I have a friend who, for a good part of our senior year of college, had a sugar daddy. She was 22, bright, but terminally lazy and incredibly underachieving. He was in his 30s, a consultant stationed near our college for 5 days a week, and incredibly bored and lonely. If they'd met at a bar, it would have been sketchy but eye-roll worthy. They didn't meet at a bar though; there was nothing innocent and coincidental about it-- because they met on seekingarrangement.com, a site where people post classifieds looking for sugar daddies or sugar babies. The ads-- my friend's included-- often say that they aren't offering for sex, but that its a possibility like in any normal relationship.
Once a week, my friend drove out to the suburban hotel her sugar daddy stayed in, and they went to a fancy dinner followed up by sex. She told me she wouldn't have slept with him if he hadn't been funny, nice, and moderately attractive. But she also told me that she probably wouldn't have slept with him if there hadn't been some sort of monetary incentive involved.
At the time, her casual attitude towards sex work bothered me-- but it bothered me even more that she refused to accept it as sex work. It still bothers me that she refused to accept it as sex work-- and yet, I see many other women who don't think this arrangement is sex work either, because it does mirror a more traditional dating scheme. But the difference between a prostitute who specializes in "the girlfriend experience" and a sugar baby seems very small to me-- and as if it mainly consists of smugness that she isn't a prostitute.
I can't deny that the thought of having a sugar daddy would be incredibly appealing if I were single-- I'm a broke grad student who would love some free meals and pricey clothing-- but as checkered as my dating past might be, I don't know that I could bring myself to enter a "relationship" where I'd be basically getting paid to flatter someone. I don't have a problem with sex work (though my future legal career does mean there's no chance in hell I'd do it), or people who do sex work, but the fact is, entering into a sugar relationship is not the same as entering into a regular relationship. In normal dating, you can be fairly sure that both parties genuinely like each other and want to spend time with each other-- or at least, you can pretend that's true. In a sugar relationship, it seems that compatibility standards lower considerably. He might not actually like you-- but if he flatters you over dinner and gives you money, you'll sleep with him. You might not actually like him, but if you flatter him over dinner, and sleep with him, you can pay rent, or buy a nice new dress. Its using each other and, while some would say that the pleasure we get out of regular dating is still using each other, this seems more... heartless, more mercenary, more of a lie.
I like truth. Genuine people. Honesty. And romance.
And the romantic in me just... can not accept that sex and money should be more important in a relationship than a true meeting of mind and heart. Yet, I totally get casual sex. Contradiction, yes, but one I'm willing to own up to.