Carrot Dating has a simple premise: Beautiful people control the online dating world, and the rest of the population is left out in the cold. By bribing (their term, not mine) potential hot dates with material goods, less exceptional prospects may have a chance to make a winning impression. Most articles reviewing the app brush it off as “thinly veiled prostitution,” but as a sex worker, I find this far more depressing than an honest exchange of compensation for services.
Brandon Wade has made his career capitalizing on the low self-esteem and large wallets of the tech boom world. From Seeking Arrangement (a straight-forward sugar-daddy website) to What’s Your Price (like Carrot Dating but with cash), he has attempted to help unattractive or average men hook up with younger, hotter, and poorer women. His sites do allow for non-hetero hookups, but the vast majority of the user base is the traditional sugar couple. Wade has been quoted many times about his altruistic desires in helping less attractive users find love, but all of my interaction with Seeking Arrangement has been nearly indistinguishable from my experience as a sex worker, and most of the time, less pleasant.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with exchanging escort services for money, as every woman on this site would be quick to tell you. But tangling it up in a false promise of “real-life dating” is both deceitful and hurtful to paying customers.
As both a sex worker and a long-time online dater, I’ve gotten to know both industries rather well, and figured out that mixing the two is a recipe for utter disaster. Clients are looking for a straightforward exchange of companionship and/or service for compensation, and potential online dates are looking for love. When clients believe that the worker-client relationship is equal, and thus indicative of mutual attraction and emotional attachment, it almost always spells the end of that relationship. Sex workers may enjoy greatly the time spent with our clients, but at the end of the day, it’s our job, and we would not see those clients for free as “real” dates.
On the other side of the equation, I approach online dating from a very personal place. It’s the easiest way to find people to date outside my immediate circles, and I love being able to prescreen for compatible beliefs about feminism, sex work, jealousy, and love. Not having to come out to strangers in bars keeps me safer and saner than many. When I find someone I’m interested in online, we approach each other as equals, with mutual interest and attraction. Approaching a romantic interest thinking that bribery is necessary in order to win their interest is ultimately counter-productive.
Traditional insecurities about looks or social interactions are what keep many from dating successfully, and it’s very unlikely that a bribe or two could be much of a help. Contrary to popular belief, ugly and awkward people find love all the time, without resorting to bribery. If the problem is an unappealing personality, a few gifts will never change a jerk into a gentleman.
What really concerns me about Carrot Dating, though, is the gross materialism inherent in the business model. Unlike What’s Your Price, which allowed users to exchange money for first dates, Carrot Dating implies that all one needs to secure a woman is the right set of gifts. Diamond necklace plus antiques shopping in Napa equals love. Real partners, though, are not so easily won, and providers tend to prefer cash (it’s hard to pay the rent with flowers and candy). I doubt that anyone can have their desires satisfied by such a cheapening of both romance and sex work, and predict a future of disappointment and deletion.