“They want the perfect girlfriend—in their eyes,” says Miranda, the young woman at our table.* “She’s well groomed, cultured, classy, able to converse about anything—but not bringing into it any of her real-world problems or feelings.”Miranda is 22 and has the wavy bobbed hair and clipped mid-Atlantic accent of a 1930s movie star; she grew up in a Texas suburb. He gave me money to help out with my living expenses.”It ended when she went on a school year abroad and started meeting men on Seeking Arrangement, the Web site and app which match “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies,” whose company the daddies pay for with “allowances.” Now, she says, she has a rotation of three regular “clients”—”a top Austin lawyer, a top architect, and another tech guy,” all of them married. “I signed up for Seeking Arrangement when I couldn’t pay my rent.
“I’ve learned how to look like this, talk like this,” she says. She adds, “Their relationships are not my business.”She confesses she isn’t physically attracted to any of these men, but “what I’m looking for in this transaction is not sexual satisfaction. But I was held back because of the stigma if anyone finds out.”“What right does anyone have to judge you for anything you do with your body? The most surprising thing about Miranda’s story is how unsurprising it is to many of her peers.
A growing number of young people are selling their bodies online to pay student loans, make the rent, or afford designer labels.
Is it just an unorthodox way to make ends meet or a new kind of exploitation? The waiter with the handlebar mustache encourages us to “participate in the small-plate culture.” Geraldine’s, the swank spot in Austin’s Hotel Van Zandt, is brimming with tech guys, some loudly talking about money. “I’m networking,” Miranda maintains, “learning things from older men who give me insights into the business world. I’ve learned so many soft skills that will help me in my career.“While in college,” she goes on, “I’ve had the ability to focus on developing myself because I’m not slaving away at a minimum-wage job.
The college student at our table recommends the ribs—she’s been here before, on “dates” with her “daddies.” “There are a lot of tech guys,” she says. I reject it when people say I’m oppressed by the patriarchy.