NEW YORK --- The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today called for community members and allies to demand an apology and retraction after 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 on August 30, 2011.
GLAAD contacted Fairbanks and the Huffington Post editorial team over a string of stereotypes about the LGBT community in the article that were left unchallenged:
- The author quotes someone as saying these gay students "used the money (from prostitution) to afford the extravagant and often lavish gay lifestyle."
- Another person stated: "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 stated: "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.”
"With the Huffington Post editorial team standing behind an article riddled with such shoddy journalism and tired old stereotypes, it is clear that actual reporting comes second to exploitive ploys the intent of which seems to be a cheap effort to boost traffic numbers,"said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. "Arianna Huffington once envisioned her site as the newspaper of the future. With sensationalist work like this, one wonders if the new incarnation of the Huffington Post has the journalistic legs to sustain itself in the long run, or maybe that's just not part of their equation anymore."
When GLAAD contacted Huffington Post about the article, Mario Ruiz, AOL Huffington Post VP of Communications, e-mailed the following statement:
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.
"The Huffington Post's response is insufficient and does not adequately address the clear problems we highlighted with the article," Graddick continued.
GLAAD posted a blog entry reacting to the story as well:
These are the false stereotypes put forth by the staunchest opponents of equality. These are the false stereotypes that anti-gay activists used to fight against the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."These are the false stereotypes responsible for the bans on domestic partnership, civil union recognition, and workplace anti-discrimination ordinances. These are the false stereotypes put forth as reasons why gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children.
Today GLAAD launched a Change.org action for community members and allies to call on the Huffington Post to retract the story and apologize for advancing the notion that, "unlike the straight world,"the LGBT community "applauds"young people for engaging in prostitution.