Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sex, for Money, for Tuition.... For Real

*I preface this post by saying I am not nor have I ever been a stripper, exotic dancer, a worker in the oldest industry known to man, or one known to do something strange for a piece of change. I had at one point for a very short amount of time considered it. Let me explain.

Much is being made about the Huffington Post's expose of website If you haven't read the article let me sum it up; college girls needing help with tuition expenses etc. create a profile on the website. The website matches them with a suitable sugar daddy and then a transaction commences; i.e. sex for money for tuition.

The story is an extension of The Stripper Myth as The Janitor referred to it or as Grand_Central prefers The Player's Club/Diamond Complex. No matter how you label it the subject has been discussed at length on blogs, in barbershops, beauty salons, campus squares, and of course dorm rooms and college apartments.

This is where my story begins and ends.

I'm from Chicago. As my high school career ended and I prepared to matriculate to a 4 year university I wanted to be anywhere but Chicago. The closest school I applied for was 4 hours away in St. Louis. Washington University in St. Louis. My mother desperately wanted me to go; they were offering money (not enough), they were ranked 9th in the Nation (I didn't care), and it was just four hours away (a negative not a positive). In short I turned down a private damn near ivy league school for the hot weather and idyllic campus that is the Florida State University.

Now my mother had money set aside for me to go to college but that kinda got wiped out in the 2001 recession after bin Laden wanted to make a statement and fly planes through the country's financial capital. (I wrote as much in scholarship essay's and got a little money -- everybody loves a good sob story) So by 2004 some of my "college fund" was there but it wasn't say the $40,000 my mother had set aside for my brother a decade earlier. But we trucked along.

For my freshman year and the first semester of my sophomore year my mother sent a check for $7,500 each semester to pay my tuition. I had a book scholarship for all four years so that wasn't an issue. She then shelled out another exorbitant sum for me to live in an off campus dorm and have an unlimited meal plan (housing is not guaranteed at FSU).

But the cash train came to a screeching halt second semester sophomore year. I needed a loan bad. I went to the financial aid office and applied for a stafford loan. I got it, but mommy still had to come out of pocket $3,500 dollars a semester. At this she said I needed to find a way to get in state tuition. Bet.

A few days later I trekked to the financial aid office to meet with a counselor about qualifying for in state tuition. In that office my dreams were dashed, my face cracked, hopes went up in smoke, and I had the immediate thought of "Am I going to have to start twerking it on the pole to go to school?"

The killer of in-state tuition is that you have to prove you can pay your out of state tuition on your own, as in no longer a dependent of your parent, before they will grant you in-state status. To do so I would have had to take time off from school to make that happen and that wasn't about to happen.

I left the office in near tears. Went to my dorm and just laid across the bed with my feet in the air really wondering if I would become the next Diamond. A few weeks later there was an ad in the paper for "dancers" for a private party. I wondered if this was a sign. I ignored it for the time being.

I spent my summer in Tallahassee writing for the campus newspaper (which I had a love-hate relationship for) and taking a couple classes paid for directly from my mommy's purse. The issue of fall tuition was still on my mind. The advertisement for "dancers" was consistently placed in the newspaper. So one night as a "joke," part of me was half-serious, the other part was just entertaining my besties with my "wild antics" I decided to call the number for the man looking for "dancers."

I called. He answered. I inquired. He explained. The set-up seemed a little to pimpish to me. But I listened. It was when he asked to meet me in person that I realized exactly what I was doing. Though a joke it wasn't an entirely a joke to me. In hindsight I think my friends knew. I immediately hung up the phone. No goodbye's. No yeah let's meet. Just click. Dial tone. Ghost.

The man called back. I didn't want to answer. I did. He said what happened. I said something along the lines of, "this is not for me" with a nervous laughter meant to convey "I'm not dancing at private parties, sorry to waste your time, and these is just jokes."

I never crossed the line of doing something "immoral" to keep myself in school. To pay for my degree. To further my education. But after reading the story of "Taylor" on the Huffington Post I see how easy it is to cross the line.

Grand_Central completely disagrees.

In a 46 thread email exchange Grand_Central let it be known that "Taylor" was full of it because she goes to a SUNY college and there is ample financial aid available to reduce the cost of tuition so exponentially that lying on your back in a "V," "H," or "L" shape should never be an option.

The Janitor wondered, "Umm, how is this NOT prostitution?"

The_Fed responded, "I love it!!! Capitalism at its finest!!! I say go for it! ... ... Because, we've built a box to put prostitution in... Everything else is just sex and money... or marriage..."

Shady_Grady philosophised for us with a lengthy response quoting Chris Rock's philosophy on strippers, "If I believed everything strippers told me then there would be a whole bunch of former strippers who became doctors and lawyers etc."

But then The_Fed took it all the way there with this statement:

"Just so I understand... Abortion is okay because it's the woman's decision on what she does with HER body. But if she chooses sex for money, THAT'S where we draw the line on choice? Ummm. Okaaaaayyy."

An argument between The_Fed and Grand_Central immediately ensued over the comparison of the two issues.

A comparison I do believe is applicable.

In this country we like to live by a principle called "free will" no matter how disastrous that could be for ourselves or even our economy... Just look where a "free market" capitalist economy has gotten us. However, that "free will" is generally limited to the market.

We have freedom of speech but can be arrested and charged if that speech is hateful or incites violence. We have freedom of religion but in the last decade have become discriminatory against one group for an act not committed by the entire group. We have freedom of the press but the government can always pull rank...think Julian Assange and Wikileaks or the Pentagon Papers from decades ago. And we are supposed to have the freedom to do whatever we please in our private lives but as we all know that is not the case; if it were marijuana and other illicit drugs would be legal, along with prostitution -- across the country not just in Nevada -- stringent gun laws would be ineffably incomprehensible, and abortion wouldn't be such a hot-button topic that sent a mad man into a church to do god's work.

There is a lot of "free will" that we can't readily indulge in in this country. At this time being a "sugar daddy" or "sugar baby" is not one of them. It is not considered prostitution even though it may qualify; though it seems more along the lines of the shady escort service profiled in numerous episodes of Law & Order: SVU.

But beyond that, I think the fact such a service exists and that 35 percent of the "sugar babies" on are college aged women says a whole lot less about their moral character and a whole lot more about our education system.

This week has been all about the debt-ceiling deal. Well, did you hear about what the debt-ceiling deal will do to college students. Interest on federal loans for grad students will accrue while said student is in school. Additionally, the deal eliminates on-time repayment incentives for all federal student loans. Right now borrowers who make 12 consecutive on-time payments are eligible for a rebate of 0.5% of the loan amount which is applied to the 1% payment fee. The good news out of this s*itstorm is that the deal raises Pell Grant funding by $17 billion. (source)

Our most recent economic crisis has been both helpful and harmful to students trying to go to college. This deal also comes at a time where financial experts like Suze Orman discourage students and their families from going into the abyss of student loan debt by shelling out the big bucks for a four year university when the community college down the block charges less than half the price for the classes most will need to take their first two years. This deal comes at a time where for-profit universities like Everest and Phoenix University are hawking student loans to some students who probably could go to school for the free. This deal comes at a time where states are raising college tuition rates across the board because of budget deficits.

The bar has been raised, the goal post moved, and now the only way some women see fit to educate themselves is by doing something so "reprehensible" bloggers like myself are analyzing whether or not making such a choice is a necessary evil to get further in life.

The shock value of this story is that young women will put themselves in a situation where they exchange sex for money for tuition. But beyond the shock the core of this story is "Why is attaining a quality education so damn expensive that it's near impossible to do." The shock value of this story may make many want to debate about moral issues, privacy, state's rights, and limited government but that debate on abortion, gun laws, gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana or prostitution is a distraction from the real issue.

  1. Why is education no longer affordable when without it you won't be able to afford anything else?
  2. Why do state's cut their education budgets first when trying to save money?
  3. How can the bright but disadvantaged ever begin to close any of the socio-economic gaps in this country mostly borne out of our slavery and Jim Crow past and our anti-immigration present if the tools necessary to succeed our moved so far out of reach that discrimination is now institutionalized?
Those are the questions I gather from the story. As a woman who flirted with crossing that line for the chance to finish her degree debt free I'm more concerned with the the problem encouraging the solution than I am than the choice to no longer f*ck for free.

Everything in life comes with a price tag, and a score of political wrangling that's made that price tag what it is. What we need to discuss now is why education's price tag is so high, why getting that good good is supposed to be free, and why trying to achieve the former by way of the latter is wrong, immoral, and reprehensible but the steadily increasing exorbitant cost of college is not.

1. Would you or have you considered having sex for money or doing anything in the skin industry if you needed it to pay for college or college loans?
2. Do you think prostitution should be legal?
3. Since the story of stripping for tuition is not new is it possible we focus too much on the stripping and not enough on the cost of education
4. What needs to happen to make the cost of college affordable for all and not all who don't mind going into debt
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