G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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In his latest Good Men Project piece, religious radical feminist white knight Hugo Schwyzer throws his weight at the piece at Huffington Post about the co-ed-sugar daddy relationship wherein debt-ridden students have taken up prostitution to alleviate their financial burden.
It’s easy to overhype the popularity of the sugar daddy phenomenon. It’s safe to say that it’s neither as new as some imagine or as widespread as some journalists (and website operators) claim. But it’s also clear that the Internet, the recession, and spiraling student loan debt enable and encourage these relationships. And in some instances, these clearly are relationships.
This passage maintains the frame: women just passively exist, things just happen to them. They are not responsible for their choices in life and anything that reeks of commodification is foisted upon them subconsciously and, therefore, against their will. Nevermind that very few men are “encouraged” to enter these lines of work despite being strapped with the same financial burdens. What Schwyzer ignores here is that many young women are actively using their innate talents and abilities to make ends meet.
It’s easy to understand the motivations of young women like Nicki [a girl from one of Schwyzer's classes who has sold sex for money]. It’s harder, however, to excuse the actions of men twice and three times the age of the college students they pursue. The quasi-romantic nature of the sugar daddy-young girl relationship is troubling. The rich old man isn’t just buying sex, he’s buying status (if, as some of these men do, he chooses to “show off” his college student). If he’s buying her listening ear as well as her body (something that Fairbanks suggests is likely), he’s treating emotional intimacy as a commodity that can be purchased.
Again, look at the words here. Women like Nicki are motivated, but they do not act. They are acted on by men “twice and three times” their age. By framing this as acting men versus acted upon women, this alleviates the young woman’s responsibility. She is essentially coerced into selling her body. We are only one or two threads away from out-and-out rape accusation.
Since Schwyzer frames this as some sort of hegemonic relationship, he is unable to understand the mutually beneficial exchange of such a set up. I’m sure deep feminist critical theory has their own self-satisfying explanation, but it seems quite clear to me that rich men trade off some of their status and power ($$) for sex and companionship. Young women trade their assets – the same said sex and companionship – for money.
But this is called “sex work” right? It is much like any form of work where one person uses their natural talents and abilities in exchange for payment. A day laborer uses his sturdiness and muscle to earn a paycheck, but he’s certainly not earning upwards of $500 per shift. The white knight in Schwyzer places the female on a pedestal – overvaluing the use of the vagina as a tool while devaluing other forms of hard labor.
What Schwyzer ignores is that these co-eds have other options available to them. It’s just that they are seeking the most profitable use of their time and their assets. They could work as waitresses or retail workers, but they certainly wouldn’t earn as much. Which pretty much shows us that these women are rational actors weighing the pros and cons of the options laid out before them. Their backs aren’t up against the wall, nor must they turn to the streets for money. They’d just rather do the horizontal thing than the 8-5 thing. And who can blame them?