Compensated Dating in the USA

As part of a series on getting by with little money, Business Insider ran an article detailing how a Manhattan twenty-something uses dating website Match.com to get free dinners and booze. Jessica Sporty’s progression from merely being frugal to using sex appeal to obtain material goods unleashed an utterly predictable storm of reactions from all corners of the political spectrum.

Really, though, this isn’t anything new. Putting aside invocations of “the oldest profession,” the more moderate phenomenon of compensated dating has been around for quite some time. Called “enko” in Japan, or “enjo kosai,” it involves paying for a woman’s company more than her body, though depending on where the buyer and seller fall on the spectrum of sexual permissiveness, sex is not out of the question. Naturally, a “reverse” version exists as well: in The Great Happiness Space, a male host at an Osaka club describes the emotional toll of having sex with several paying women each week.

Perhaps the telling part is that unlike in Japan, most of the US seems to labor under the illusion that such practices are a thing of the past.  “What woman does this sort of thing?”  America had compensated dating in the 1920s, along with flappers and financially liberated women, but it just as surely had attempts to legislate these out of sight and out of existence.  According to an ABC News survey, 30% of single men above the age of 30 have paid for sex.

And yet this sort of thing is distasteful to us now.  Tokyopop cut the entire enjo kosai subplot, a valuable cultural nuance, from Initial D‘s American localization.

The original author at Business Insider has since complained that people were overly sensitive about Sporty callously playing with peoples’ feelings for fun and profit.  She rebuked readers for making value judgments about a woman who just wants to live the good life at the expense of others.

Sporty kept things simple—no more than five dates with the same guy.

Perhaps the largest difference is that in Japan, there is necessarily a certain tension: whether drinking with a man at a host club, or going to karaoke with a high school girl, the client knows they are paying for the illusion of good times with the opposite gender.  In Jessica Sporty’s outings, only one side is aware that it’s all a show.

4 thoughts on “Compensated Dating in the USA”

  1. Oh, New York version of Enko! The most stressful megalopolis in America. And the most notorious client in America was The Client 9 from New York! The two oldest professions meet, politician and prostitute! But rather than NY enko, I wish I had imouto, so she could make me obento.

    The Great Happiness Space, a great documentary. The real Ouran! Is the Host’s ranking based on the number of chocolates received?

  2. A well written article Mori. I have heard of this story before, but I am not going to make excuses about NYC being being an expensive city. If you have it.. then you can flaunt it. This is a scenario that sounds quite like a reality show segment.

    1. This reminds me of something I happened to see at my subway station. Someone around Valentine’s Day advertised being a fun date.. complete with their cell phone and phone number. Doubt it was true, since it was so close to the Valentine’s day, but a day or so after.. a poster advertising a walk against dating violence replaced that ad.. yeah.. what things you don’t want to see.

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