It’s 11:40 on a school night. I have recently done myself the colossal disservice of adding the Starz subscription to my Amazon Student account. I have watched a total of 13 movies, and two full first seasons of two different shows just in the past 7 days. Yes, this requires serious commitment. Serious procrastination. And a willingness to stay up until 5:30am when you have to be up 4 hours later.
About 30 minutes ago, after finishing a sappy and only partially satisfying Rom Com featuring Chris Evans, I decided to read the description on a Starz’ original series: “The Girlfriend Experience”. It goes like this:
“Christine Reade is a law student and an intern at a prestigious firm but her focus quickly shifts when a classmate introduces her to the world of transactional relationships. Known as GFEs, they are women who provide ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ — emotional and sexual relationships at a price. Juggling two lives, Christine is drawn into the GFE world, attracted to the rush of control and intimacy.”
Hm, Ok. Interesting. One of my best friends and fellow women’s college student, we’ll call her Sarah, does something very similar to this. Months ago (before I knew that) while complaining about my lack of money and my sad excuse for a love life, another friend told me I should get on an online dating site for sugar relationships called Seeking Arrangement:
“Where Sugar Babies enjoy a life of luxury by being pampered with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances. In turn, Sugar Daddies or Mommas find beautiful members to accompany them at all times.”
My instant reaction was absolutely not. Then Sarah, told me she actually did use the site. Naturally I was curious, I had the same idea in my head as you and the writers of the show. Just from the first episode, the obvious insinuation is that this “world” is secretive, under-the-table, potentially dangerous, and potentially lucrative (all true), but also scandalous, dirty, taboo, highly glamorous, and essentially just prostitution (not remotely true). The reality of it is a transactional relationship, usually with money, but other valuable things are exchanged, and it is not about having sex. But the show boils down this experience to some cheap, stereotype and perpetuates the notion that female sexuality is inherently wrong while fetishizing it as some glorified upper class version of whoring yourself all for the sake of nudity on our screens.
Before we get into my Q & A with Sarah, I am now halfway through the second episode and the main character Christine now has a pimp and has already had sex with her two new connections. I call them connections because I am at a loss for what to call them, sugar daddies perhaps, but certainly not clients, which is how this show makes them feel. Let me repeat: [in real life] this is not prostitution. It is not an accurate or respectful depiction of the women and men who use sites like Seeking Arrangement, or their experiences…
Why do you prefer to remain anonymous?
Relationships are judged when people are not same age — especially women. Women are judged for choosing men solely for money, so having my name attached to anything along the lines of a sugar baby would be detrimental to my future professional career because it would paint me as the type of person that I am not, and I fear those misconceptions. A sugar baby enters a relationship because it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. She just wants to be taken care of in some way, but the misconceptions make you vulnerable to judgement that I am not comfortable with.
What is the judgement?
People assume that I have sex with every man I meet, that I’m in it just for the money, and that it is closer to prostitution rather than just a relationship that comes with clear expectations and guidelines. Sugar babying is a blurred line between a relationship and prostitution because you are receiving some sort of monetary or material payment that is out of your pay grade, so people assume that he’s just paying you for sex, but there is a degree of emotional investment involved.
Why do you think most men are on the site? Why do they prefer anonymity?
They want an escape and SA is a means to attract the people who have the time and the desire to fulfil their fantasies, not all of these “fantasies” are kinky, some are simply looking for a young face to share a great dinner with. These men are high up in their career and some even have families, being known as a sugar daddy would endanger their personal and professional lives.
Why do you “have the desire to fulfil their fantasies”?
Because it’s an adventure that I also get compensated for. I would otherwise be on a typical dating site, like Tinder, paying for my own dinners, meeting uninspiring boys who I’ve often felt were a waste of time.
Do you want to continue doing this? For how long?
I could see myself doing this off and on for the next 5 years, but it’s completely dependent upon any romantic relationships I get myself into. If I were to enter a relationship I would deactivate my account and fully devote myself to that person who is looking to share more than just ideas and fantasies with me. I know I don’t have a real future with any of these men.
Currently how much do you make per month?
How many other students do you know who are participating in this, or similar, sites?
Three not including myself.
How do you think people on campus would perceive you if they knew?
My close friends would share the laughs and excitement, while people I don’t know would be blinded by their prejudices and question my morals and motivations.
Even at a women’s college? How does this change perceptions?
People might see me as a forward thinker in a feminist community like this — it has an empowering aspect. You’re using your feminine sexuality as a tool to learn more about the world, relationships, money, and yourself. I would never do it at a co-ed school because I would be more afraid of the men’s view of what I do because my future partner could be one of them, men view it as wrong and slutty or “nasty”, and a gold digger is not anyone who they could see themselves with.
Thank you, Sarah. We salute you.