Archive for December 8th, 2010

I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing. –  Prince Philip

In my column of November 21st I discussed “halfway whores”, and I mentioned that there are websites dedicated to helping potential sugar babies meet with potential sugar daddies.  Well, one of those sites is now in the news after a rapist used it to lure a victim into a trap.  Here’s the story, paraphrased from the original report in the Orlando Sentinel:

Marcelo Alves was convicted last Friday (December 3rd) of four counts of sexual battery with a deadly weapon for the rape of a 22-year-old woman from Tampa he met on a dating website called SugarDaddyForMe.com; he faces a potential life sentence.  In the days before jurors found Alves guilty, his victim related graphic details of the explicit online chats and then phone conversations she shared with a man she knew as “Mark Garcia”; those communications eventually led to an arranged meeting outside a mansion in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood, where Alves, wearing pantyhose over his face, tackled her in an isolated driveway area, put a knife to her neck and told her to “shut up” repeatedly before raping her.

“I kept saying, like, ‘Please don’t kill me,'” the crying victim testified Tuesday. She recalled being raped in the rear passenger area of her car and outside the vehicle, as well.  Alves also testified, saying the sex was pre-arranged and consensual, but too many other factors undermined his defense, including the fact that he used a large knife, wore the pantyhose as a mask, lured the victim to an isolated location outside a vacant mansion and portrayed himself as another man online.  At the time of the attack in March 2009, Alves helped run the Valencia Community College website as a contract worker.  He also had a wife, kids, a nice home — all lost as a result of his actions.

The case, however, illustrates larger issues about the potential dangers of online dating and the way a victim’s character can be impugned when online communications are part of the criminal investigation.  Before describing the attacks, the victim explained that she registered with the online dating site, which is designed for men wanting “to mentor, pamper & spoil” and women wanting to be “pampered” by “that classy, caring and mature partner.”  The site claims it prohibits “members from offering money in exchange for sex.”  A message left with the site’s management this week was not returned.

The victim acknowledged she was looking for just such a Sugar Daddy-type relationship; she had problems paying bills and wanted to meet someone who could help her financially, she testified.  So she created an online profile on the site, stating she was “fun, outgoing and crazy.”  She even set an allowance on her profile, in other words the monetary amount she expected to receive periodically.  Alves, 40, discovered her profile on the site, where he went by the screen name “ReadyToSpoilYou37.”  He then contacted her through Yahoo Messenger and they chatted several times, discussing the possibility of sex and also the exchange of money.  “We talked about possibly $1,000,” the victim said.

This admission prompted prosecutor Kelly Hicks to ask the victim, “Were you a prostitute?”  The victim answered in the negative, claiming that she was willing to meet with the man she knew as Garcia even without the expectation of money.  But she said when she arrived for the date, Alves wasn’t the man she expected to be there.  Still, defense attorney Timothy Berry asked the victim about the encounter with Alves and about online conversations in which they discussed having sex.  Alves testified that he was supposed to pay the woman $1000, but the amount changed as the sex progressed and he refused to pay.  The woman then threatened to contact police and say he had raped her, he claimed.  But in her closing argument, Hicks stared at Alves, saying the woman involved “is a real victim” of an attack she will remember for the rest of her life”; pointing at Alves, she then said, “That is a real rapist …Find him guilty because he is.”

Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said casting doubt on a victim’s character or suggesting she somehow deserved what happened are common defense strategies; she also said the case is troubling because of its origins online.  “While most online dating relationships don’t end up this way, you really don’t know who you’re talking to,” Dritt said.  “I think, potentially, they’re very dangerous.  And where money is exchanged, people can have different interpretations of what’s offered and promised.”

Alves, originally from Brazil, told detectives soon after the crime that he had met about 10 other women online in the same way, but denied raping any of them.  As for the victim in this case, Alves told the detectives, “I didn’t want to hurt her.  I am not like that.”  Aside from the sexual battery counts, Alves was also found guilty of false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon while wearing a mask and witness tampering.  He is set to be sentenced on February 9th.

I’m very glad to see Alves get what he deserved; like so many other rapists, he clearly considered a whore to be a safe target whom a jury wouldn’t convict him for raping even if they did believe her, and it’s good to see that the jury proved him wrong.  But I have to wonder if the outcome would’ve been the same had his victim been a full-fledged professional rather than a would-be sugar baby.  From the way the article is written it seems the prosecutor and reporter both wanted to call attention away from the fact that the victim fully intended to transact a compensated sex arrangement; the report coyly refers to SugarDaddyForMe as a “dating site” when it’s obviously much more akin to an escort site, and the prosecutor accepted the victim’s rather incredible claim that she was willing to meet “Garcia” even without the promise of money despite the fact that she was specifically looking for a sugar daddy.  Now, obviously it did not behoove the prosecutor to question further because she was trying to convict the rapist; had she been Alves’ defender I’m sure she would’ve tried to roast the poor girl alive.

But what about the reporter?  Certainly it’s possible that he’s a bit naive, but it seems more likely he was attempting to downplay the commercial nature of the transaction in a vain attempt to avoid arousing the “dirty whore got what she deserved” crowd.  But whatever his motivation, it was not really the right thing to do; pretending that a sugar daddy arrangement is a form of dating rather than “hooking lite” perpetuates the myth that whores are intrinsically different from other women and our clients intrinsically different from other men, which is exactly what vice cops, trafficking alarmists and “Nordic Model” crusaders want the public to think.  But such arguments don’t carry the weight they once did; more and more people are awakening to the realization that harlots aren’t really all that different from our amateur sisters, and our clients aren’t at all different from other men.  The author of this Jezebel article set up a profile at SugarDaddyForMe for research purposes and was surprised to discover how normal most of the members were; perhaps she can next be prevailed upon to join an escort site, where she will discover exactly the same thing.

Read Full Post »