‘Sugardating’ is one of the latest additions to my vocabulary. I came across it in an article in the newspaper Politiken that discussed how some young girls from average families are having sex with rich older men for money – an act more traditionally referred to as prostitution.
Now, this isn’t the first time society has been uncomfortable associating the well-off with vice. Prostitutes for the rich are escorts, Breivik was a gunman and financial crime is merely fraud.
The concept was also discussed in The Atlantic last year, in an article entitled ‘How Sugar Daddies Are Financing College Education’. It was a remarkable article for several reasons. First was the use of the word ‘financing’ in the headline, which made the act of sex for money sound as dull as buying a government bond.
Second was the article’s focus on college students, who aren’t the typical poverty-driven sex workers that come to mind when discussing the oldest profession.
Third was that the article read like an advert for the world’s biggest website connecting bodies with bucks, seekingarrangement.com, which claims to have 2.6 million members, of which seven out of eight are ‘sugar babies’.
“If so many college women are signing up for the site, it must be something different,” the article stated, drawing to a close. “It must be more socially acceptable somehow. It can’t really be prostitution.”
What a fun conclusion.
What the article failed to take into account as a possible explanation for the trend is the fact that US college tuition has risen five times faster than the cost of living since 1985. Instead of hailing this as not ‘real’ prostitution, we ought to see it as prostitution in its essence – selling sex to deal with material poverty. Just look at the women you can find soliciting on Copenhagen’s streets. They are almost exclusively from poor countries in Africa and Eastern Europe.
My view on prostitution may seem a bit contradictory, but I at least think it makes sense. On the one hand, the social libertarian in me doesn’t want to ban people from using their bodies in whatever way they choose, and that includes selling it to the highest bidder. But, on the other hand, I have a huge problem with people thinking they have the right to buy or rent other humans for their own pleasure. Humans are something more and mightier than commodities.
One evening, while discussing this very topic, a good friend of mine pointed out that what I was describing was the relationship between an employer and an employee in a capitalist system. An employee sells their time and utility, and the employer gives him money in return.
I don’t think sex and intimacy can be compared to something as mundane as sitting in a cubicle and hanging out on Facebook, and maybe that’s my conservative nature. But in many other ways, I’m forced to admit that prostitution does seem to be the perfect form of capitalist endeavour.
In order for capitalism to really thrive, it needs to be constantly opening up new markets. This can be done, for instance, by creating new trade routes, inventing new technology, or utilising resources in inventive ways. Our bodies, too, are a resource, so why not sell them for sex and medical experimentation? As most of the world’s population does not currently engage in prostitution, and the world’s population is steadily growing, this market’s potential is basically endless.
But before we embark on this incredible capitalist endeavour, we might have to make some changes. Most prostitutes tend to be poor, so we could start by creating more poor people. A good way to start could be the right wing’s plan to cut unemployment benefits.
This would provide a short-term fix, immediately pushing several hundred people into utilisable poverty. And since college students seem to be more than willing to sell themselves for money, our next step could be to follow the recommendations of libertarian think-tank CEPOS, creating high tuition fees and copious amounts of student debt.
The other change we need to make before we can set our plan in motion – and this one is very important – is to change the name. I wouldn’t feel comfortable being called a prostitute. It makes me feel rather dirty and unempowered. So how about we call it ‘Romance Analyst and Privacy Entrepreneur’? I think that is a title that will make us all feel good about ourselves.
Because that’s what drives unfettered capitalism – the principle that everything can and should be monetised and subject to market principles. Our depravity and desperation are not off limits, we just needed the PR department to make up a new word for it, because at least then we don’t have to feel bad about the reality of what we’re doing. M