Sex work is a controversial and polarized topic, and there are many perspectives on it. My position is complex—but for me, when it comes to how we actually interact with sex workers, one important factor is whether or not they consent to and enjoy their jobs. Some of my sex worker friends have asked the question: What exactly is the difference between a person whose partner buys her a fancy dinner after which they have sex, and a person whose partner buys sex with money?
Please note that Olivia is exceptionally privileged. What you are about to read is a portrait of what the sex industry looks like for a person who is very privileged: Hey Olivia, thanks so much for being willing to talk about this incredibly complicated topic.
Could you start by defining a sugar baby site? I use the site SeekingArrangement. I guess it connects people, usually with a big age gap, who are interested in exchanging some kind of material goods or financial resources for some form of companionship that is often sexual—but not always.
He puts out a lot of publicity claiming that this site has nothing to do with prostitution. At first I thought that he was trying to evade legal consequences, but I think he actually probably believes that. My ability to write with proper grammar, without overusing emoticons, appears to be my biggest sales point.
Men have told me this outright. There are a lot of class issues coming up in these encounters, I think. Being white and from an upper-middle class background may help me get clients. My background has also given me a ton of confidence that puts me at an advantage when negotiating. In my encounters with these men, the money does two things. Secondly, it puts them in this position where they can give me something valuable and have that be appreciated. The guys I see really want to feel appreciated.
Do you feel like this has given you any new insight into gender roles? I definitely feel like I am the one with the power in this situation. Here is this rich, powerful person who is about to bestow wealth upon me. Here is this person who is a bit sad and lonely, and maybe I can make their day better.
One of the men I see will always talk about his opinions about money. But he also keeps telling me in a very serious voice that money will not make me happy, that nothing I can buy will make me happy. I tell him that I can buy security and he says yes, that is one thing I can buy.
Other men seem to be having issues with their age. But anyway, often, another thing these men seem to get out of it is access to someone who has a bunch of youthful energy and optimism and just plain new ideas. A lot of them have mentioned feeling stuck, or bored, or cynical, or intellectually constrained. But the sex is also a symbol of them getting access to my youthful energy or whatever. I am more valuable to them because I have other work that I am seriously invested in, and am having sex with them anyway.
But I think a lot of them being patronizing and presumptuous can probably be attributed to age and wealth, and only some of it to gender. I knew this, but now I really know it. I think they were sincere. Of course, my first thought was: I think they think that investing a lot of money in me is a good investment for them if it gives them a release valve so they can deal with the rest of their lives.
You mentioned that you feel powerful in your relationships with these men. But there are issues of your safety, right? There may be more issues of safety with this because some people really do believe that money can buy them anything. But for the most part, when I meet people they seem very respectful. I think some clients might feel threatened by that, though.
I meet all my clients in public first for a meal, and if someone sketches me out, I leave. I guess I am at risk if I meet a really crazy person who wants to chop me up and put me in a dumpster. But I could meet a person like that during a normal night at a bar, too. If people are unwilling to actually talk about sex for money, it must be hard to negotiate your encounters.
Do you have a set of steps for negotiation? Usually, I meet them for some kind of meal, and we chat. Why are you on the site? Like, he might say: I am always extremely vague when I talk about money.
For example, one client was saying that he wanted to get married again, but not yet. He seemed almost confused about why I asked. With that guy, I ended up sleeping with him before we even talked about money, which was a huge risk, but I thought it might work, and it did. We had the money conversation immediately after we had sex—at some point when we were taking a break, I asked what he was looking for more specifically from this relationship, and he said that he wanted to see me again, maybe once a week.
The next time I saw him—we were deciding where to meet, and he asked if he should get us a room. I said that I would like that, so I met him and we had sex. The next time I saw him, he asked about my plans for the evening. Probably I should have negotiated that situation more clearly, but it worked out OK. And I know other women who do, too. You mentioned him briefly. How does your husband feel about this? He does not seem particularly threatened. We already have an open relationship.
We just have to talk about it. But these guys would never be a threat to my husband. I would never be sleeping with any of them except for the money. And I love my husband. My clients accept that.