A female friend of mine (who is a younger than me) told me she was considering being a "sugar baby." It's likely you know what this is, but for those who don't — my understanding is basically its sex trade for gifts, money, vacations, etc. I have conflicted feelings about this type of situation, and sex work generally. Some pro, some con.
I'm sex-positive and have no negative gut reaction to women enjoying themselves sexually but I do to women using sex to obtain money. I know it's not always done because of financial disparities, but we aren't progressed enough as a society for me to not identify that as a reason women turn to such situations. I have a daughter and if she felt she need to fuck people to afford vacations, I'd be devastated. I hope my daughter feels like a boss not like inventory. (And yes I believe there are people who do sex work "like a boss" and that it is possible to be done from a place of empowerment.) I'd prefer to see women thriving in society to the point that they are giving blowjobs because they love it not because they've never been to Tahiti or, worse, can't afford a place to live or food.
I take issue with women being treated like a commodity. I'd rather see women using their brains to create resources not be a resource. Women should own property, not be property. I feel strongly about this. I'm not anti-sex work because sex is bad or exchange of resources is bad. I just worry it keeps women at the bottom of the food chain. I'm exasperated, Dan. I try to be educated and compassionate. I respect other peoples choices (although fuck you Paul Ryan), and I'm sex-positive. But I'm just weary from inequality. Fucking exhausted.
Being a regular reader, I know you to be pro-sex worker (as I am ultimately... I'm pro-human and freedom of choice). And maybe I'm coming off as judgemental and full of shit. I would like to see oppression stop without a leap into a puritanical world. I just want to be treated like a human being and not fucking crude oil. If the world were fair and equal, I"d say, "Go for it, fuck for money." But right now, it hurts my soul to hear my friend say she's going to fuck old men to get what she wants out of life.
Honestly, I'm bummed out. Any words to console me, Dan?
Still Lacking A Valued Existence
For someone who's pro-sex work, SLAVE, you toss around a lot of sex-negative, anti-sex worker stereotypes. Sure, you're "pro-human" and understand that sex workers are humans who often do the Lord's work and you totally don't judge and you're willing to concede that many sexworkers like their freely-chosen professions. Buuuuuut in your perfect world sex workers wouldn't exist. (That lne kind of reminded of an "inclusive" Christian pastor who told me he liked gay people fine and welcomed us at his church... buuuuuut in God's "perfect creation," gay people wouldn't exist.)
Tired of feeling so exhausted about your friend's choice? Stop making it about you and listen to her. You should share your perspective with her — you are her friend, she values your input — but at a certain point you'll have to step off and allow your friend to make her own choices. Because... her body is her own, right? She's not your property. And if you want "to see oppression stop," SLAVE, you can start by not pushing the idea that a woman who sells sex can't be "a boss" or that a man who buys sex is an abuser. Stigma and shame make sexwork more dangerous for the people doing it and harder for those who want to transition out of sexwork to leave, SLAVE, so if you care about the women who are doing it, yeah, you don't wanna be making the stigma and shame worse. Also making sexwork worse: criminalization, which can make it impossible for abused sexworkers to seek help. If you've listened to my show, you've heard sex workers come on and talk about their jobs — jobs they like, jobs they're good at, jobs they've chosen, jobs that are made needlessly more dangerous by dint of being criminalized. (One of the things sexworkers tell me they like most about their jobs? They get to be their own bosses!)
I too would like to live in a world where no one has to do a dirty job they hate because they feel they have no choice. Dangerous meat processing plants and soul-killing/artery-hardening fast-food franchises are full of people who would rather being doing almost anything else. Sexwork isn't the only thing people under financial duress. So lets get busy building a world where there's a guaranteed basic income and free health care and reliable and cheap mass transit and paid vacation time and an education system that isn't designed to heap decades of debt on someone before they're 22 years old. Because if we want to make sure no one does sexwork unless they want to do, we'll have to remake our economic system broadly and generally, SLAVE, so it's fairer to all workers — butchers, burger flippers, sexworkers, everybody.
As for your friend, SLAVE, there are lots of sugar babies out there — babies who've written into this column — who enjoy being sugar babies. But as Kelly O found in a 2009 piece for The Stranger, the sugar baby websites are a mixed bag. Caveat
emptor meretricis meretrix. (Someone let me know if my Latin is off here — okay, the online English/Latin dictionary's Latin is off — or in any way disrespectful. Thanks!)
Let your friend figure out what she wants to do and what works for her. If she decides to be someone's sugar baby, tell her she can do and it and still be a boss — and that you'll still be her friend.
UPDATE: Someone let me know my Latin is off — after letting me know they've been reading me a long, long time...
It's "caveat meretrix." Meretricis is the possessive form, but for "lady who X-es" the nominative is always -trix. Ironically, when I teach this to my students the example I always use is, "What do we call a woman who dominates?" Thanks for everything you do, but on behalf of Catholic school teachers everywhere I am terribly disappointed. Sincerely,
Nerdy Aesthete Evaluating Dan's Ungrammatical Sayings
Thanks for writing in, NAEDUS, but don't blame my Catholic school teachers for my lousy Latin. It's on me — I was a terrible student. (Oh, and before anyone blows up at NAEDUS about his salutation: "Hey, Faggot" was the official salutation for the first eight or so years of "Savage Love." It's an affectionate callback, not a hate crime.)