There are things in the world that, yes, have been going on forever. But then someone goes and puts them on the Internet, and they become so attainable, so convenient that they became crass, devoid of subtlety. There's nothing particularly offensive about the thing, but the lack of shame is enough to make you question the very nature of love, capitalism — and modernity itself.
Which brings us to Seeking Arrangement, a website for rich people (mostly older men) looking for poor attractive people (mostly younger women) with whom to make an "arrangement" that often includes sex, companionship, dating, hanging out — whatever we're calling it these days. But sex is very much on the agenda. And so is money.
Last week, Seeking Arrangement threw a masquerade ball at the cavernous Hollywood Athletic Club – its first L.A. event. It was a strange, chilling affair, with an obscenely rich-smelling milk chocolate fountain and blood-red lighting. Everyone wore masks and it felt a bit like a community theater production of Eyes Wide Shut.
But the Seeking Arrangement site takes a certain pleasure in its boorishness. It wallows in it, calling the rich guys "sugar daddies," and the object of their lust "sugar babies," and so on.
"We’re not here to judge people," says Brandon Wade, who founded the site in 2006. "If a guy wants us to help them find a match so that he can be a playboy, if he’s married [and] he wants to find mistresses, or if he wants to find a wife, we’re here to do that. We are a matchmaker of all sorts. We’re there to find the perfect arrangement for them so that they can be happy."
Beyond its website, Seeking Arrangement throws parties — usually in Las Vegas — to help sugar daddies and maybe even their female equivalent, sugar mamas, meet sugar babies of all genders. These are money-making ventures — a table with bottle service can cost a sugar daddy as much as $1,700, a typical sugar daddy member pays $150 just to get inside the party and even the women pony up around $30.
At first glance, the masquerade ball looks like any Hollywood club. Sure, the men are a bit older — most were in the 40s and 50s, with a few 20-somethings who said they were from the tech world. The woman, who outnumber the men at least two to one, are a bit more scantily clad.
But look a little closer and you notice a Ukrainian woman stalking the floor with a tempting grin, sidling up to men and literally presenting herself. And there's the 60- or 70-year-old man in a white straw hat running around buying drinks and dancing with three women like it's his last day before prison.
You overhear: "I'm in the oil and gas business ..." while two women furiously make out together (presumably to capture someone's attention), and a hairless man smoking a cigarette gently kisses a young girl on the cheek. "You're from France?" she asks.
But among the 150 or so revelers (which doesn't even begin to fill the place up, giving the party a sort of limp feel), there is a sadness. One woman in a maroon dress with no small measure of cleavage showing approaches me on the dance floor and says, "Can you just tell me, what's wrong with me?"
She explains: "I'm in my mid-thirties. I'm single. Not a single guy has talked to me."
Her friend interjects: "Nothing is wrong with you. This is a whorehouse."
But she seems to be the exception. A woman named Julia says about her experience on Seeking Arrangement: "It's the best thing I've ever done in my life! My mother would hate that."
"I've slept with guys before that never even bought me dinner, never taken me out," she adds. "Why not get something for it? Is that that bad?"
The women here are shockingly candid about their previous arrangements.
"I met my first daddy about three months in," says Dee, a 23-year-old student. There are many students on the website, which offers a deal for females with a .edu email address. "We went on a few dates, and and everything was fine. Eight months later I got a phone call from his wife! And I said no more married men for me, or married men that have wives that still technically care."
"Has anyone ever called you a gold-digger?" she's asked.
"I’ve been called a gold-digger once," she says. "I said, 'I’m not digging for gold, I’m digging for my goals.' I’m a goal digger. I definitely want to start my own business. I want to go into entrepreneurship."
Her friend Ashley agrees: "I don’t think I’m a gold-digger, 'cause I work for it. Morally, I’m Jewish. I don’t like to just share my body with anyone. And so these men expect, like, in return some TLC — sexual favors. If that’s the case, you know, and it’s the right price, that’s, you know, so be it. That’s what normally happens. So I’m sacrificing my morals, I’m sacrificing my standards, everything. So I think I’m working for it. I deserve this money. I’m not leading him on like, 'Yeah I love you, yeah let’s get married.' No, this is about cash."
As things wind down, three Ukrainian women give their assessment of the party, saying they were extremely disappointed.
"All the men were fake," says one, disgusted.
Another one, a six-foot blonde, agrees: "We were expecting ... at least more people."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Hillel Aron on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter: