That weird slapping noise you heard last week? That was the sound of millions of palms-to-faces as Brandon Wade’s latest bright idea came to life online: MissTravel.com, an online matchmaking service for “attractive travelers” and “generous travelers.”
MissTravel’s mission statement is so lovely, I wouldn’t dare paraphrase: ”MissTravel.com is the only online dating website for travelers, and more specifically, we match Generous travelers who hate to travel alone with Attractive travelers who would love the opportunity to travel the world for free.”
So, you sign up, you find a fellow traveler, you choose “Travel with me, come to me, or show me your town,” and you begin to shop…for people. And before you get all feminist on us, “escorts are not allowed” reads the prominent tagline on the FAQ page. But wait, there’s more! MissTravel offers an incentive system: the Generous may gift frequent flyer points to the Attractive. ”Attractive members who accumulate enough frequent flyer points may redeem them for free airline tickets and hotel rooms.”
MissTravel founder Wade is an equal opportunity kind of a guy, mind you: Attractive travelers need not be female. But if you’re a woman? The website is 100% free. Although the claim is that all Attractives can sign up for free, Miss Travel goes out of its way to note that it is “100% free for women.” There are a few other little hints throughout the website:
Um, that and it’s named MISSTravel.com.
Travel‘s Brandon Wade is no stranger to innovations in skeeze: he is the creator of SeekingArrangements.com and author of Seeking Arrangement: The Definitive Guide to Sugar Daddy and Mutually Beneficial Relationships.
Many suggest that Mr. Wade is simply bold enough to market reality: that there are people out there who enter relationships and marriages (and beds) for purely transactional reasons. That it is naive to deny that there are people who need access, money, shelter, or connections and may let those appetites be the Jiminy Crickets on their shoulders when selecting a mate for a day, a month, or life. And, yes, many point out that many of these Desperately Seeking Susans are female [because science tells us that females make up, oh, half of the planet].
It might surprise you that, when it comes to the underlying theory behind MissTravel.com, I agree with those who say that gold diggers walk among us.
There are people out there—plenty of them women—who marry/hook-up/cohabitate/date for money. And even when you subtract those women who may have serious socioeconomic barriers between their lives and happily ever after, there are plenty of relatively [potentially] upwardly mobile women who are still on the look-out for a benevolent employer more than a mate. But, Mr. Wade: recognizing it doesn’t make it less sad…or less escort-y and hooker-y.
And to be very honest: I am conflicted about the regulation of prostitution. If you believe that social constructs and socioeconomic power reduce women’s choices, you have to be against any form of prostitution, right? But if a woman is making an informed choice, feels empowered by those choices, and has the freedom to make other choices…well, why shouldn’t it be regulated to be safer, cleaner, better?
My chief complaint with Brandon Wade’s burgeoning online empire of sugardaddy search engines and sky brothels is less about what they do (okay, it’s sort of about what they do) but more about what he won’t say that they do. Brandon Wade, you’re an online madam. Face it, own it, and—if you really believe in your heart of hearts that the world needs cloud hookers—advocate for new law or operate in a state or nation with legal prostitution.
And I worry that Mr. Wade only keeps building sleazy websites because there is a market for them. How many women will sign up for his site not only because the economy sucks but because they’re afraid to travel alone? Sure, there are safety concerns but you could also sign up with a tour group or find a group of friends or trusted fellow students. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not about safety for many women but about qualms about flying solo.
I know so many women who will not go the movies alone, travel alone, or dine alone in a restaurant. Frankly, I know about ten times as many women who won’t go out alone than who will. Some claim it’s a safety issue: if you’re in strange city, for example, and eating alone in a hotel bar, are you making yourself a target? I’d say not necessarily. But folks like the founders of online service Invite For A Bite would heartily disagree. Bite is not nefarious like MissTravel.com; it helps match women who would prefer not to eat alone. But the underlying anxiety that might prompt women to use the sites, is sort of the same. Being alone is being exposed.
I love eating alone, traveling alone…you name it. And it’s not because I’m a introvert. I barely stopped talking long enough to write this blog. But I learned early on that being alone is a powerful thing. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings, not shy about asking for help, and trained in self-defense, it’s usually okay to be alone. But we don’t teach women that: we teach them that life is one big couple skate and that, should you go solo, people might think you *gasp* got stood up or dumped or are looking for friends.
I plan to teach my daughter to be safe, sure, and [if and when it suits her] solo. I also plan to teach her that if she becomes a sky hooker, I am totally cutting her allowance.