Heartbeat: Pay For What?

The invasion of the transactional body snatchers

By Dr. Pepper Schwartz January 4, 2023

Counting Cash 1600x900

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Seattle magazine.

Lest you think I am alerting you unnecessarily, let me reassure you that when I heard about this, I gasped. 

GASPED! But perhaps you will gasp, too, unless, of course, you knew this all along. What I am referring to is a new culture in dating that looks an awful lot like it’s turning female daters into, er, working girls. I hate to say prostitutes, but you be the judge. 

It seems there is a new dating rule online: pay for play. That is, if you are a young heterosexual guy and you want to get a date with someone, or sometimes even talk, some women (mostly Generation Z and millennials) will not accept you unless you show them you have cash. And how do you prove you have cash? You give her money up front ($100 perhaps) and then she might go on a date with you.   

To be fair, you are not buying sex. You don’t get that much for your money. What you get is a date. Or maybe a conversation. No promises of sex. Quite the contrary. You get access, and that’s it. 

I didn’t believe this at first. It seemed too cold. But I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine and he mentioned how his 20-something son was depressed about dating because “all these women want cash up front” and use cash apps for the deal. I expressed a certain amount of skepticism, so my friend showed me his phone and there were all these women, of different races and ages, asking for cash up front. For a date. Or a chat. 

Arrgh! I’m upset. OK, you might say, well, is that any different from expecting the guy to pay for dinner?  Yes. He still has to pay for dinner, but now he also has to put a price on her time just to see him. And exchanging your company for money certainly seems not only cold, but also makes dating into a service occupation rather than a desired connection between two people. I mean, is everything going to be an escort service? 

What’s next? Paying for people to be your friend? Yes, I know you could say we already do that with therapists, but isn’t there anyplace left that is not transactional?   

Still, after I got through being shocked, the sociologist that I am started to ponder why this was happening. Perhaps it’s because of the bad treatment that women are reporting on the dating scene. Perhaps women felt they were “giving away” their time, hope, body and personality and getting very little back in return.  

Perhaps men, also frustrated by the dating scene, have started splitting costs and have found that the traditionally required gallantry of buying drinks, dinner or both didn’t feel fair anymore. Perhaps the new transactional dating scene is just the result of a demanding economic environment and the necessity of finding new ways to pay the rent. Or perhaps it is just another symptom of the impact that noncommittal sex and dating have on one’s soul after experiencing fungibility too many times.  

Whatever the reason, the danger of paying to play in the dating game is that it becomes even more of a manipulative environment than it has been. This kind of dating begins with sizing each other up for economic or sexual yardage, and it makes trust archaic. I think getting money for your companionship can be a survival tactic, but life should be more than just that. Falling in like, friendship or love needs lots of vulnerable and open communication. And I think putting a price tag on it makes that impossible.

I have lived a heterosexual life but lately my fantasies are all about other women. Does this mean my inner lesbian is trying to come out? I don’t have any experience with women and honestly the thought that I may be changing intimidates me.

I don’t know if this is reassuring or not, but research shows that the most common sexual fantasy women have is about other women. And when you think about it, why wouldn’t it be? Women’s bodies are displayed and eroticized in every medium there is — on film, print, ads, you name it. You can’t watch a shampoo commercial without getting a message of sensual pleasure, and while some of those ads feature a guy, they often show a beautiful woman. And it doesn’t have to be subtle. Just look at ads for bras, panties, lingerie, sex toys. These women are luscious creatures. As women, we are just supposed to think of ourselves being devastatingly alluring in front of a guy, but the fact is we are looking at very sexy ladies.

Women also admire and learn from other women. We feel close, we tell each other that we love each other, we kiss and hug hello. While most of those feelings are not erotic, the fact is that we feel comfortable snuggling, kissing, hugging, even staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Erotic thoughts may be totally absent when we are conscious, but our unconscious can take these images into our dreams.

So, what do your fantasies mean? They could signal one of three things: a curiosity about sexual experimentation;  growing love for women outside the boundaries of friendship; or random sexual fantasies that are exciting but really nothing you want, or need to, actualize.

My advice is just to see where the fantasies lead you. Given that the majority of women have fantasies about other women, but that lesbians are only about 2% of the population, I would say you don’t have to imagine that the fantasies are telling you a core truth about your central sexual desire. On the other hand, way more women have had some sexual experience with another woman than decide they prefer women over men, or even take on a bisexual identity. This causes lesbians no end of frustration and often heartbreak.

Most lesbians don’t want to be the other person in a romantic and sexual fling that turns out to be just an experiment. The famous “gay until graduation” syndrome (women having a love affair in college and leaving same-sex relationships behind when they graduate) can cause real pain for the partner who is truly only emotionally and sexually focused on other women.

So, go forth and try not to have anxiety while you figure out what these fantasies mean to you. One thing is for sure: Time will tell. Relax if you can, enjoy the fantasies if they return and know that it could mean everything — or not much at all.

I know this is going to sound silly but I have really bad headaches and my partner does not believe they are real. I don’t know if they are actual migraines or not, but I get nauseated, dizzy and I definitely don’t feel like sex. I get these headaches several times a month,  sometimes in a row. What do I do about this? He gets pouty and feels rejected.

Well, I hate to get you another headache, but you also have a partner problem. I am not a medical doctor so I can’t give you advice on your headaches (except to see a doctor) but I can say that something is wrong in your relationship if your partner either doesn’t believe you have a headache or is insensitive to the distress and disorientation a headache can cause. Either way, he’s being a butthead. But he’s your butthead, so you have to figure out a way to help him be a better man. And a more secure one.

That last point is important because he must feel really bad about himself if he feels rejected when you feel sick. So, one thing you can do is make him feel better about your feelings about him. I suggest you pour on the love and the desire when you are feeling well. Perhaps your usual way of showing desire for him is modest, at best. That might make anyone insecure. Therefore, you need to up the ante, especially during well days. Invite him to prolonged love making. Be flirtatious and seduce him. Create romantic evenings or afternoons.

If this sounds totally not like you, then reexamine you. All partners need to be desired, and if you don’t reassure him, he is going to distrust explanations that help you opt out of sexual moments together. Like most relationship issues, there is usually not just one person involved in creating or maintaining a problem.

Your role here is to let him know that you find him sexy, convince him that you like sex with him and, through word and deed, prove to him that how you feel when you are in pain has nothing to do with how much you desire him when you are well. If that’s not true then this is about a lot more than bad headaches. And, conversely, if, after you put on the full court sex press, he still cannot accept your lack of desire when headaches strike, then I would advise some serious relationship counseling.

About the Heartbeat: Ask Dr. Pepper Schwartz Column

Welcome to my world!

I spend a lot of time thinking about intimate relationships.

If you’ve read any of my previous work as a professor at the University of Washington, or watched me on television, you know that I care about what keeps people together, what drives them apart and what gives them pleasure. I am curious about trends, but also unique behaviors. I look at people above the clavicle and below the waist. It’s all interesting and important to me.

I know it is to you, too. I want to hear what you’re thinking. Please ask me questions or give your point of view at Pepper@seattlemag.com and I will respond, if appropriate, online and perhaps in print.

Let’s have some meaningful conversations – and some fun while we’re at it!

So, what’s on my mind today?


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