We read countless articles about sex workers' secrets and sugar baby relationships these days but seldom do we talk about how everyday people exchange money for sex.
No, not actual dollar bills for intimacy; that's not what I mean. Rather, the informal "contra" situations where you feel obliged to have sex when someone pays for you on a date.
The concept sounds absurd in theory. Nobody sets out to go on a date with the expectation that if the other person pays for the night's drinks and dinner, they'll have to "put out", do they? In truth, I don't think the person paying usually expects sex either. That firmly puts them in the "douchebag" category.
So where does this pressure to have sex with someone when they've been wining and dining you come from? Personally, I've found it to be self-imposed.
When someone has taken me out on a date – whether a second date or a second anniversary – and insisted they pay for the whole bill and I accepted, I've been presented with an internal dilemma. How do I show my appreciation?
The answer is normally physical affection because somebody had made me feel "taken care of", and I've wanted to reciprocate immediately. I've seen it my duty to round out the night positively.
Have you ever felt that desire to thank someone for being sweet to you, and your intrinsic response is to initiate physical contact? That's the feeling I'm talking about.
When you drill it down, what is it, really? It's sex for money in a roundabout way. I've done it. You've done it. We've probably all done it.
This is a very cynical view of dating dynamics, but I think it's naïve to think you and I don't subconsciously behave this way sometimes. Human beings like to feel as if we're expressing gratitude to the people who matter to us.
This isn't to say you or I don't want to have sex with the person who's placing their credit card on the table. Nor that the only reason to put out is to reward someone for treating you. Both the date and the sex after, are mutually beneficial and enjoyable for everyone involved. As long as everyone is consenting, is there any harm done?
I have been on my fair share of first dates in my life. When somebody is kind and charismatic, you have chemistry with them, and they woo you by picking up the tab, going home with them can feel like the polite thing to do. I have felt indebted because I chose to accept someone's benevolence – we could have split the bill down the middle, after all.
Would I not have slept with them otherwise? Maybe their generosity is what pushed me over the edge. It's hard to say. I do recognise, though, that a slight feeling of guilt is natural and real in these situations. I have to own that.
This could be considered self-preservation. Nobody wants to feel like they lead people on when they have no intention of "following through". I've definitely had sex with someone because I didn't want to come off as a cock-tease. I didn't want them to think their efforts were all for nothing.
There is a societal taboo around the exchange of sex for money, so I understand the instinct to rebuff any correlation between them. After all, this is a sensationalised way of looking at dating and I'm not actually talking about hard cash (or cars, clothes, or jewellery, as the rap songs would suggest).
Nonetheless, people do have sex to show recognition for another's goodwill on dates. I certainly have. If you can look back at your past and realise you might have too, don't be ashamed. While I can only speak for myself, I've still never done anything that wasn't of my own volition. If any precedents have been set, they're on me.