The other day I was sitting in the lobby of an eye doctor’s office, awaiting for a friend to finish with her appointment. She asked I come so I could drive her home after having her eyes dilated. The office was dull and hadn’t been updated in what looked like 20 years. I picked one of the only seats open in the middle of the room, next to a magazine rack. I reached for Vanity Fair; Margot Robbie graced the cover in a white bikini. I skimmed passed designer clothing campaigns, makeup ads, and the latest updates in Hollywood.
I rarely read magazines; I never bothered wasting my time catching up on celebrity drama. Small people talk about other people. There was one article that caught my eye, however. The title read: “Daddies ‘Dates’ and Girlfriends: Welcome to the New Prostitution Economy.” Perhaps it was the photo of a young woman, no older than myself, that caught my eye. She wore a seductive red dress with an older man’s hands draping her in jewelry and another was surrounded by Chanel bags. Curious I decided to continue reading, not knowing how much of an impact the message would have on me.
The article, written by Nancy Jo Sales, brings light to a growing new trend amongst young men and women I was never even aware of. Apparently there are a number of college students, recent grads, and desperate first class wannabes that are turning to sex work to make a living. These so called “sugar babies” are finding “daddies” easier than ever, thanks to the internet, and are selling their bodies to make their rent, pay off loans, and treat themselves to the finer things:
“In interviews, young women and men involved in sex work—not professionals forced into the life, but amateurs, kids—in Austin, New York, and Los Angeles, talk mostly about needing money. They were squeezed by college tuition, crushed by student loans, and the high cost of living…And so they did “cake sitting”—a specialty service for a fetish that craves just what it says—or stripping or Webcamming or sugaring. Some beat people up in professional ‘dungeons’; others did ‘scat play,’ involving sex with feces.”
It went on to share another motive for this profession:
“'At the age of 16 or 17 going out in nightlife—it’s all very based on appearance…Out here, as long as you’re wearing Saint Laurent and the newest items, that’s all people care about, so my friends and I were obsessed with fashion. I think with our generation, Instagram also has a lot to do with it—people are constantly posting what they have.’ She’s explaining that she became a sugar baby in order to buy luxury goods. ‘My friend who does it says, ‘I do it for the Chanel.’”
They argue that they are not prostitutes, yet they receive money for sex. They believe it is no different than any other job, yet they are drastically more likely to be physically abused than any other profession. Many of them say they’ve lost their self esteem and they feel worthless while doing it.
As a young adult brought up in a poor/ broken family and a recent grad, I am no stranger to the hardships of money and the fear of paying off loans. I too get caught up in the glitz and glam of Instagram and get envious of the girls with thousands of followers, endless designer bags, and weekly vacations. I see and feel what many of my generation does. But I can’t believe that this is what so many of my peers have turned to. I’d like to be mature and open while discussing this topic but I’ll share my initial thoughts: 'Are you freaking kidding me?! I get that we shouldn’t judge but I am judging. You are not “crushed by loans." You are lazy, materialistic, and pathetic.' I debated editing that part out but I think a wake up call is needed.
With the growing influence of celebrities and increased accessibility social media brings, my generation is trying to keep up, and in doing so, are selling themselves. What’s the point in even going to college when we are putting a higher value on our bodies than our minds. Sex sells, I get it, but isn’t it time for a more creative marketing tool?
After finishing the article I felt sick with the direction our future is headed. What's next, college degrees in prostitution? I thought about all the girls on social media I had seen that magically had money and I felt angry at them for caving into such a self and societally destructive job. I then thought about the Spotlight Series I first started for my blog a few months back and knew exactly why I want to have a voice in fashion.
We need a change. Celebrities and many public figures are entertaining, but many of them should not be our role models. Along with the fashion world, many of them promote sex, beauty, and money as core values. And now look where it’s led us. Social Media has quickly been contaminated and is now a gateway to toxic Hollywood fame and fortune. Why do we praise this world that gives us nothing in return except insecurities and drives us away from satisfaction.
I started my Spotlight Series because I want to not use models, but rather ROLE models to show off fashion. I want young people to see real men and women, hear their stories, see their hard work, and develop a passion to be better and do better. I want fashion to value brains and hearts, not boobs and butts. I get that the nature of fashion is materialistic, superficial, and exclusive. But I have a vision that reverses that. Fashion is an expression of beauty, not a determiner.
And if any of you that are reading this are one of these many young men and women referred to above, just know that you are beautiful without the diamonds, you are valued clothed, and you have the ability to do anything when you use your mind.