Google is cracking down on apps used for finding sugar daddies and sugar mommas, because apparently anything outside mainstream dating is too uncouth for the Play Store now. The tech giant’s latest policy updates include apps that focus on “compensated sexual relationships” under the “inappropriate content” umbrella (h/t Android Police).
Google isn’t trying to hide this new policy update. It’s right up front in the Policy Center’s summarized list of updates:
We’re updating the Inappropriate Content policy to institute new restrictions on sexual content, specifically prohibiting compensated sexual relationships (i.e., sugar dating).
“Sugar dating” — that is, when one party is compensated (usually financially) by the other (usually older) party — is nothing new, and the internet has been the primary method for sugar daddy browsing since… well, basically since the internet was created. And, as you can probably guess, smartphones are one of the easiest methods by which to find these arrangements; the Play Store has a booming economy of such apps at the moment.
It’s unclear why Google has now decided just now to ban these apps so specifically. Just another sex ban to add to the already long list of them.
Making it abundantly clear — The Play Store has never exactly been friendly to apps built around sexual content. “Sexual Content and Profanity” is the first heading on the Inappropriate Content policy, in fact. That part of the policy holds nothing back. Basically the only time you can host an app that contains any nudity at all is if it happens to be “educational.”
And sugar dating apps were basically already included in this subset. Under its list of common violations, Google lists apps that “promote sex-related entertainment, escort services, or other services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.” This line could be interpreted to include sugar dating — but the newly updated wording is much more specific:
…including but not limited to compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”
The internet hates sex — In its nascency, the internet was a booming place for sex work, but every passing year has made it increasingly difficult for sex to thrive on the world wide web. These limitations reached their climax in some ways in 2018 with the passing of a pair of bills known as FOSTA (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act). FOSTA-SESTA was meant to limit sexual exploitation on the internet. It did this by removing Section 230 protections for sex work sites — and in the process, it de-platformed huge swaths of sex workers.
Since FOSTA-SESTA’s passing, a number of other bills have been introduced to further limit the boundaries of sex work on the internet. Though they ostensibly aim to fight the exploitation of minors and nonconsenting adults, but internet sex workers end up with the short end of the stick with these bills, as always.
Whether or not sugar dating arrangements even constitute sex work is a hotly debated topic in and of itself; many sugar dating sites did close down after the passing of SESTA-FOSTA, but others continued operating, if more discreetly than before.
Google’s now-explicit ban of sugar dating is likely a move to protect the company from the ever-widening net of internet sex work bans. These apps still have a chance to live another life on Android, though, thanks to the operating system’s openness to sideloading.