Several years ago, when I took one of my kids to a doctor appointment, several of the clerical and medical assistant staff, all female, were gathered towards the back of the area behind the counter, talking amongst each other.
I guess they were talking about relationships with men, because one of them then declared loud enough that I could clearly hear her, "I don't want a boyfriend, I want a sugar daddy."
Another time, when I was getting a cleaning or some other dental procedure at my dentist's office, the dentist and the hygienist were conversing with each other. Apparently, the hygienist was in some kind of sugar daddy relationship and the dentist was asking her questions about it. When he asked her how old the benefactor was, she demurred. I then blurted out "He's fifty."
The hygienist must have been impressed at the accuracy of my guess, because she then admitted that the man was 49. Neither she nor the dentist asked how close I was to the right answer, but to me, it just seemed to make sense.
In order for a man to play the part of a sugar daddy, he needs to be wealthy enough to do so. For most of those men, that probably does not come until they are in their late forties or early fifties when they are well established in their careers and are in their peak earning years. The mortgage has been paid off. The kids have been put through college. If they're married, they may still love their wives but are looking for the excitement of being with a younger, more energetic women. These are men who are nearing the end of their prime and want to relive their youth while they are still relatively healthy and fit enough to do so. (As an aside, I just want to acknowledge that not all sugar daddy or benefactor relationships are exclusively older, wealthy males with younger, financially struggling females. There are also male benefactor-male relationships, female benefactor-male relationships and female benefactor-female relationships.)
There are a host of websites that those seeking a "mutually beneficial arrangement" can go, such as sugardaddyforme.com or seekingarrangement.com.
I suppose the idealized version of these types of relationships is one of a successful, wealthy benefactor with an altruistic streak who wants to pamper and spoil a younger recipient and help them pay for their education or otherwise give them a chance to better themselves in some meaningful way in return for an exciting or fulfilling relationship where sex sometimes happens. I don't doubt that in the spectrum of these sorts of relationships this does happen. But then there's the other end of the spectrum.
Mac McClelland wrote an article for Mother Jones describing some of the encounters she had with would be male benefactors when she set up an account with one of these web sites for research for her article. From the opening paragraph:
Few things are less appetizing than a man four years my father's junior, a dumpy, pasty, greedy-eyed man in a gray suit who says he doesn't care to screw fat women because they're harder to overpower, asking me over a big bowl of warm apple crisp if I like anal sex. But since he's just offered me $3,000 a month plus perks—gifts, dinners, shopping sprees—to get naked with him once a week, I keep my tight young ass in its place, laugh politely, and pick up my fork.
She goes on to write, "[He] puts proprietary hands on my shoulders and hips before we even get our cocktails and starts bartering for carnal treasure by the time dessert comes by asking me if I'd want to "hang out" once a week. I ask if "hang out" is a euphemism for "screw"; he says yes; I say that I wouldn't consider it for less than $5,000 a month. He counters with $3,000."
For the purposes of writing this article (seriously!) I registered for a free 30-day trial membership just to get an idea of what was waiting out there for me if I were actually wealthy enough to be some young woman's sugar daddy.
Here's a sampling:
1. From a 22-year old single woman in Manhattan, "My favorite sexual position is doggie style because it feels the best. I enjoy giving and receiving oral, and I am VERY good at it." (Capitalized in the original).
2. From a 27-year old woman from da Bronx, "I love singing and dancing specially when I'm drunk. I love being drunk because that's the time that I can express my feelings but watch me when I'm drunk because I'am (sic) wild!!!"
3. From a 24-year old single in Manhattan, "I could be your own Asian Barbie that you can play with."
Of course, not all or even most of the ads were that explicit or suggestive.
4. From a 27-year old Manhattanite, "Down-to-earth, sincere, genuine and kind, intelligent and well-educated… I love to go out dancing, watching movies, theater and sports. I also love to sail and horseback riding and entertaining!"
5. From a 25-year old in Manhattan, "I'm an attractive, passionate, sensual girl, with a good sense of humor. I am well educated and keep myself in a good shape. I enjoy reading, arts, fine dining, shopping and explore the city. I am trustworthy, honest and discreet. I am working on my masters degree, but I also have a flexible schedule."
6. From a 26-year old in Manhattan, "Fun, kind and classy young lady that loves to have fun and have intellectual conversations...(I am not your average girl on here) I take very good care of myself and have a beautiful, toned and slender body. The finer things in life are a great joy to me...what can I say, I LOVE luxury goods!" (Capitalized in the original).
When you get right down to it though, these benefactor relationships are simply a form of prostitution that is available only to the wealthy and it cannot be prosecuted because it is not a matter of payment for an encounter where sex is expected, like busting a john for trying to pick up a hooker on a street corner. Instead, these are relationships in which sex is expected but which encompass more than sex. It is impossible for law enforcement to police it because it is not an effective use of their time or resources.
From the aforementioned Mother Jones article:
"Under California law, solicitation is to offer or accept anything of value for sexual services," says former San Jose police chief and Hoover Institute fellow Joseph McNamara. "But this is right on the line. If the relationship exists for some time and the guy is mega-rich, he can give you whatever he wants; it's not prostitution anymore. Let's face it—a lot of relationships are like that. It's a common thing."
Such benefactor type relationships may be on the rise in recent years, at least for college students or recent graduates, due to the high cost of college education, accumulated student loan debt, and a lousy economy where one either cannot find a job or at the very least a well paying job.
On the one hand, I can understand if student or recent graduate is looking to enter into an arrangement with a wealthier, older person for a relationship that offers the prospect of being able to not only make ends meet, but if they're lucky, enjoy some of the finer things in life in return for putting out for their benefactor once in a while. On the other hand, as the father of a daughter who will likely be a college student a decade from now, I would certainly hope that she would never feel the need to seek out such an arrangement for herself. As someone who styles himself a feminist, I want her to feel rewarded and be able to succeed because of her talents and intelligence instead of being just a commodity for an older man with cash to burn.