The flat tire I’d just gotten brought my bank account balance to under $100. My business was in its fledgling stages, and I was $1,000 short on my next set of bills. I had been looking for part-time jobs over the past few months, but I hadn’t even had an interview request. There was really no other way around it: I had two weeks to make $1,000.
With a pit in my stomach (and a brand-new tire on my car), I drove home and started researching. I didn’t own anything of value to pawn, and sex work was off the table because of my paranoia regarding my personal safety. Perhaps I could be a cam model? As I was diving into the world of adult entertainment, I came across a site called Seeking Arrangements. It was a dating site for sugar babies and sugar daddies, and I read multiple articles about “sugar babies” who made thousands a month without having any physical intimacy with their daddies. Essentially, I thought I could sign up, go on a few dinner dates and perhaps a conference or two, and have my financial problems taken care of. I mean, what desperate woman wouldn’t go for that?
I feel the need to justify my decision here by explaining why I didn’t ask my family for help. The last time I asked my father for help, he told me that there’s no way he would ever ask anyone for help unless he had done everything he possibly could himself. That mentality was one that was instilled in me since the day I learned what asking for help was, and selling my body was more appealing than the embarrassment I would have felt by admitting that I needed financial help. So, I made a fake name and email address, and my profile went live on Seeking Arrangements.
As you were probably expecting, this story takes a downhill turn pretty quickly. Platonic sugar daddies are diamonds in the rough, and I found no diamonds on this little expedition. I was called “baby” and “sugar” more than I was ever addressed by my actual (well, fake) name, and physical intimacy was expected by every man I spoke to. Some men, when I said that I wouldn’t sleep with them on the first date, called me a c*** or a b****.
I quickly became scared to open the app or read any of the chat notifications. My skin was crawling from the way that these men spoke to me and looked at me, and I learned how easy it is for a woman to be sexualized or have her worth equated to her ability to please a man. What blew my mind the most was that these men were doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, many with daughters my own age.
One man, after I declined to move into his RV two states away, ended up hiring me as a freelance writer for an adventure of a story about drug dealing and money laundering. It wasn’t anything explicit and, despite his brusque and presumptuous nature, he was paying me well, so I didn’t complain. It was certainly better than the man who tried to lure me to do some “household chores” for him in exchange for a gift he had given me the night we met for dinner.
A few weeks into writing for this individual, I got curious about the story I was telling. It was unusually detailed, and the characters usually had two names: the name he called them and the name he wanted me to use in the story. A researcher at heart, I took to Google to find answers. The story I was writing was actually his biography; he was a convicted felon.
It was at this point that I knew I needed to take a hard look at what I was doing with my life. How did I, a former varsity athlete with a 3.83 GPA, end up trying to become a sugar baby and working for a felon? Just about the time I was preparing to tell him that I was finished writing for him, he decided I wasn’t a good enough writer for him anymore and stopped sending projects my way. This may sound like an underwhelming ending to a rollercoaster of a story, but the moment I decided to walk away, my business started flourishing. I brought in more clients, booked more speaking gigs, and secured more freelance writing opportunities. I have to believe that my decision to stand up for the way I deserved to be treated and the life I wanted to lead was what turned the tides in my business success.
While these few months were the most used and ugly I’ve ever felt in my life, they were actually what taught me the most about my own power and worthiness. Just because I chose to do something that some may see as lazy or slutty does not mean that I deserve to be shamed. A woman has the right to choose to do whatever she wants with her body, including go into sex work. That does not mean, though, that the men she interacts with have the right to disrespect her because of her chosen profession.
I also learned a lot about desperation. A friend of mine once told me that “our morals should never change, but sometimes the execution of our morals looks different depending on the situation we’re in.” I kept repeating those words to myself throughout this journey. Sometimes we have to do things we swore we’d never do to keep our dreams alive. Sometimes we have to invest in a course we never thought we’d take, ask for help from someone we’re terrified of, or, in my case, try to become a sugar baby and end up working for a felon. Regardless of where your path in life takes you, you will make it out the other end and it will all be worth it if you’re staying true to who you are and why you were put on this earth.
This story isn’t one I ever thought I’d tell, but I realized that sharing it could help other women know they’re not alone and that they’re not wrong or broken for the things they’ve done or the ways they’ve felt. So, if you’re a woman who’s in a tough spot and is pondering doing something crazy to get out of it, I want you to know that I see you. I was you. I made a choice I didn’t want to make, and perhaps you’ve made some of those, too.
I’m not proud of the choice that I made, but I’m also not ashamed of it, and if me sitting here and sharing my story makes you feel less shame for what you may have to do to survive, then speaking out about this will have been worth it. Whatever choice you’re currently facing, remember that you are worthy of the utmost respect, that your dreams are worth fighting for, and that whatever decision you end up making, you should feel absolutely no shame for it.