Over the last decade, the practice of “sugar dating” has exploded in popularity, enabled by the power of the internet to connect strangers who wish to engage in a compensatory sexual arrangement.
The term comes from “sugar daddy,” i.e. when a wealthy older man takes on a younger woman as a companion and provides for her financially. In “sugar dating,” the so-called “sugar baby” is provided with an agreed-upon allowance in exchange for sexual acts and companionship.
Naturally, those who wish to find such an arrangement have relied heavily on the internet to do so — but as with all things relating to sex and the internet, this has paved the way for criminal exploitation.
The Christian Post reports that the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has been lobbying Google for years to remove apps like SeekingArrangement from the Google Play store over sexual exploitation and trafficking concerns.
The group has found that SeekingArrangement is the “largest hub of sugar dating” which has been identified by survivors of sexual exploitation as “part of the commercial sex industry.”
The tech giant has complied, opting to remove apps that allow for compensation to be arranged in exchange for sexual favors.
“As a platform we are always excited to support our developer partners, but we also work hard to provide a safe experience for users,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
The apps will be removed from the Google Play store beginning on September 1.
“We have updated our inappropriate content policy to prohibit apps that facilitate sexual acts in exchange for compensation following feedback we received from NGOs, governments, and other user advocacy groups concerned with user safety. This aligns our policies with other Google policies and industry norms,” the statement added.
The move was hailed by the NCSE, which said it sends an important message in a time when sexual exploitation has found fertile ground for growth on digital platforms.
“Using sex as a weapon for profit is the most egregious form of abuse to humankind,” the organization’s director of corporate and strategic initiatives, Lina Nealon, told The Christian Post. “Social media tries to normalize the sexual exploitation industry by making it seem like women and girls will be empowered and in control of what they choose to do sexually. However, Google Play’s decision to end these apps shines a light on how wrong this is by sending a cultural message.”
The app targets young women, many of whom are trying to get out of debt and believe it’s not a “big deal” to make arrangements to receive money in exchange for sex.
However, as survivors of prostitution attest, such relationships very easy pave the way for rape, trafficking, and abusive coercion of these young and vulnerable women.
“These women are traditionally financially vulnerable individuals who see a promise of economic freedom and if you look at the power dynamic, it’s not a relationship on their own terms,” Nealon told CP. “My hope is that no mainstream entity would support sexual exploitation, porn and prostitution and that these egregious acts would cease to exist and everyone’s dignity would be recognized as valuable. I hope that corporations recognize the power they have and make moves to put an end to this.”
She said the organization is “grateful” to Google for hearing their concerns and making “a principled move to no longer enable this form of exploitation.”
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