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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Student shares reality of sugar-dating site

Editor’s note: The Daily Lobo’s letter submission policy is to refrain from publishing anonymous letters or those submitted using pseudonyms. However, after meeting with the author in person and authenticating the author’s story, the Daily Lobo decided to break with standard policy in this case. This student’s name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of the letter’s content.

Editor,

Am I a gold digger?

The Albuquerque Journal seems to think so.

When I saw my professor with the front page of last Tuesday’s Journal, my heart stopped.

The story was about UNM students using the sugar-dating site seekingarangement.com to pay for college — the same site I had once used.

Skimming through, I observed that the article showed a limited view on the issue.

Reporter Mike Bush’s sole sugar baby source, Meg, seemed frivolous. She was not in a dire financial situation, but simply desired to supplement her part-time job.

Bush’s other source, Dianne Anderson, described as the UNM spokeswoman, disputed the need for young women to seek such relationships because tuition at UNM is “affordable.”

The article plays into the myth that women are only interested in men for their money. Bush never once considers the possibility that for these students, deeper issues may be at stake.

I can only tell you my story, but I assure you, my motivations for joining the site were much more complex than wanting some extra spending money.

It was the summer before my freshman year of college at another university. I had to take out a number of student loans to pay for my education. This caused me much anxiety. While searching for scholarships online, I came across an ad for seekingarrangement.com.

At first the idea seemed silly, but the more I explored the website, the more intrigued I became. Would someone really pay me to escort him around, to be his arm candy?

I had attracted very little attention from high school boys, and did not have much dating experience.

Looking through the profiles of potential suitors, I saw someone who could appreciate me. Someone to finally give me the attention I so craved.

So I signed up.

I did not have to do much before messages started appearing in my inbox. Some of the sugar daddies promised pampering right off the bat — in exchange for sex, of course. I did not respond to those.
However, the majority of the men were fairly conversational at first. They shared their interests with me, told me about their lives and even asked me about myself.

It was not long before the relationships went offline. I started talking to the men through my personal email, taking several phone calls a day, answering text messages and even Skyping.

That is when things started to get dark.

It was not long before the conversations turned to sex. Many of the men started asking me about my sexual preferences and other subjects that made me uncomfortable. In between offers to fly me to their hometowns, they would tell me what they wanted to do to me. I was even coerced into modeling clothes for them.

I tried to dodge these conversations, but I was afraid to express my discomfort. I was very honest about my sexual inexperience.

This only prompted them to fetishize my virginity.

Why didn’t I just hang up the phone? No one was forcing me to engage in this.

Part of it was that I naively put too much of my personal information out there. I feared what cutting off some of the relationships would do. What if they figured out where I lived?
At times, my noncompliance prompted these suitors to threaten and berate me. I feared the consequences of cutting off the relationships entirely.

Aside from fearing for my physical safety, another reason I continued was that I did not value my body. With an eating disorder and sexual abuse in my past, I was extremely vulnerable.

I was the kind of girl these websites prey on.

I felt trafficked. What had started as an innocent search for financial aid turned into a downward spiral of contemplating selling myself for sex.

I was in such a dark place, I even considered becoming a full-on sex worker.

I thought attaching a price tag to my body would make me feel wanted.

Desperate for validation, I feared losing the suitors’ affection more than the consequences of putting myself in harm’s way.

About a month later, I went out on a date with a man from a different website, “What’s Your Price.” This website was less of a place for men seeking sugar babies, and more of an auction site where men of all financial backgrounds bid for first dates.

On our first date, I was presented the agreed upon $100. Even though there was no physical contact, I felt dirty. This man was kind and wanted a genuine relationship with me. He did not deserve to be used.

Despite the terms on which we met, we really hit it off. He was no millionaire; he did not buy me lavish gifts or give me an allowance, but he was good to me. We went on to form an actual relationship, and I deactivated my Seeking Arrangement profile.

The relationship lasted 18 months.

And I have no intention of returning to any sugar dating website.

So, am I a gold digger? I don’t think so.

I am now a UNM student, and I am still trying to heal from that dark time in my life. As time has passed, I have come to better understand why I did it. My short time as an aspiring sugar baby was a manifestation of some very serious issues. Sexual abuse, coercion, negative body image and eating disorders: these are all issues that are unfortunately all too common among young women today.

Society teaches people to view women’s bodies as commodities.

If Mike Bush looked past the antiquated idea that women are shallow gold diggers, maybe he would see that the stories of these UNM sugar babies are not too different from my own.

Nichole Brown
UNM student