Saddled with piles of student debt and a job-scarce, lackluster economy, current college students and recent graduates are selling themselves to pursue a diploma or pay down their loans.
An increasing number, according to the owners of websites that broker such hook-ups, have taken to the web in search of online suitors or wealthy benefactors who, in exchange for sex, companionship, or both, might help with the bills.
Meanwhile, according to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University, about 85 percent of the class of 2011 will likely move back in with their parents during some period of their post-college years, compared with 40 percent a decade ago.
Besides moving back home, many 20-somethings are beginning their adult lives shouldering substantial amounts of student loan debt.
According to Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes the financial aid websites and Finaid.org, while the average 2011 graduate finished school with about $27,200 in debt, many are straining to pay off significantly greater loans. This particular dynamic preceded the economic meltdown, of course.
Once in Greenwich, a man who appeared significantly older than his advertised age of 42 greeted Taylor at the train station and then drove her to the largest house she had ever seen.
He changed into his swimming trunks, she put on a skimpy bathing suit, and then, by the side of his pool, she rubbed sunscreen into the folds of his sagging back -- bracing herself to endure an afternoon of sex with someone she suspected was actually about 30 years her senior.
Taylor doubted that her client could relate to someone who had grown up black and poor in the South Bronx.
While he summered on Martha's Vineyard, she'd likely pass another July and August working retail in Times Square.
A month prior, faced with about ,000 in unpaid tuition and overdue bills, Taylor and her roommate typed "tuition," "debt," and "money for school" into Google. Intrigued by the promise of what the site billed as a "college tuition sugar daddy," Taylor created a "sugar baby" profile and eventually connected with the man from Greenwich.
("Taylor" is the pseudonym she uses with men she meets online.
Neither she nor any of the other women interviewed for this article permitted their real names be used.)In her profile on the site, Taylor describes herself as "a full-time college student studying psychology and looking to meet someone to help pay the bills." Photos on the site show her in revealing outfits, a mane of caramel-colored hair framing her face.
But unlike other dating sites, where a user might also list preferred hobbies or desired traits, Taylor instead indicates preferences for a "sugar daddy" and an "arrangement" in the range of ,000 to ,000 a month.