After Anka Radakovich explored the rising popularity ofthe real-life girlfriend experience, Rebecca Newman investigates why more women are looking for cash rich, time poor men and examines the rise of the new sugar daddy.
What would you give to have the perfect girlfriend? AGisele lookalike who had no interest in your walking her dog or meeting her mother; a siren with faultless intellect, devastating one-liners, an unerring facility for parking and the proverbial ability to suck the chrome off your bumper. Who arrives and departs whenever you wish. Impossible, I hear you scoff. She's hiding out in a cave with Michael Jackson and Madoff's millions.
Not so. She exists. The hitch: she doesn't come cheap.
Ironically, the GFE is one of the more rare and expensive services on the professional menu. While group, oral, anal, bukkake etc are common or garden, less girls are game to provide the "girlfriend" specifications: listening to you talk about work, kissing you on the mouth and sticking around for breakfast.
Steven Soderbergh's 2009 film follows Chelsea, a Manhattan call girl who offers the girlfriend experience (also the title of the film). Soderbergh contrasts Chelsea's services with the standard operating procedure of the New York dating scene, emphasising the flimsy barrier between a girlfriend proper and a girlfriend experience. He highlights the gentle slope that runs between being bought and being kept.
This is hardly a ground-breaking aperçu. The interesting trend is the middle ground that is emerging, thanks to the internet, of women who are neither professional nor questing a romantic relationship - and the successful men for whom this is the perfect answer.
Those for whom life is too short to commit, who've already walked the aisle and are paying the alimony, and the ultra-high net worth Übermensch who use their Amex Black to unlock every door, are increasingly choosing to cut the dating crap and pay for someone who is tailored to their specifications.
Many of them start at seekingarrangement.com, a website for members seeking "mutually beneficial relationships". You simply describe how rich you are, a little about yourself and your preferences, and how much money you'd like to pay towards a monthly allowance.
The first female profile I open belongs to a fantastically beautiful blonde with icy blue cat eyes and lips you could dream about. A 24-year-old former Miss Sweden, she describes herself as "a princess" and adds that she's seeking a sugar daddy happy to extend her an allowance of £1,000 to £3,000 monthly. Elsewhere, two college friends into extreme sports and travel promise to be "gorgeous arm candy, who know how to keep a man happy".
Some are students, who want an extra source of income that fits in with their lives, and to be taken out (seekingarrangement.com runs advertisements that pop up if you google "student loan help arrangement"). Some are fed up of seeing men that need looking after, and want the roles to be reversed. Several don't ask for an allowance at all: they just want to be wined, dined and spoilt with presents.
Charlotte, a 25-year-old at college in London, tells me: "Some men want me to come and meet them in their hotel room for an hour. I tell them, 'I'm not an escort.' I don't have the time or inclination for a relationship, so an arrangement with the right man who is cash rich but time poor suits me well."
Seekingarrangement, which launched in 2006, has 350,000 members. Its traffic has increased by 30 per cent year on year. A more established site, sugardaddie.com, has more than half a million members, of whom around 2,500 log on each day.
Paul Homewood, the British director of Sugardaddie, says: "We started off in Miami, since in America it's more accepted that a glamorous woman will need an allowance for clothes and shopping etc - the Hugh Hefner way of life. But now the UK is our second largest database. Our members range from City boys, to actors, sportsmen, celebrity chefs. What we do is nothing new. Rich guys and hot women go together like port and Stilton. Every woman prefers a guy to have a few bob."
True enough. For centuries, matches were brokered with respect to wealth and dowry. An arrangement such as those on offer at Sugardaddie is the plot of Fifties musicalGigi, in which Gigi's aunt and grandmother haggle over how big an allowance and what size apartment must be offered if a man wants to take the young girl as his mistress.
Today, if it's a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of whatever solution suits him best, at least now it is a woman's prerogative to decline or accept.
"I look after myself, and I want a sugar daddy who will appreciate me. When he treats me well I treat him better," continues Charlotte. "I don't tell many of my friends, but the ones who know say all power to me."
Every relationship has some element of quid pro quo. Sites such as Seekingarrangement allow you to be explicit on what you want, and ensure that you can get it. Perhaps it's time you introduced yourself to Miss Sweden?
Original article published in GQ Magazine, in May, 2010