Tag Archives: life in your twenties

Sleazy Jet

29 Apr

Are you tired of the same old street corners when it comes to prostitution? Do you fancy a change of scene? And do you want to be rewarded with Air Miles when you pay for sex?

Then the new American website ‘Miss Travel’ could be for you. It’s basically an online list of women for you to choose from. Once you’ve picked one, you get to take said woman on holiday with you for the bargain price of all travel and accommodation costs, plus a small surcharge of your dignity. Sounds too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’s all jaw-droppingly true, as this helpful advert explains beautifully:

Yes, that really is their ad. And to dispel any doubts over whether it’s a spoof or a genuine product, I took one for the team and investigated their website.

The homepage has a cheery feel, emblazoned with the title: “WHO NEEDS MONEY, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TRAVEL FREE!”. It even refers to ‘sponsoring’ a traveller, which it seems is their way of making it seem like a charity run, a JustGiving page for globe-trotters with tightened purse-strings. But instead it just conjures up images of vulnerable, fly-ridden African infants à la ‘Sponsor a Child’. Or in this case, sponsor a woman who wants a free holiday.

In an attempt to make it all seem like a perfectly reasonable affair, and to distant it as much as possible from sordid connotations of exchanging cash for sex, the blurb under the title says: “Lets face it, no one likes to travel alone”. Let’s face it, no-one trusts a website that forgets apostrophes.

They’re clearly right, though. In the history of human suffering, no plight has ever been more tortuous and anguish-causing than that of travelling alone. In fact, slaves being transported across the Atlantic were known to remark to one another: “This might be the end of our freedom and the start of life-long captivity, but thank goodness we’re travelling on this ship together.” In World War Two, passengers on trains headed to Auschwitz were heard to breathe sighs of relief that, whatever the concentration camp situation, at least they weren’t travelling alone.

But what those at Miss Travel, those veritable experts into the human psyche, have overlooked is the other companionship options available. If you don’t want to go on holiday alone, you could always go with a friend, family member, neighbour, colleague, distant acquaintance, Zumba instructor, or even a Facebook friend – any of those would be a preferable travel buddy than a total stranger from the internet. Unless Miss Travel wasn’t actually about finding a travel buddy but was really – gasp! – about finding a different sort of buddy altogether. In which case, why didn’t they make their strapline “Let’s face it, everyone deserves sex with no strings attached”, instead of trying to paste on a façade of being about making travelling less hellish?

Another illusion they try to create is that this whole concept treats men and women equally. They carefully point out, “our website is 100% free for attractive men and women”, and it “matches generous travelers with attractive travel girls (or guys)”. But the rhetoric is as unconvincing as the smile of the cartoon girl in their ad. Looking at the profiles of users, it’s blindingly apparent that men and women have very different roles to play in the enterprise.

The homepage has a section for 'Generous Members' and for 'Attractive Members'

The homepage is divided usefully into two sections: ‘Generous Members’ and ‘Attractive Members’ – for the uninitiated browsers who have no idea how the world’s divided (it’s split into those who have money and those who have looks, obviously. No, no, you can’t have both, you silly fool. And if you have neither, this really isn’t the place for you, as unfortunately the site doesn’t feature a section for ‘Ugly, Cash-strapped Members’). Clicking on the sections reveals the fact that in Miss Travel lingo, ‘Generous’ = ‘paying’ = ‘male’, and ‘Attractive’ = ‘putting out’ = ‘female’.

In the Attractive Members section, the users listed were all women, and most of their profile pictures feature nothing but a large, over-tanned pair of boobs. ‘Mandy’, a 24-year-old from London, has the subtle subtitle of “Hot Girl seeks Financially stable man”.

The Generous Members section was all male and, as if in a tacit nod to their failure to make it into the Attractive Members section, some of their profile pictures totally omitted their faces and only showed them dressed in suits from the collar down.

As far as Miss Travel’s concerned, the genders can be neatly boiled down to:

Man = tie = breadwinner; Woman = boobs = sex object.

Mandy, 24, from London, says in her profile:

Occupation: Golddigger (sic)

Interested in: Mutually Beneficial Arrangements (Sugar Daddy / Sugar Baby)

I know. I didn’t even know the accurate terminology was ‘Sugar Baby’. She goes on to say:

“…my friend has had alot of success in finding a Sugar Daddy who is fantastic to her, so i guess im jealous and curiosity has got the better of me…Having seen my girlfriend been treated so well from this site, flying first class, going to amazing cities, i too would like that.”

Meanwhile, from the Generous Members section, a ‘Young CEO’ from Michigan, US, says in his profile:

“Occupation: Self-employed

Income: US$200,001 – $300,000

Net Worth: US$500,001 – $1 million

Do you like the sound of a 5-star resort with a world-class spa?  Spectacular food, top-shelf drinks, pools, beaches, shows, clubs, and exquisite massages? Lets talk.

Note: I am seeking FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS and NO STRINGS ATTACHED.”

(Maybe the website doesn’t let you put an apostrophe in ‘let’s’.)

You could argue that the enterprise itself isn’t responsible for the fact that women users place themselves in the Attractive (as in, ‘Buy me’) Members section and male users place themselves in the Generous (‘I’ll buy your body’) Members section. After all, the website doesn’t restrict which genders can be in which category. But then, why call it Miss Travel and not have an equivalent Mr Travel? Or why not remove the gender status entirely and just call it something like Sponsor a Traveller (apart from the fact that the word ‘Traveller’ might cause confusion and result in Daily Mail headlines of ‘Travellers’ Charity Scam’ and ‘Gypsies Stealing Gift Aid’)?

Nevertheless, the fact that hundreds of profiles – similar to that of dear old Mandy, 24, from London – exist already on this brand new website is a worrying indictment of how women perceive their position within the context of gender relations. Far from the 1950s housewife image declining into oblivion, the trend towards sexual equality seems to be reversing.

1950s attitudes no longer seem to be a mere distant memory.

Female twenty-somethings today don’t uniformly shun the idea that they can sit back and look pretty because breadwinning’s a guy thing. One of my 25-year-old friends once told me she considered it reasonable that, when dating, the man pays for dinner because she’s bought a new dress and dolled herself up for the occasion. It’s a real-life enactment of Miss Travel’s Generous Member versus Attractive Member system.

And in an economic crisis that has disproportionately affected women – they make up the majority of public sector jobs, which have been so vigorously crunched and slashed, and they make up a higher proportion of the part-time workforce, which has seen major cuts by employers needing to squeeze resources – the notion of a woman needing a rich man to buy her stuff threatens to no longer be just a bad memory. As we slide back into recession, it can only be hoped that twenty-somethings will avoid slipping back into gender roles of generations gone by – and that includes you, Mandy, 24, from London.

Luxmy Gopal

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