Sugar Babies?

I caught a bit of the Tyra Banks show yesterday afternoon. I haven't seen her in a long time so I thought I'd see what she's up to now. Looks like the same old thing....judging women for their choices around their sexuality. This show was about 'Sugar Babies'. These are women who hook up with very rich men to get their financial needs met. Of course, this is nothing new. This has been going on since before recorded history. But what is new, or at least somewhat new, is a website and service devoted specifically to helping men and women connect for this purpose. I believe there are actually a few such sites but she had the owner of a particular one on the show, as well as two women who claimed to be sugar babies.

I have to admit, I am torn by this phenomenon. Part of me wants to say 'Hey, if everyone is consenting, where's the problem?' But the other part of me sees the gender inequity that leads to this kind of thing. Why is it mainly women who do this and very rarely men? She did actually have two men on the show that were self-professed 'him-bos' (that name and the blatant misogyny behind it something I'm not even going to get into here), but it's quite clear that it's mainly women who participate in these types of relationships. The reasons are obvious, I think. There are far more men in positions of great wealth and power than there are women. As well, I think that men are much less likely to believe that finding a rich and powerful person to care for them is the easiest way for them to get their financial needs met or to live a wealthy lifestyle. The first assumption by men is that the way to wealth is to build it yourself, not to ride on the coattails of someone else. Historically women have had to depend on men to survive because they were denied the ability to own property, to accumulate wealth of their own, and to participate in most trades and professions. Their only option for wealth was to marry well, if that was even an option for them. Although that has changed, we still do not have equal access and that history still carries on in our psyche. A lot of women still believe that their financial security depends on men.

Here's a case in point. My mother was always very clear with her three daughters that we should have jobs and careers of our own and that we should plan to take care of ourselves. Although my mother married in her early 20's in 1962 and had three children, she always worked. She worked because she wanted to and because she was contributing financially to the family. My sisters and I did not grow up with the belief that we were just waiting to get married so we wouldn't have to work anymore. All of us have professional degrees. However, a few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my sister and her family. We were talking about trades because we had just been to an Alberta trade fair. My 11 year-old niece mentioned a friend of the family who worked in the oil field and made a lot of money. 'That's what I need to do,' she said, 'I need to marry someone who does what Bob does.' I was shocked. Here's a girl who was not raised with this type of value and expectation and yet still, her first thought about how to make money is to find a man with money. I said to her 'No sweetie, you need to find out if what Bob does interests you and if it does, go do it yourself. Make your own money, honey.' This little girl is smart, really smart - she'll be able to do anything she wants. But that thought had not occurred to her.

So my feminist soul has a dilemma here. I actually do support the right of these women to do what they're doing. According to them, they are completely forthright with their 'sugar daddies' and they with them. They both know the parameters of the relationship and the expectations. The men are not being used because they know exactly what the woman expects. The woman knows what the man expects and makes a choice as to whether she accepts it or not. If there is upfront knowledge and informed consent, I don't think anyone is being abused or exploited. If that's what they choose to do, it's their business. I do not believe that they are necessarily exploiting themselves, or devaluing themselves. A major point of contention on the show was whether this was prostitution or not. I don't think it matters. If everyone agrees, it is an agreement. I don't believe that taking money for sex, if that is a part of what they are doing, is necessarily wrong. So I don't judge them like Tyra Banks and her 'expert' do.

But it does make me sad that so many women still feel that their most valuable asset is their sexuality. And maybe that is judgmental of me. Who am I to say that's not okay? I just wonder if the women who make these kinds of choices do it because they feel that's the best thing for them, that they know they could make the money themselves but they just don't want to, or if they feel that even now, they will never be able to achieve the kind of lifestyle they want without the help of a man.