New Ways to Sell Yourself: Dangerous or Empowering?

October 12, 2022

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Claudia Black Young Adult Center

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By Mandy Parsons

Let’s face it, life is expensive. And with the economy trending the way it is, the cost of living is only going to increase. Everyone from teenagers and college students to stay-at-home moms are looking for ways to generate income or supplement their existing earnings. Yet the old days and ways of making money just aren’t as convenient for many who are short on time or resources.

Enter the digital age. With the onset of the internet, popularity of social media, and online apps, people are discovering new ways to boost cash flow. Some of these revenue streams are pretty straightforward, while others may be a bit misleading. In particular, websites like Seeking (formerly known as SeekingArrangement) and OnlyFans — which are hugely popular among young women — appear harmless, but what are they really selling? And can you, or should you, put a price on your safety and worth?

Can you, or should you, put a price on your safety and worth?

The Rise of Sugar Dating

Sugar dating, also referred to as “sugaring,” is defined by Business Insider (BI) as a form of dating in which one partner financially supports the other, often in the form of cash or gifts. The practice is especially enticing to young single women who are economically disadvantaged. These relationships can offer help them with paying bills, exotic travel, or simply the opportunity to date men with more life experience.

An anonymous “sugar baby” who recounted her story for BI says, “My reasoning was simple. I’d grown frustrated with dating men in my city — maybe I’d just had one too many Tinder dates end in mediocre conversation. My day job offers me control over my schedule, since I don’t work a traditional nine-to-five. I wanted to supplement my income and have some fun doing it, so I decided to try finding a ‘sugar daddy.’”

Furthermore, sugar dating is way more common than you think. One such dating site, Seeking, claims more than 40 million members. And that’s likely not an exaggeration. Havi Kang, clinical director for our sister facility Willow House at The Meadows, corroborates that she has seen an increase in young women coming to Willow House struggling with issues that are largely influenced by social media and technology. “We see a lot of use of apps such as Seeking, which is the sugar daddy-sugar baby dynamic,” Kang says. “OnlyFans is another one.”

Which begs the question: What are some of the negative implications of such seemingly easy money-making offers?

Gold Mine or Land Mine?

“In the six months since I became a sugar baby, I’ve started relationships with men who pay me $500 a date and have purchased me shoes and outfits from designers I could never afford on my own,” the anonymous BI source says.

OnlyFans, the other online platform Kang mentioned, boasts more than 170 million users and 1.5 million content creators around the world, according to EarthWeb. Subscribers pay a fee in exchange for sexual images and videos from their favorite models and social media influencers with the top personalities making up to $3 million a month.

Even teenagers are finding ways to exchange private pictures for monetary compensation through social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

However, there are risks to many of these edgier options for earning extra cash. Here are some potential considerations:

  • Safety Concerns

For those of you Googling “seeking arrangement dangerous,” or who think it might be fun to sell pictures of yourself online for money, there is always the issue of safety. One of the dangers of OnlyFans is that you can’t choose who subscribes to your content. This is an open door to predators and sex traffickers. In addition to sexual exploitation, the dangers of sugar daddies include manipulation, financial scams, as well as harassment. There are many horror stories shared by women traumatized by a bad sugar dating experience, one of which was featured in The New York Times.

  • Snowball Effect

What begins as a harmless transaction — whether it be a paid date or photo — can unintentionally snowball into something more dangerous. Kang says that even those who willingly enter into the trade often find themselves “stuck in a trap … sucked into an environment or around people who have different motives.” Another of the dangers of OnlyFans is content creators being coerced or manipulated into producing more explicit content. What begins as a sexy photo may evolve into porn and lead some women to eventually explore sex work or prostitution.

  • Digital Permanence

Photos and videos remain on the internet forever. If you decide to sell pictures of yourself online for money, there is no guarantee that any image you send or post will remain private, regardless of safeguards. You need to be certain that you are prepared for your content to live online indefinitely or be used or shared without your permission. Keep in mind that this digital imprint may affect your ability to secure future professional employment.

You need to be certain that you are prepared for your content to live online indefinitely or be used or shared without your permission.

Seeking Help

If you find yourself in one of the above situations or are experiencing trauma due to past  sexual exploitation, the Claudia Black Young Adult Center is eager to help. With more than four decades of healing history, our center combines the latest treatment methods with a team that specializes in this unique age group to provide a program like no other. To learn more or get started on your personal journey to wellness, reach out today.