Few things are less appetizing than a man four years my father’s junior, a dumpy, pasty, greedy-eyed man in a gray suit who says he doesn’t care to screw fat women because they’re harder to overpower, asking me over a big bowl of warm apple crisp if I like anal sex. But since he’s just offered me $3,000 a month plus perks—gifts, dinners, shopping sprees—to get naked with him once a week, I keep my tight young ass in its place, laugh politely, and pick up my fork.
I learned about SugarDaddy.com when an acquaintance I’ll call “Kim” recommended it to my friend, who’s had trouble finding a job despite (or because of) earning her master’s in media arts several months ago. Kim collected $900 every time she went on a date with one of her sugar daddies; another gave her $3,500 in less than a week before announcing that he had to quit her because his wife had found out. Kim’s best friend “Jill” had two sugar daddies giving her a combined $8,000 a month until one got jealous of the other. Jill has blond hair, amazing lips, and is 19.
All I had to do to gain access to the “meeting grounds of the rich and the beautiful” was enter a user name (“Nextdoor_Nicole”); some vitals like age (I lied and said 23, afraid 27 is overripe), marital status (“Do You Care?” is kind of an exciting choice), and body type (slim); and “Expectation: Select Financial Assistance You Desire,” which ranges up to “more than $10,000 per month.” I chose “negotiable,” so as not to seem like a gold digger, I guess, and slapped up a picture my mom took of me last Christmas.
By the next day, I’d received 13 emails and 6 kisses, whatever that means, and been checked out by 36 older, wealthy men, two of whom added me to their “favorite list.” Which brings me to my place across the table from Do You Like Anal, who puts proprietary hands on my shoulders and hips before we even get our cocktails and starts bartering for carnal treasure by the time dessert comes by asking me if I’d want to “hang out” once a week. I ask if “hang out” is a euphemism for “screw”; he says yes; I say that I wouldn’t consider it for less than $5,000 a month. He counters with $3,000.
There is actually no stack of cash large enough to persuade me to have sex with this guy, but as his income is listed as “more than $1,000,000,” I feel slighted. I ask why he uses this website if he’s not prepared to dole it out, and he says regular dating sites don’t cater to his preferences regarding age or “sensuality,” and that the young girls on Craigslist are all unclassy whores. This statement is followed by an offer of $500 to “get into” my “cooch.”
My double vodka doesn’t do nearly enough to muffle his egotistical blather (“Enough about me,” he says 20 minutes in. “Tell me about you. What do you think about me?”) or the commentary he provides about his, um, girth. My roommate—charged with checking in on me—texts, “If he gets you the guacamole egg rolls you owe him a BJ. Also, ask him if I can have a pony.”
When I arrive home to a houseful of twentysomethings, we rail against the lowball. The lone male in the group asks, “Would it have made a difference if he’d been attractive?” Nobody answers for a second. “Probably,” I concede, and everyone reluctantly agrees; we are all sex-positive feminists here, offended not that he offered me money for sex, but that he offered so little and was so gross, and if the idea of doing him were palatable, and I were single, it’s possible he’d be doing double duty as my boyfriend and payroll officer.
Clearly I’m not the only one intrigued by such a setup. Every time I log on to SugarDaddy.com (a.k.a. SugarDaddyForMe.com), around 2,000 other members are also online. SeekingArrangement.com, “The meeting place for mutually beneficial relationships,” has 100,000 users. Sugardaddie.com, “Where the classy, attractive and affluent can meet,” has 200,000. “These websites make it very efficient,” says historian Ruth Rosen, the author of a book on prostitution. “Because it’s very clear; you don’t have to use coded language.”
She adds, “It’s many fewer hours than working at Wal-Mart, and if it’s not completely disgusting, the women may see it as just something that doesn’t particularly identify them in any way; in other words, their identity as a person may not be, ‘I am a prostitute or a sex worker.’ It’s just, ‘I do this in order to support myself.'”
Steve Pasternack, Sugardaddie.com’s founder, offers a more romantic view. “It’s just natural for guys to want to take care of women and women to want to be taken care of,” he explains. “It’s hard to find a nice guy that’s successful and so isn’t gonna split the bill at McDonald’s.”
So true. Thus, three days later, I am pretending to negotiate with Potential Daddy No. 2. He’s looking for a friend, someone he can trust, someone who is younger and hotter than he—and his wife. He doesn’t want a professional. He just wants to replace his last beloved sugar baby, who, he claims, slept with him four to eight times a week for $300 a pop, which would technically a professional make, but like my first date, he isn’t here to quibble over semantics.
“Under California law, solicitation is to offer or accept anything of value for sexual services,” says former San Jose police chief and Hoover Institute fellow Joseph McNamara. “But this is right on the line. If the relationship exists for some time and the guy is mega-rich, he can give you whatever he wants; it’s not prostitution anymore. Let’s face it—a lot of relationships are like that. It’s a common thing.”
My friend of the disheartening post-graduate-school job search initially scowls when I tell her what Daddy No. 2 offered me. When I point out that it took me two days to get two offers that pay more than my job at Mother Jones, that I could make $9,600 a month—$115,200 a year—and the average starting salary for someone with humanities masters’ like ours is $39,808, she sighs, “I really don’t know if I could stand banging some disgusting creep for money. But there are really some pretty compelling reasons to try.”
It is the same sentiment that I’ve elicited from a lawyer, who says, “I paid 100 grand to go to law school, and I could make more money on my back,” the same response I get from an executive assistant, a service-industry worker, and a teacher, who hold five degrees between them. Even Rosen, after asking me how much I’m “worth,” exclaims, “That’s a lot! Think about your income. Think about mine. I’m not advocating this; I’m just saying I can understand the calculations.”