For Love and Money: On Paying for Companionship
By Alexa Day
Making the rounds in my corner of social media is the story of Heidy Pandora, a 24-year-old who says she is a full-time traveler. After her first trip to Mexico, she discovered she loved seeing different parts of the world. But travel is expensive. In fact, the hefty price tags kept Heidy from exploring the world as much as she wanted to.
Then she found MissTravel.com, a website for travel dating. In other words, Miss Travel connects people interested in journeying to a specific destination. Women can participate on MissTravel for free. Members propose a trip, connect with someone else interested in visiting the chosen locale, and then arrange to travel together or meet up at the destination.
Heidy says up front that she has sex with some but not all of her travel companions, and that some of them are married. She says she prefers the married guys because they’re less likely to become emotionally attached. She’s about getting stamps in her passport, not a ring on her finger.
She’s also serious about not paying to travel with the guys she meets online. MissTravel requires members to upload a photo (something all dating sites should do, in my opinion), and it allows members to state a preference not to pay for trips.
It bears mentioning that site founder Brandon Wade is also the founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com. SeekingArrangement, geared toward sugar babies and the folks who support them, touts something called Mutually Beneficial Arrangements. The fact that they’ve trademarked the phrase basically sums up the nature of the site.
The headline for Heidy’s story calls her a sugar baby. I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization. Heidy is meeting up with people who will pay to travel with her, with the possibility of sex along the way. For her, the travel is the point. For the sugar baby, it’s all about the money. Money flows directly to the sugar baby, and so far as I can tell, the sugar baby’s relationship is far more likely to be sexual.
The concept of sex as currency makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but women have been exchanging sex for things of value as long as there have been women and things of value. If we want to be cynical about it (and I do, thanks for asking), we might describe much of the history of marriage as the exchange of sex for things of value. I think it’s just uncomfortable for people to be confronted by it. We might all be happier if the sugar babies and paid travel companions were plying their trade quietly, where we can’t see it, instead of in social media. At the same time, there’s a reason — perhaps an ugly reason — that billionaire romances were doing so well until the events of last winter.
Heidy’s story reminds me of Maestra, a novel Elizabeth Shore recommended not long ago. Heroine Judith Rashleigh enters a world of paid companionship and finds herself very much at home, even when she’s on the run, among wealthy people who sweep her up into their world. Judith just has to know her place and do as she’s told, and off she goes from one exotic locale to the next, gathering cash along the way. But Judith is capable of much more than her comrades know. The inner play of her emotions and her motivations, sometimes quite at odds with her outward appearance, makes for fascinating reading.
(By the way, two of us at Lady Smut have now granted their imprimatur to Maestra. If you grab it now, you’ll be ready for the sequel, Domina, when it comes out next month.)
But what to make of the paid companion and her somewhat seedier sister, the sugar baby? I had a difficult time coming to my usual position, to let a girl do what she wants as long as she’s chosen to do it and isn’t hurting anyone. Heidy’s been to 20 countries in three years. A high percentage of sugar babies are leaving college debt free, a thought that makes this attorney whimper wistfully. And even we call this prostitution, as some sugar babies do, the feminist in me says that if a woman owns her body, she should be free to sell it.
Still, something about this makes me uncomfortable.
For the right woman, clearly, arrangements work.
But how does the wrong woman discover that’s she’s not cut out for the world of pay for play?
Follow Lady Smut. We’ll keep it casual.
Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.