Our news editor speaks exclusively to a UoL student who goes on dates with men for hundreds of pounds a night — there’s no sex involved, but plenty of strings attached.Â
I MET with Megan* on the steps of the British Museum, just a few streets away from her university halls.Â
In the last few months sheâ€™s been out to dinner with several men â€” and gotten paid for it. Sheâ€™s open about it with her friends.
Some are sceptical, others find it amusing, and several are now on the verge of trading in their minimum-wage jobs for, what seems like, far easier work.
Megan made it clear that the work doesnâ€™t involve sex. She meets men at restaurants for dinner and then makes her way home from the nearest bus stop, Â£150 richer and full on Michelin-starred steak frites.
â€œFor me itâ€™s likeâ€¦ sometimes Iâ€™ll go on dates with guys I donâ€™t really like anyway so I might as well go on ones where itâ€™s guaranteed Iâ€™ll get money for it.â€
â€œItâ€™s very similar to when you accept a drink from a guy at a barâ€ she said, â€œyou sit down and you talk to them and itâ€™s just like one step further – actually going on a site and seeking that out is just one step further than that.â€
The dates are organised by WhatsYourPrice.com, a company supposedly founded to help wealthy men get dates using a financial incentive.
Many of the men want to maintain the illusion that itâ€™s normal dating and that the money is not the real reason the girl is there, Megan said.
But while girls are paid purely for their company, she said she feels that some men have other expectations:
â€œYou have to find the right guys to go out with,â€ she added, â€œthereâ€™s a huge disparity between guys who think that they have to earn your time and guys who think that you have to earn their money.
â€œThey want a very specific type of relationship, and itâ€™s one where they get affirmation, or they can control the terms.â€
But Megan said that male sexual entitlement is something sheâ€™s always had to put up with.
â€œI worked in fast food two summers ago which was my worst job in the world. I hated it. I was dressed in fucking polyester and a visor and dudes would just hit on me and just feel entitled to it because I was serving them or because they would give me a tip for bringing food out to their car.”
â€œWhen I walk down the street here,â€ she added, â€œor if Iâ€™m at a bar, guys feel like they have complete liberty to just very openly stare at me or say something.”
â€œItâ€™s completely unavoidable that Iâ€™m going to get treated like that soâ€¦ I think that girls, more and more, are just accepting [it] and then exploiting itâ€¦ itâ€™s like: â€˜you know what, Iâ€™m aware of it and if itâ€™s going to happen anyway Iâ€™m going to use it to my benefit,â€™â€ she said.
To her, the dating is easy money which helps her cover the costs of things she needs. She added that she thinks that society has many double standards in its social codes:
â€œPeople accept the fact that… a women can expect a guy to pay for stuff on the first date and buy her gifts, but when it becomes explicit, then itâ€™s not respected.â€
When I asked her whether she considers herself feminist, she laughed and said â€œpeople are often surprised that [I am].â€
Currently, sheâ€™s writing an essay about the use of women as social currency.Â She said she feels conflicted about the fact that the work she does helps to prop up a problematic culture and industry.
â€œBut, you know,â€ she laughed, â€œthe best way to write about women as social currency is if you are a woman who has been used for social currency.â€
Megan said that neither her parents nor her boyfriend in New York know this is how sheâ€™s supporting herself. But she said that there are currently very little other options for her.
â€œItâ€™s funny,â€ she said, folding up her paper coffee cup, â€œIâ€™ve been going to some of the best schools in the worldâ€¦ Iâ€™ve won prizes and grants and scholarshipsâ€¦ but my most marketable skill is that Iâ€™m pretty.â€
*Names changed to protect privacy. Pictures used with permission.
This was taken from the November 2014 print edition of Roar, which you can read here.