The largest online sugar website called Seeking Arraignments, helps connect people for a "no strings attached" relationships. The website lists potential perks for young women seeking a mature partner through the site, such as mentorship, payment of college tuition, and the opportunity date financially successful men. This lucrative business can be alluring to female students in college, with large amounts of student loans and still uncertain futures. In an article in the NY Times, a user of the site, Lola, describes how she used it to help with tuition. She said she was "willing to try almost anything to stay in school."
This type of escort service blurs the line between prostitution and companionship. It also exposes women the physical and psychological hazards of being an escort. For this article, I interviewed a young Canadian female who signed up for a sugar website, Teresa. She said sexual violence is common in the sugar daddy business and this violence is just the tip of the iceberg when addressing the hazardous elements of being an escort. In her early twenties, Teresa said she started working independently in the escort business to pay for college. As a full-time escort for seven years, Teresa has since worked in several countries around the world.
Teresa says when she reported her first assault to local authorities nothing came of the compliant. As victims often feel delegitimized through the legal proceedings following a sexual harassment complaint, Teresa felt discouraged from filing further complaints. She ultimately decided not to report future incidents of sexual violence due to the burdens imposed on her when testifying.
How slippery is the slope between sugar dating, the escort service, and other forms of adult entertainment? Whether we label this business of exchange in money for adult services as the "New Prostitution Economy" or the ideal relationship - it is important to analyze the push and pull factors that have influenced women to sell their bodies in order to pay for student loans or car payments.
Teresa mentions that she was drawn to the business by the money she made from it. "I started out as a lingerie hostess for bachelor parties and poker parties. As a hostess, I did well enough, but slowly I moved into a different type of adult work that paid even more," she said.
In my book, Ending Domestic Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom, I discuss the economic hardships victims of violence encounter at the hands of their abuser and how economic empowerment can aid women in becoming independent through financial stability. While it is common for college students to work two or three part-time positions just to make ends meet, the flexibility and convenience of being a "sugar baby" allows young women to pursue their dreams of obtaining an education and eventually meaningful long-term careers.
My non-profit organization, Second Chance Employment Services, provides employment services for survivors of domestic violence. In other words, we provide another, much safer avenue, for victims to gain financial independence for themselves and their dependents.
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For confidentiality and safety purposes, the source identified in this article will remain anonymous.