The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has called for an apology and retraction after the Huffington Post this week featured, on its home page, an article titled, “Sex For Tuition: Gay Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ To Pay Off Loan Debt.”
GLAAD called the post, authored by Amanda Fairbanks, “one of the most trite, stereotype-peddling articles we’ve seen in a long time” and denounced the Huffington Post for standing behind it.
Fairbanks and her interview subjects happily play into several alarming and potentially dangerous stereotypes about the LGBT community – completely unchallenged.
The author quotes someone as saying these gay students “used the money 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.”
GLAAD said the article presents the “gay scene” as a single-minded monolith that supports prostitution, and perpetuates false stereotypes often use by the “staunchest opponents of equality.”
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“This level of carelessness is surprising, given the Huffington Post’s track record of commendable coverage of LGBT issues,” said 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“It feeds into very outdated stereotypes, ignores the broad range of people from our community with many healthy and loving families and uses a few individuals to make sweeping and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.”
Mario Ruiz, AOL Huffington Post VP of Communications, told GLAAD that their “coverage of students who sell themselves to manage their college debt has aimed to be sympathetic to their plight — not sensationalistic.”
“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,” Ruiz said.
Gaddrick called the Huffington Post’s response “insufficient” and said it “does not adequately address the clear problems we highlighted with the article.”
GLAAD has since launched a Change.org petition calling 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.