Call it a millennial thing: Online dating is now, more or less, an acceptable way to meet someone. For college students, it makes sense. Among going to classes, working part-time jobs, balancing extracurriculars and browsing the slim pickings of the Gainesville-nightlife scene, it’s hard to find a mate. Online dating provides an intuitive solution, complete with matrices that calculate who your best matches are based on personality. Plus there’s the added convenience of being able to browse dating options in the comfort of your own home — preferably in a pair of sweatpants.
A new kind of dating website, Seeking Arrangements, offers a unique twist to the dating equation. Seeking Arrangements caters to sugar daddies and sugar babies. In layman’s terms, Seeking Arrangements users seek “mutually beneficial” arrangements that involve financial support in exchange for “companionship.” Companionship, of course, is open to interpretation.
On Tuesday, we reported that UF ranked No. 21 on a list of fastest-growing sugar baby universities, calculated by the number of Seeking Arrangements sign-ups. The news is a bit surprising. Unlike South or Central Florida, Gainesville isn’t exactly crawling with wealthy older men. But numbers don’t lie, and UF students have spoken: They’re ready to cash in on their youthful good looks, sharp wit and stunning intellect.
Ever since its birth, Seeking Arrangements has come under fire for enabling what many call “Internet prostitution.” Of course, not all transactions made between Seeking Arrangements users are innocent, and it’s impossible to gauge how many women are trading sex for money.
But is it really any worse than the myriad of dating websites that already exist? As any OkCupid user can tell you, the number of creepy messages requesting — and, more often, begging for or demanding — no-strings-attached sex are staggering. The worst kind of people, it seems, flock to dating websites. Just check out the “Creepy White Guys” Tumblr, a blog where Asian women submit messages they’ve received on OkCupid from white men seeking a “submissive,” “feminine” Asian woman.
The Internet has brought us many great things: the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, Etsy and infinite cat videos. It also, for better or for worse, opened a new world of sexual transactions. People make money by performing on webcams. The Internet porn industry is booming, and a no-strings-attached hookup is as easy as creating a Grindr or Tinder profile. And as long as there is OkCupid and Craigslist, there will be quick sexual transactions.
However, many sugar babies have published written accounts of their nonsexual arrangements, so such is possible.
Before you condemn a student for using Seeking Arrangements to pay for college, ask yourself: Would you rather receive message after nasty message on OkCupid while working a lame part-time job at Jamba Juice, or would you rather be paid for your time and personality?
A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 1/22/2014 under the headline “Gimme sugar: Sugar baby site no worse than OkCupid”