I’m sorry, but I’m not buying the ‘feminist sugar baby’ myth anymore
You can do what you want, but you’re not free from criticism
There are many harmful, ultimately false misconceptions out there about the sugar baby lifestyle. That it’s prostitution, for instance. Or that only “stupid” women would do it (Seeking Arrangement, the most well known sugar baby website, has so many student members they even have a “sugar baby university” page on their site).
Or that it’s somehow fundamentally feminist.
I’ve spoken to sugar babies. A lot. They’re often intelligent, eloquent, completely at peace with their lifestyle choice. And I was completely at peace with that too — until I attended a sugar baby “empowerment” convention.
In reality, it just seemed like the feminist argument was by the used speakers, leaders, and more self-conscious sugar babies at the event to deflect criticism away from the app and the lifestyle.
A way of saying “you can’t have a problem with this, that would be un-feminist” or “it’s sexist” or “it’s misogynistic.” The sad fact is that a lot of the women at the sugar baby summit in London didn’t know or even care that the makers of the app were saying it was feminist.
When I asked one sugar baby about it, she asked me what the word feminist meant.
Seeking Arrangement CEO Brandon Wade made a similar argument when I spoke to him: that being a sugar baby was an inherently political, and feminist, act, and that to criticize it either meant you didn’t get it, or you hated women.
When I met Brandon earlier this year, he spoke with reverence about strong females in his life, particularly his mother and sister and how much he looked up to them. But it was laced with an uncomfortable subtext.
It seemed there was a dichotomy — women, like his mom and sister, who understood, and then women who needed an incentive.“A lot of women will say this is counter to the feminist movement because what you’re promoting is that women should use their sexuality to get what they want, but the honest truth is that the empowered woman shouldn’t be ashamed of her sexuality,” he told me.
Other parts of his feminist beliefs were a little muddled too. When he talked about feminism and the sugar baby lifestyle, he said, in a casual, throwaway, offensive comment about Islamic women’s dress: “The true feminist should be proud of it and flaunt it, and say ‘Don’t tell me I should wrap myself in Hijab or whatever just like, what the Muslims too, because that’s really about controlling women and putting women down.’”
Brandon’s not stupid — he went to MIT, duh! — and neither were many of the sugar babies I’ve spoken to online or at the conference.
But just because they’re intelligent, or educated, doesn’t mean they’re (and the sugaring lifestyle as a whole) not problematic. And calling their lifestyles and reasonings out for being problematic, daring to say that you think it might be infantilizing and commodifying women, doesn’t mean you hate women, or that you’re shaming them for being sex-positive.
It’s true that one of the most important tenements of modern feminism is the belief that women should be allowed to make their own choices — whether that’s in regards to their body, their profession or their lifestyle. And that’s fair. That can apply to the sugar baby lifestyle. If you aren’t hurting anyone then fuck it, it’s your choice.
But falling back on lightweight feminism and nothing more to defend it leaves the lifestyle — and the people who lead it — open to endless criticism.