PCW warns women of dangers in joining dating sites involving money

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) calls on women and the youth to be cautious in joining websites, e-groups, or apps claiming to offer opportunities for seeking romance and finance.

Over the past weeks, several media outfits revealed the existence of a website and some social media pages, where potential sugar daddies and sugar babies can meet and make arrangements of their liking, which involves monthly allowances in exchange of “companionship” or whatever they will agree upon.

PCW believes that every woman has freedom to decide and choose for herself what she wants for her career and relationships. However, her freedom of choice is affected by various factors such as the presence of individuals and groups that exploit her vulnerabilities. This is especially true during post-disaster situations and the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were forced out of work, students need gadgets for online classes, entrepreneurs suffer economic losses, and many are struggling to barely survive.

It is therefore necessary for women and the youth to be aware of the risks that go with online sites and groups that claim to help provide their financial needs. First, since there is money involved in exchange for “romance”, it is a commercial transaction, which, granted that all elements are present, may come under the purview of prostitution. Under the Expanded Anti-trafficking in Persons Act (RA 10364), prostitution refers to any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for money, profit or any other consideration. Prostitution, as what we have discussed in our policy brief under the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, is a form of sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls, that violates their human rights. Moreover, it is an exploitative system that commodifies, objectifies and dehumanizes women, men, and children who are being sold within it.

Second, while measures to protect the privacy of members are supposed to be in place, when the sugar daddy and sugar baby begin their arrangements, things can go out of hand. One can send compromising pictures as part of the arrangement and the other can use these materials to blackmail her or even spread the same without her consent. Such unauthorized sharing of compromising photos or videos is a crime that is punishable under the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 (RA 9995). We already heard horror stories where women fell victims to scammers and suffered trauma when nude photos or videos were distributed or sold to porn sites without their consent.

Third, platforms like this can attract or can be used by pedophiles, with potential signups from minors should they be able to fake credentials and join, and this opens opportunities for abuse and exploitation of children. 

Fourth, while some say this can be empowering, it’s possible that it perpetuates gender disparity and unequal power relations. On the surface, it may seem that both parties have the power to dictate terms of the arrangement, but this may not be the real case. Sugar daddies may assert dominance and the sugar babies, in an attempt to earn money, may just succumb to the former’s wishes. Even the term “daddy” and “baby” presupposes male dominance over a woman, as children are generally under the supervision of their parents or an adult.  

The PCW will coordinate with the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking on appropriate measures that can be taken. For women who want to file complaints related to this, relevant hotlines can be found here.