“The Sugar Daddy Recession”

That's how Laurie Penny characterizes the recent rise of websites connecting well-off men with hard-up younger women:

The idea of having a financial hold over another creature has become a fantasy on its own merit. The key to that fantasy is the idea that the young people willing to offer their physical and personal affections in exchange for hard cash are not "pros" or professional sex workers — they are "ordinary." Students and single mothers were particularly in demand, as women who were assumed by definition to be financially abject. …

What about sugar mommies?

[Brandon Wade, owner of SeekingArrangement.com] says that only a tiny fraction of his "generous" clientele are female –  in fact, the sugar daddy dynamic seems to be almost exclusively a heterosexual fantasy of male dominance, at least as it is played out online. Both on the "official" websites and on Craigslist, there are few women looking for sugar babies, and few men looking to buy a young boyfriend. One thing that crops up time and again, however, is these men’s desire to be considered "normal" — where ‘normal’ means not the kind of guys who’d buy sex. Or at least, not just sex. As I scrolled through more and more offers of cash for sloppy fellatio and walks in the rain, it became clear that some of these men were looking to pay thousands of dollars a month for something approaching love.

Jonathan Heaf also spoke with Wade:

"[O]ne of the things I truly believe – and why I set up this site to help others – is that if people feel a relationship isn't born out of love, then there has to be something wrong with it. Why? The truth is, in my opinion, love is a concept that's been invented by poor people." I tell Wade I'm not entirely sure I follow his bonkers philosophy.

"Calling women 'prostitutes' who want something more out of a relationship than just this abstract notion of love is a comment and a stigma that is born from pure jealousy. These people aren't wealthy, they aren't beautiful, they aren't the cream of the crop – so what do they have? They have love. For everyone else there's our website."

Oy. Previous dispatches from the sugar daddy economy here and here.