On August 30, 2011, the Huffington Post’s home page featured a piece by Amanda Fairbanks, titled "Sex For Tuition: Gay Students Using 'Sugar Daddies' To Pay Off Loan Debt." In it, Fairbanks and her interview subjects play into several alarming and dangerous stereotypes about the LGBT community – completely unchallenged.
The author quotes someone as saying these gay students “used the money (from prostitution) to afford the extravagant and often lavish gay lifestyle.” While another said, “In the gay scene, all you really have is your age or your money.” Fairbanks herself writes, “Unlike in the straight world, many say they find working as an escort on the gay scene to be an accepted, even applauded practice.” Another person tells her, “The gay community were really the first to embrace the sugar lifestyle, even more so than the straight community.” She interviewed yet another person who told her that he “finds the gay culture more accepting of one-night stands and casual relationships .”
Throughout the article, the author trivializes prostitution, affecting terminology like “sugar daddies,” “sugar babies,” and “sugar lifestyle.”
“This level of carelessness is surprising, given the Huffington Post’s track record of commendable coverage of LGBT issues,” says Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. “It feeds into very outdated stereotypes, ignores the broad range of people from our community with many healthy and loving families and uses a few individuals to make sweeping and degrading generalizations about the gay community. It’s shoddy journalism.”
When GLAAD contacted Huffington Post about the article they said the following:
"Our coverage of students who sell themselves to manage their college debt has aimed to be sympathetic to their plight -- not sensationalistic. But based on our reporting, we found that young women and young gays are part of communities that often view the matter differently. We found that for many gay men, the use of escort services and the exchange of money for sex appear to carry less of a stigma, according to extensive interviews with gay escorts and members of the gay community."
With the editorial team standing behind an article riddled with tired old stereotypes, it is clear that actual reporting comes second to exploitive ploys that might raise traffic numbers.
Please take action to let the Huffington Post know that they should not stand behind this careless and derogatory approach to journalism. Shame on them for advancing a notion that, “unlike the straight world,” the LGBT community “applauds” young people for engaging in prostitution. The Huffington Post should apologize for this story and retract it immediately.
See http://www.glaad.org/tellhuffpo for more information.