improved, it adds to the male’s genetic success as well so there is no strong selective pressure against this sexually modified behavior by the male, indeed gradually this cooperation evolves into some level of paternal care (almost unheard of in other mammals) because the more the male gets involved, the more successful his genetic line.

    From this perspective, ‘non reproductive’ sex in humans is probably very much, at it’s root, all about resources. Before we, as a society and species decoreated it with hearts and flowers, female sexuality evolved as an adaptation to help provide resources during tough times. Possibly this explains why most customers of prostitutes are male, because the concept of providing resources as part of the sex act is not that far from our evolutionary roots. From marriage, to gold diggers, to prostituion, to trophy wives, this pattern underlies the core of human sexuality.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Something about your response is triggering my knee into jerking. It feels very MRA-ish, but I can’t put my finger on why. Probably just a style/emotion thing rather than an actual argument thing. Weird.

      Anyway – something about the way you’re saying what you’re saying is ticking me off. But I do think you’ve touched on one of the central motivations that underlies most objections to prostitution.

      It contradicts a common idea about how sexual relationships are supposed to work.

      Given that people can be expected invest their self-identity in their relationships, if it is also true that they believe relationships must fit to a certain model, resistance is inevitable.

      If someone invests emotionally in any idea, we can expect that there will be heavy opposition to anything that contradicts it.

      Holy shit.

      We can see an example of that here, actually.

      I’m deeply invested in the idea of feminism. I’m not always very good at it and I fuck up from time to time – but on the whole I’m invested emotionally and I try.

      I’ve also associated a certain style of speech and key topics with critics of feminism that style themselves as Men’s Rights Advocates.

      Something about your post here reminds me of MRA’s, and it’s making my knee jerk and hunt through your comment for anything objectionable… Despite the fact that there’s not actually anything concrete to which I can object.


      Catching that in action feels so weird.

    • Hertta

      Maybe I can help. The MRA-ishness comes from seeing a regular dating relatioship as a similar exchange (stuff for sex) but less honest.

      And the “let’s look at this from a distance/objectively/without emotion”. And of course the evolutionary perspective. MRA favorite.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      While I have no rational objection to the “sugar baby” phenomenon, I think what bothers me about your argument, jay, is that it appears to just be another form of “nature designed it this way, so it *must* be good.” Maybe this is part of what’s reminding Daniel of the MRA’s? Not sure, as I’m not sufficiently familiar with them, but it does remind me of arguments against same-sex relationships, or for same-sex relationships for that matter. What evolved worked, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or good, or the way things should be (nor does it mean it’s not, it simply says nothing about it).

  • Kara Richardson

    Seriously, the way Kelly argues about this, all actresses and models should be equally condemned. Not only do they flaunt their bodies for the sake of money, but they also twist and pervert other women’s minds into thinking that they can’t get ahead unless their a size 0 and to hell if they have smarts.

    Pft. Let the prostitutes go legal. Let the girls earn their money by being sugar babies. It’s not like there’s some sort of fair trade going on.

    • Kara Richardson

      Pardon my lack of grammar.

      It’s not like there ISN’T some sort of fair trade going on.

  • Ex stripper

    The way I see it, unless you are wealthy, you are going to need money. Basically, you can sell your time, or your body to get it. For some, their time is worth very little, but their body is worth a lot. You never get your time back, so I don’t believe in selling it cheap. Some people are good enough at something to get lots of pay for their time, but young women and men, not usually. Many choose to sell their body and image for big money, instead of their time for little.

    These relationships are also much more complex and nuanced than people realize. Sure, it can be exploitive, from either side, but the reality is that most such relationships are more reciprocal than they appear. Its one of those things I just don’t think you can make sweeping generalizations about.

    I do think it would be better to have a society that valued education, making college free, and valued women of all ages, etx, but that’s not the world we live in. You have to use what you have at the time!

    (I am biased, as I stripped by way through college and my 20′s, and thoroughly enjoyed a decade of working 2, 4-5 hour nights, and making $1k in cash a week (average). I had plenty of time to study, to enjoy my life, and enough money to help friends and family too. I had several older male friends who would take me and my dancer friends on vacations and shopping, etc. It was a very good time, and we all ended up being actual friends in the end. I still talk to a few of them, even now that Im a 35 yr old, married mom, and no longer with a stripper body. It was a win win, as far as I am concerned- they got to look “cool” in clubs, and have fun company, and we got to have fun, and make money. We were lucky, and didn’t meet any real jerks, so I can’t say if this is common or not.)

  • https://plus.google.com/118257424757120514940 Cass Morrison

    I can’t imagine Kelly as a male, the tone is quite judgmental against both parties on very little information.

    I don’t see anything wrong with what the female college students are doing as long as it’s their choice. Just like young men have the option of being well paid if they use for their body in manual labor, women can be well paid if they use body for manual labor.

    The issue for me come when people are being forced into by someone else or not being allowed to discontinue the work when they decide to. I agree with Kara, prostitution should be legal.

    • Daniel Schealler

      I can’t imagine Kelly as a male, the tone is quite judgmental against both parties on very little information.

      I also can’t see Kelly as male, but I’m not sure why. So I’m interested in your comment. See my discussion with Daniel above for my take.

      Was the sentence I’ve quoted above intended to be parsed as:

      1) I can’t imagine Kelly as a male. As an unrelated point, her tone is quite judgmental about both parties on very little information.

      2) I can’t imagine Kelly as a male because her tone is quite judgmental about both parties on very little information.

      3) … Something else.

      Just curious as to what makes Kelly female to you.

    • Kate from Iowa

      That was something I noticed and reacted to as well, and was the major reason I didn’t comment right away yesterday. I wanted time to ask myself (because the “feeling” of Kelly being female because of how “she” was speaking and reacting was the same, that she was extermemly judgemental and critical of the SD/SBs without haveing all or even most of the information she’d need to make an acurate judgement or criticism,) is why exactly do we associate such tone with being female?

      I wasn’t able to come up with anything, so…*shrug* Guess I need to do more work/thunking on that.

  • Mark

    As a university student with a tremendous amount of debt, all I can say is to these girls is “good on you!” The only reason I’m not doing it myself is that, as a man, there’s no market for my sexual services. How can we judge those who CAN subsidize their education in this way? Should they just become debt-slaves while whining sadly about how education SHOULD be free?

  • vince

    Do a study. A population of young university grads of similar economic/social status. One group gets sugar daddies but dont have sex. One group gets sugar daddies and they have sex. Third arm is the control. follow their lives and careers over several decades and see what happens to them

  • brianwestley

    No George Carlin quote yet?

    “Selling’s legal. Fucking’s legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal?”

  • http://songe.me Alex Songe

    I think there may be some concern here with sugar-daddy relationships that are based in the nature of the relationship. Let’s compare an 22-year-old escort with a 22-year-old sugar-baby. An escort has a small set of clientele, and can drop any customer she feels doesn’t meet her standards without risking her other customers. The sugar-baby is solely reliant on 1 sugar-daddy to provide for her economic needs, and can’t easily afford to leave which creates a different power dynamic. Escorts are often anonymous, and enjoy quite a bit of professional privacy (customers don’t know where she lives, etc). The sugar-baby often lives with her sugar-daddy, but not always. She is reliant on him for more than just money, though…but personal gifts and perhaps a standard of living that she cannot obtain on her own. Even under benevolent circumstances, this again creates a dependence issue. I’m sure farther thought can recognize more factors.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      How is this different from an ordinary job? My wife hates her current job, but can’t leave it because it’s a big part of our economic security, and there aren’t currently any jobs available for her skill set that would provide the same security. In other words, the same power differential you mention exists between her and her employer (which also exists between me and mine, to a slightly less degree– there’s a couple companies I could offer my skills to, but they don’t pay as well or have the same benefits).

    • http://songe.me Alex Songe

      > How is this different from an ordinary job?
      “Real jobs” are regulated. There are also professional ethical standards to a lot of these established jobs outside of the legal system. There are employment laws and a labor department to enforce them. There are no sugar-daddy/sugar-baby laws. In the case of escort services and prostitution, there is some degree of professionalism involved (the woman can put certain acts off-limits, can refuse customers, etc) even though there are no legal protections (as it is an illegal activity in most places). With the sugar-daddy/sugar-baby dynamic, you have the power dynamic present and you have no legal protection of employment.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      There are no sugar-daddy/sugar-baby laws.

      And if there were, what would your thoughts be?

      Having finally actually read the linked article, I notice that many of the women mentioned were using short term arrangements even as they (in some cases) looked for longer term, and at least one was in 3 separate relationships at once. So it is not necessarily always the case that they are dependent on one man. They were also using pseudonyms with their clients, thus protecting themselves from the client knowing who they are or where they live. And, they were choosy. The men didn’t get to meet them without prior communication, and if the woman is smart, some negotiation.

      I’m really not seeing how this is different from a regular job with the things you mention, with the exception of the current legality (and depending on how it’s done, there seems to be some legal grey area on this — in a few cases). Yes, there’s a power dynamic because of the money, but that dynamic exists with any job or contract for money. It exists between me and my boss, and has existed between me and every employer I’ve ever had. They had power over me because I needed the money they offered. I couldn’t easily leave any of them (except the one where I just wasn’t getting any money).

  • scenario

    I always wondered about people who say that the government has no right to ban abortions because its no ones business what a woman does with her own body but then says that prostitution should be illegal.

    How is a marriage with a prenup between a rich person and a poor person morally different than a sugar daddy except for the piece of paper?

  • fastlane

    When I was young, I considered hiring myself out that way. I knew of several areas where I could have made upwards of $200/hour. I would have only had to work a few hours a week, or alternately, work a few months to be able to pay for school.

    I didn’t. I worked through at a barely above minimum wage job while taking as many classes at the affordable Community College as I could before transferring to the university.

    Would I have done things differently? Maybe, but there are other risks associated with that type of work that I probably would have avoided it anyway.

  • becca

    I LOVE this conversation. Both Kelly and Jamie are coming from places I understand. Some days I’d agree more with one, and some with the other.

    For whatever reason, I too have an easier time seeing “Kelly” as female here. This is my first introduction to “Kelly and Jamie” so I’m not sure it’s not just the name (I know a lot more female Kellys). I think it may also relate to seeing sex as more self-expression, which is an attitude I’ve seen more among women, but I’m not sure.
    I could see “Jamie” as either, but more like a man in this case.

    Two specific comments:
    *The fact that women “selling their bodies” (i.e. prostitution) is assumed to be degrading, and men “selling their bodies” (i.e. physical labor) is positively glorified (e.g. in Ronnie Dunn’s song “Cost of Livin’”) is a sign we live in a patriarchy, not intrinsic fact.
    That said, we ignore our societal context at our own peril. You can’t make prostitution respectable solely from working within it.

    *Two of my favorite fantasy writers play with the possible roles of prostitution in different cultures in ways that intrigue me.

    In Jacqueline Carey’s series (Kushiel’s Dart ect.), prostitution is a religious calling of sorts, although there are also elements of a caste system as well (that makes me much more uncomfortable). But “love as thou wilt” is held as a sacred mandate. What I think this series gets correct is that “consent” is somewhat of a continuum. It’s important things are entered willingly and boundaries respected, but what circumstances render someone willing to engage sexually with another are complicated, and money/power/influence have always been part of it.

    In Lois McMaster Bujold’s Beta colony, prostitution is highly legally regulated and prostitutes are “licensed practical sexual therapists”, conceptually (at least) on par with medical professionals. What I think this series gets correct is that there are perfectly understandable reasons people would want to seek someone with sexual expertise for a variety of physical and emotional needs. I like the idea that it could all be very respectful and reasonable.

    “The only reason I’m not doing it myself is that, as a man, there’s no market for my sexual services.”
    Don’t be so sure. There were people of all persuasions looking for people of all persuasions when I checked out one of the sites. It’s rarer, yes. But interesting in itself.
    I was surprised, and (I’ll admit it) even slightly intrigued to find older women searching for younger female sugar babies.

  • Larry

    I took got the sense that Kelly is female, perhaps it is cultural bias but Kelly was acting like it was much more personal than Jaime.

    I do agree with Jaime though, if they are consenting adults then who cares? I also wonder if Kelly would react the same if it was older women with men. If anything the Sugar Daddy/Baby relationship is preferable to the simple prostitution route imho.

  • Treban

    Ok, I normally don’t post with a pseudonym, but I do when I talk about this – mostly because I don’t want this to be picked up with a simple google search and attached to me…I am not playing at sockpuppetry, I am just keeping certain aspects of my past from affecting the present – mostly because I have kids who have enough going against them…

    I spent nearly a year as a sex worker to try to support my family. Things were bad and I could make damned good money. Mostly I engaged in activities that weren’t technically even illegal, fulfilling fetishes and fantasies. But I did what clients wanted and sometimes that meant overt sex. To be clear, I am not particularly keen on sex with other men – but I experimented when I was younger and have nothing against it. I was certainly happy to make money I couldn’t otherwise manage – it put off the specter of complete financial doom for almost a year.

    Then the earlier mentioned crash in ’08 happened and that specter of doom came crashing down around us – but I digress…

    I *loved* my work. I got to play the roles clients wanted me to play and I am good at that. I also got to explore abnormal* sexual psychology up close and personal and I got to explore some doozies. And honestly, it was a hell of a lot better work than what I spent most of my adult life doing. It didn’t beat the crap out of my body, the hours were great and I made better money. I enjoy giving others pleasure, enjoyed the role play and loved getting to get intimate and involved with some fascinating sexuality…Including a guy whose fantasy was to be shrunk and dominated.

    The sex? It was sex. I did that sort of thing a lot when I was younger and didn’t ever get paid in cash for it – at least not overtly like that. In that context I did get paid for it and while I had sex with people I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen to have sex with, I even did a fair amount of that when I was younger because I liked making people feel good – and had a hard time saying no to sex, though then I did mostly limit myself to females. But ultimately a warm body is a warm body and we make due…

    * Not bad, or good for that matter – just not found in a substantial proportion of individuals in our culture.

  • pondoro

    First of all, I have to say good on these girls for being doing what they are. I wish I’d been able to find a job where I’d be able to pay my way through school while attending (I took a year off to work as a welder). I’ve been wondering though, as an aside why are we comparing women “selling their bodies” with sex, and men “selling their bodies” with physical labour, rather than comparing say, men selling their bodies for sex? I know women involved in various trades, and I know men who are strippers after all. It seems odd to me that we can’t bring ourselves to compare women having sex for money with men doing the same thing, it’s probably that I’m missing something here, but it seems odd that the discussion so far has avoided this.

  • Treban

    pondoro -

    The biggest difference between men and women selling their bodies for sex, in my experience, is that men are marginally safer from exploitation, assault and regular abuse. And there are more women than men in the sex trade. And, well, that’s about it. Otherwise, see my comment directly above yours…

  • PissedOffSmoker

    I think that the general American public is looking at sensationalist headlines, such as this one, in their usual un-academic way. Does the question of what people spend their money on really constitute ethics? Or is this more the problem of American value systems being puritanical in nature.

    People act as if these women are selling their bodies purely for sex, and some might be. But in essence, aren’t we turning back the clock a bit to a time when there was a well respected branch of society known as courtesans? Women, and men in some instances, who could be trusted to offer the benefactor an uncomplicated relationship?

    There are men out there that either aren’t confident enough to pick up a girl or, through no fault of their own, cause relationships to be unduly complicated. To those who bring ethics into this, I ask, how ethical is it that these people should have to be alone? Should they just sit on their piles of money night after night or should they use their intelligence and personal wealth to give themselves an opportunity that they would not otherwise have?

    I say, Americans are too uptight with things like this. We’ve got an economy in the toilet, poor race relations and a shrinking middle class, the basis of a strong free market economy in case you were wondering why I brought it up. We definitely have more important things to worry about than what some guys spend their money on. And to people who denounce what they’re doing I say, look at what you have. Are you really in a position to judge. Are you so attractive and your life so rewarding that you’ve never thought about the exact same thing?