The group Équipe d’Action, (Action Team) has become the first in France to file legal proceedings against a 'sugar daddy' dating site, which they accuse of operating a disguised prostitution racket.
The existence of such sites in France had up until recently gained little coverage but that all changed with the arrival of the US site Seeking Arrangement, which is the market leader for hooking up sugar daddies with so–called "sugar babies".
Équipe d’Action says it wants to end the hypocrisy of these sites that they claim pretend to be ‘dating sites’ but in reality include many subscribers who are escort girls and men who are seeking prostitutes.
Up until now these types of sites have escaped legal action due to the rules contained in their terms and conditions, which forbid users from using the sites “to send requests of a professional or commercial character”.
If the complaint is upheld in court it could change the definition of prostitution in France.
After the launch of Seeking Arrangement in France some French organizations accused it of promoting “disguised prostitution”.
“Seeking Arrangement takes advantage of the financial poverty of students. The site hides violence against women in beautiful wrapping paper,” said Anne-Cécile 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.
"Seeking Arrangement 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 successful and wealthy men."