The arrival of the American website Seeking Arrangement, which pairs up young women with rich businessmen has caused a fair amount of consternation in France and even led to calls for it to be banned.
The launch of the French site, which went live in February, has been the talk of the French media this week. “Riches businessmen cherchent “French sugar babies” (Rich businessmen look for French sugar babies) was the headline in Le Monde. In Le Figaro the headline read "Étudiante «sugar baby» recherche riche «sugar daddy» pour amour tarifé (Student 'sugar baby seeks rich 'sugar daddy' for love at a fee").
Officially Seeking Arrangement says it is aimed at pairing up those seeking “mutually beneficial relationships”, which in reality means loaded men and the more hard-up young women, who often tend to be students in need of financial support.
“Why can’t modern men and women not just be honest about what we want and what we have to offer,” asks the site.
But in a country like France, where all talk of money and earnings is seen as taboo, one might have expected the website to be given the cold shoulder. But it seems the French are falling for it like everywhere else.
The site which has already been launched in several other countries seems to be proving popular, with Le Figaro reporting that 40,000 French “sugar babies” have already signed up.
“It’s simple. I need money for my studies, which are long (PhD in progress),” wrote one female subscriber. Le Monde newspaper quotes one young French woman, Cecile, who claims to benefit to the tune of up to €4,000 a month from “sugar daddies” she meets through the site.
Some French organizations accusing Seeking Arrangement of promoting “disguised prostitution”.
“Seeking Arrangement takes advantage of the financial misery of students. The site hides violence against women in beautiful wrapping paper,” said Anne-Cecile Mailfert, a spokeswoman for feminist group Osez le Feminisme (Feminists Dare).
A landmark bill that aims to punish clients of prostitutes with hefty fines is currently snaking its way through the French parliament.
Osez Le Feminisme, keen supporters of the legislation, want lawmakers to crack down on sites like Seeking Arrangement.
“We hope lawmakers will look at websites when they discuss the adoption of the law criminalizing the purchasing of sexual acts,” said Mailfert.
Angela Jacob Bermudo, a spokeswoman for the French Seeking Arrangement site rejected the accusations and told The Local the site was proving popular in France.
"SeekingArrangement is not prostitution. Prostitution is an exchange of sex for money. These relationships do not include sex," Bermudo told The Local. "We are a dating website that brings together people who share the same values, much like dating websites based on religion or occupation. We strictly prohibit the solicitation of sex for money on all of our websites.
"For many girls, this is a viable option to be able to concentrate on their studies without the financial burden. It is not just the money that helps, but also the mentorship of the successful and wealthy men.
"The website is popular in France, so we are not as surprised by the attention this news is getting. France is one of the countries where we have a rapidly increasing amount of members," she said. "
Lawyers have told Le Figaro that it would be difficult to take legal proceedings against the site on the grounds of prostitution, but one line of attack could be for “undeclared work”, one lawyer told the newspaper.
Looking for love in France? Why not check out The Local's dating site.