It's no secret that more and more college students are graduating with crushing student loan debt. And with a job market that is less than favorable to the 20-something job seeker, some college students and graduates are looking for innovative ways to tackle the high cost of education and subsequent debt.
Enter the sugar daddy.
Reporter Amanda Fairbanks recently chronicled the lives of young women who seek relationships with older, wealthy men in exchange for large sums of money. "Sugar babies" are either drowning in college debt or facing the dire prospect in the near future. So they have taken action in the form of selling a most precious commodity—themselves. A handful of websites are devoted to securing "sugar daddy/sugar baby" relationships. They promise companionship for the men and financial gain for the women, all coordinated by a man from cyberspace. Before we start to think of these as friendly arrangements for old, rich men needing someone to talk to, as Fairbanks suggests, there isn't always a whole lot of talking going on in these relationships. While not all these young women are selling their bodies to anyone who offers, many are exchanging sex to a select few who pay a hefty price.
It used to be that women in need of financial security would simply marry up. We called them gold diggers. These ladies would prowl around looking for an unassuming rich man to buy them fine jewelry and launch them into society (think Breakfast at Tiffany's). But sugar babies don't seem to be after marriage. And as the saying "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" goes, the sugar daddies aren't rushing to the altar either, though the proverbial milk isn't exactly free. In many ways, this is simply an exchange of goods, but with far greater consequences.
There are a variety of opinions about whether these relationships do long-term damage to the women involved; some are questioning the legality of it all. But the phrase "sex sells" couldn't be truer when you have a loan bill the size of your rent check due in seven days. For these women it's a necessary trade.
It's easy to condemn such practices and label sugar babies as high-priced prostitutes. But while these arrangements are not the norm for most women, Christian women can just as easily fall prey to the same tactics. Trading benefits for "pay" might look different in our more polished church circles, but many Christian women in relationships regularly face the temptation to trade commodities for physical, and even emotional, pay.
Like so many sugar babies, many Christian women (and men) are handed a mountain of debt along with their college diploma. The Christian woman facing a payback plan that spans into her 30s may feel tempted to trade something for pay as well. While it probably won't look like selling sex, it could be something more normal—like marrying a man primarily because of his financial security. Or she might spend her single years thinking very little about her debt because she knows that Prince Charming is going to come on his white horse and sweep her off her feet and make her debt a thing of the past.
The idea of trading certain benefits for some form of payment or need is quite common in many relationships. The woman who has been in a dating relationship with the same man for five years may feel tempted to trade physical intimacy for the payment of the emotional intimacy she desperately desires, rather than holding out for a marriage covenant. When the proposal never comes, she is left wondering what she did wrong. She has given up so much, and her return is lacking what she most desired.
Consider the single woman who desperately desires marriage, but no real prospects have come along in years. She may be tempted to forgo a godly marriage in order to get the pay she thinks she needs most: companionship. As fellow blogger Gina Dalfonzo so strikingly noted in "The Good Christian Girl: A Fable," many a woman has thrown conviction and standards to the wind in exchange for matrimonial bliss.
Regardless of their means, the women in each of these situations are seeing the desired outcome as more important than the path that led them there. Rather than seeking contentment in singleness, a plan to pay down the bills, or abstinence in a relationship, they are looking for help outside of God's direction and provision.
Thankfully, the sugar daddy/sugar baby craze hasn't crept into Christendom, and I highly doubt it will. But we all could learn a lesson from these college women seeking financial relief. The temptation to sell a piece of ourselves in exchange for something we desire is one that none of us can ignore.
What are you willing to sell for relational or economic needs? It's a question I asked myself over and over again in my single days. Sometimes the answer surprised me most when I was tempted to give a little in order to get what I wanted. This sort of arrangement is so far from the heart of God, who offers us abundant grace freely despite the fact that we give him nothing in return. This payment—this debt removal—is what all of us, from the sugar baby in Manhattan to the church single's-group regular in the Midwest, need more than any seemingly overwhelming financial or emotional crisis.
Courtney Reissig is a pastor's wife and freelance writer/blogger. She has written for the Gospel Coalition's book review site, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She blogs regularly at In View of God's Mercy. She reviewed Give Them Grace (Crossway) for Her.meneutics last month.