“just ‘helping’ me for my studies”

In the investigative spirit, I decided to reply to some of these “sugar daddies.” Using a dummy email address and the handle gigglesandsparkles86, I pretended to be a hard-up student, and painted a broad-brushstroke picture of a naive, bookish, ingenue, the sort of girl who likes kittens and bubbles and walks in the rain — and exists mostly in the imaginations of lonely men on the Internet or Zooey Deschanel sitcoms. I kept the details brief — “Amy” was 25, like me, a literature student finding it hard to make ends meet, and interested in more details about the arrangement. I had her respond to every ‘”sugar daddy” ad on Craigslist New York and Craigslist London on three separate days. When necessary, I sent a picture loaned by one of my prettiest and furthest-away friends, explicitly asking her for a shot in which all trace of human complexity would be hidden behind hair and sunglasses. It took approximately three minutes for the emails to start flooding in.

Amy was a hit. Some of her suitors were rather brusque: “400 for oral, tonight.” Others bordered on the downright rude — “your tits aren’t to my taste.” A few were likely to be pimps on the hunt for vulnerable new meat, according to several sex workers I contacted. Many, however, played the gentleman — at least at first. “She should be able to share fun times and expect to be treated like the lady she should be,” specified Gregory from New Jersey.

Read More | “The Sugar Daddy Recession” | Laurie Penny | Salon