Is it prostitution?
That is the reaction many people have when they hear about the increase in women signing up for “sugar daddy” Web sites, such as sugardaddyforme.com.
The reason: In exchange for maintaining a sexual relationship with wealthy men, girls receive airline tickets, expensive Manhattan apartments and monthly allowances. What’s this all about? And do these set-ups boil down to prostitution?
Assessing the situation involves looking at three major components at play:
1. The economy — Given the global financial crisis, people are looking for more economic security. Being “kept” is a more attractive option than ever.
2. Pop culture — TV shows like “The Real Housewives of Orange County” have made these arrangements more visible. They’ve given the illusion that these lifestyles are mainstreamed, so women feel they have been given permission to act like these “characters.” The women featured on TV are not only glamorized, but “normalize” such a relationship on a national scale.
3. Tradition — These arrangements have always been around. It’s not unheard of for European men in high-powered positions to have mistresses – something that has been going on worldwide for centuries. "Sugary" Web sites just cut to the chase in a quicker manner.
One also needs to consider who can afford to be a sugar daddy these days. Before the economic crisis, history had never seen so many millionaires. More men had bigger wallets, so a sugar daddy could be any well-to-do man. But lately, such relationships are no longer reserved for the Hugh Hefners of the world. Their inaccessible fantasy realm has become every wealthy man’s reality.
Despite being married with kids, successful men want to have cake and eat it too. They want sex. They want to feel young. They want dating without the drama. So they turn to these Web sites.
While people wonder if the sugar babies have been coerced into such relationships, given the power dynamics, they’re willing participants in all of this. These women are basically willing to “sell” themselves for material goods, designer labels and a lifestyle they think everyone envies.
It’s easy to regard these mistresses as prostitutes or escorts ... until you consider that every sexual relationship has an economic component. Every couple barters to a certain extent in their give and take, gains and losses.
To determine if these women are sex workers, we need to consider their motives. Do they go into the relationship ready to swap sex immediately for money and lavish goods? Does the relationship end, or even begin, if there is no sex? How long have the two been seeing each other before the gift-giving begins? After all, some affairs evolve into mistress situations over time.
Regardless of what they can be called, most women in these situations are setting themselves up for disappointment. The movie “Pretty Woman” is just that — a movie. And even if that scenario does happen in real life, it’s a rare exception to the rule. These situations have to end at some point.
These days, even sugar daddies are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, and they are tightening their expenditures. In hard times, people are trying to find meaning in their lives, and figure out what matters most as they plan their next steps.
For those thinking about a sugar-anything situation (yes, there are rich sugar mamas who lavish male sugar babies), follow suit with such self-reflection. In other words, be careful what you wish for.
And at the end of the day, most people wouldn’t want to be in your Jimmy Choo shoes. If you talk to people who are minimalists, those who value real relationship qualities instead of money, and who could care less about having a high-end lifestyle, the joke is on you. You have nothing to be desired, especially when you consider the lack of self-sufficiency.
A sad, but true reality in this world is that you never have anyone but yourself to rely on. All of us need to be self-sufficient, no matter what kind of intimate relationship we’re in.
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."