sugar baby, sugar maybe

Surely at one point of your life you must have wondered: how much am I worth? Idealism (and probably religion, but what would I know?) informs us that the value of a human life is priceless, and is therefore unquantifiable. Then being said, when did utopian visions ever translate perfectly to reality? Inadvertently or deliberately, our existence comes with a value tag. Maybe it is part and parcel of being human – to compare, to be compared. Everything counts in this life, and some elements count more than others: the family you were born into, your potential contribution to society, your physical appearance, yadda yadda.

Anyway, thanks to the potent combination that is commodification and capitalism, we have this new service concept in town: incentivised dating! Except that it isn’t a new service concept, losers, and it has existed from the beginning of organised society: it’s the new incarnation of social escort services, packaged in evermore innocuous language and supposed boundaries. See, we can pretend to be a civilised species all we want, but our basal urges will always come back to haunt us. And we’ll always slurp that poison up, like buying snake oil infused with Prayer Power.

Don’t get me wrong. Money is the essence of modern life. If I had a chance to earn money easily, I’d be all over my knees for it too (to my favourite MLM ‘micro-business owners’: no, I don’t want to meet at your office for a short chat, thanks). Plus, when you have no talent, no connections, and no looks like me, there’s only so many opportunities for you. And escort services, at least the one we’re talking about right now, seem deceptively simple for the person who’s considering it as a vocation:

  1. You (the, uh, incentivised date) meet a client who’s lonely or in need of a short-term partner;
  2. You spend a period of time, as agreed, serving as a companion;
  3. Your customer’s social needs are fulfilled;
  4. You get paid.
  5. (Bonus) Your agency may take additional steps to protect your chastity and privacy through explicit contracts with your clients. Dates in public areas only, no touching, no phone numbers – well, not unless you’re willing.

Deconstructed this way, the whole scheme is hard to decry. And that’s also why these platforms are growing in (man)power as you and I sit on our asses, wondering where the next best opportunity to earn money is. (Of course, I checked. Since the last time I accessed the platform that inspired this post a few weeks ago, about two handsome boys and a handful of sweet-looking ladies have joined the circle.)

I think about this way. I have a few friends who give tuition part-time. It is a service, that is, the tuition teacher trades their knowledge, attention, and time for pay. If the student benefits and is satisfied, the existing arrangement is extended.

In an escort arrangement, essentially the same thing happens, except that ‘knowledge’ is replaced by ‘intimacy’ (or ‘sex’???????). Also, the end-product being sold is an illusion, rather than something tangible like grades on a report card. You’re paying for that elusive high, that feeling of being good enough to sit face-to-face with someone who’s way out of your league. Because you couldn’t get to that situation otherwise with who you are, to the point where you were willing to pay to meet them. But all is forgiven and forgotten as they sit across you for that two hours, because their time is yours, and you are the priority. You are numero uno, and no one else can snatch that from you.

The escort is merely a means to an end. Sure, you’re paying for their companionship, but it’s also fulfilling the need to be affirmed as a person, the desire to be important. Maybe it’s also for the envious gazes of others, betraying a naked wonder of how you managed to get that piece of eye-candy to revolve around you. (Sorry, I definitely meant to say that we select escorts on the basis of their personality, but my hand slipped.) In short, you’re paying for an ego boost. And you gotta give it to the minds behind this scheme: they’ve identified a weakness, and they’re now exploiting it on the pretense that they’re contributing to society via helping people find dates. Now that’s advertising that works. I’ll take it.

Alas, the fatal flaw of our local incentivised dating service is that it makes the process of developing a relationship extrinsically motivated. If you are paying for someone to treat you like a friend or a romantic interest, how do you know where the genuine interest begins and ends? You don’t. The phrase ‘incentivised dating’ per se is telling (who in the world came up with that phrase, anyway? It’s awful) – your partner is incentivised to date you. It is, plain and simple, an insult: you’re not good enough on your own. Why else would you need the money as an incentive?

No matter how much money you funnel into your incentivised date, every single time it ends, your meticulously constructed alternate reality crumbles. Think about it this way, from the perspective of the escort: if you’re being paid to pretend you enjoy being with someone, what motivation would you have to end the arrangement? Even if you did genuinely enjoy your client’s company, who would say no to being paid for it at the same time? Do you really think your date will change their mind and voluntarily come into your arms after you’ve spent enough money and time on them? LMAO sis, this ain’t Pretty Woman. The ultimate purpose of being an escort is to earn money. If they wanted to smash or find a beautiful connection with another human soul, they hardly need an escort platform for those purposes. Tinder is free.

It’s like playing a game at the arcade. The timer runs out, and you have to pay to continue. And a human connection, even if rooted in artificiality, is so much more powerful than a game. So there you go, my friends – you’ve been hooked. Thanks for contributing to the economy. Eventually you’ll run out of money, and where is your date going to be? With someone else who has it. C’est la vie.

Alright, onto the topic of joining as an escort. It comes down to the question: how much is your dignity worth? Not because escorting is in and of itself shameful (primary deviance), but because of the social repercussions that arise from others’ knowledge of your involvement (secondary deviance). And in this world you have to wonder if your own opinion of yourself is enough, because it likely isn’t, and your own is intertwined with everyone else’s around you. It’s probably okay or even in your favour if you’re pursuing the #contentcreator (because #influencer is so passé) life, but other than that, hmm. For the same reason, though, I am impressed by the courage of the individuals who are willing to put themselves out there. Sometimes I wish I could live like that. In the meantime, I’ll satisfy myself with hiding behind a wall of text.

Finally: sorry to disappoint all my fans and haters, but please do NOT send me unsolicited offers. You can’t afford me. I’ll be honest: I can’t afford such an arrangement either. If you have that much money, I recommend you donate to ShareTheMeal – at least your funds will go somewhere tangible. And go out and look for some organic relationships based on genuine reciprocity instead. Or read the other posts on my blog because I want attention. I don’t know. It’s your life.